Dear IEP Team: Don’t Call Me Mom.

mom at an iep meeting
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IEP Mom

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Eleanor Roosevelt (supposedly)

History (and Google Analytics) tells me that if you are reading this post, there’s a greater than 96% chance that you are an IEP Mom. Hey, we have to stick together, right? So do the school staff on your child’s IEP team call you mom? How do you feel about it?

Based on my Facebook group, there are three distinct groups of IEP Moms and how they feel about this issue: Hate It!, Meh and “I like it because mom is the most important person there.”

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So where do you land? How do you feel about being called “Mom” at an IEP meeting?

I’m not a fan. Here’s why.

Why I don’t want you calling me “Mom.”

And, as usual, I have probably overthought this. I often do. But, my goal is to empower moms at IEP meetings. And this gesture, albeit small, can have more impact than we might think.

  1. It’s awkward. Mom is my job title, depending on the setting. Do you refer to the other IEP meeting participants as “teacher” or “LEA” or “principal?” Probably not. Because it’s awkward. “So, Occupational therapist, about this sensory goal…”
  2. Personally, I think it’s condescending. In like a babyish, patronizing or misogynistic kind of way. Mom can be an innocent word and it can be a loaded word–implying that you’re “just a mom.” Each situation is different of course but it can be an example of misogyny at an IEP meeting. It makes the playing field uneven, in my opinion. And parents are an equal member of the IEP team.
  3. It’s too familiar. I’ve said it a zillion times. To me, an IEP meeting is a business meeting. I am in the business of having my child’s needs met. At business meetings, people don’t call each other Mom and Dad. Except VP Pence, but he’s just weird.

One mom agrees that it’s a power play, and had this to say: It’s a power play. Google how female doctors are often not addressed by their title. Ask to be called “Ms.” the first time it happens again. (note to self: google that)

Another mom had this to say:

If it’s someone that I have regular contact with and they are calling me my first name, I will just use their first name as well, sometimes that can be a power-play but it’s not always. If it’s not someone I have regular contact with, personally it doesn’t bother me to be called by my first name but if it is a power-play, I will just emphasize my last name when I’m around them. Usually they pick up on it. Nothing I hate more than anything in the world And will definitely correct is when someone calls me mom. That makes me crazy. There was one provider that would not stop calling me that, even after I asked her multiple times, so I finally told her “unless you are willing to come sit on my lap, you may not call me mom again.”

B, IEP Mom

Meh, who cares? As long as my child’s needs are met.

Lots of moms were quick to say “hey, who cares what they call you, it’s what they are saying that matters.” True to an extent. But again, I think it makes the playing field uneven, especially if they are using Mr./Mrs/ Dr. titles and calling you Mom.

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And, another consideration.

I don’t care WHAT they call me, as long as my kid gets what he needs to be successful at school.

J, IEP Mom

Mom-The Highest Authority in the Room.

Another parent had this to say.

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First of all, I know this person. And she is an amazing, confident and knowledgeable advocate. So I’m not surprised that she would feel this way.

However, lots of IEP teams do not see it this way. They do not see Mom as the highest authority in the room. And may be using the term as a passive aggressive reminder of that. And while I know more about my child than anyone else…I am an equal member of the IEP team. Not higher or more important.

It’s an easy fix.

Luckily, this is an easy fix. A simple “You can call me <preferred name>, thanks.” If you’re consistently outnumbered, bullied and don’t feel confident to do this, rehearse it.

It might just be one little assertion, but a reminder to the team that you are equal. Might just be one baby step that some moms need to learn how to assert themselves at IEP meetings.

Other suggestions:

  • You can’t expect someone to know your preference unless you share it. While it seems obvious to you (and I’d likely concur), just kindly correct the next time. I have college students address me by my first name pretty often (yuck), but they catch on quickly when I politely explain why I prefer NOT to be so casual.
  • Simple correction. Say “It’s Mrs.”. If she’s a title person she will remember from then on.

Anyway, there’s more food for thought as you become a stronger, knowledgeable more confident advocate for your child.

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mom at an iep meeting
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