She wants to be called 'Godmother'

(66 Posts)

I'm an atheist and my DP is a catholic. We agreed that my son could be christened on the basis that if I was not religious it should matter to me and I could tell him about my views and in the end my son could choose for himself.

My DP chose his best friend to be god father along with his wife. His wife is Brazillian and the best friend converted to catholism for her.

In the weekend they pulled my DP aside and requested that my son call her 'Godmother' we got in the car to go home afterwards and DP told in a I've just had this odd conversation kind of tone. We both stated that we never referred to our own god parents in that way. Now that I've had a day to think about it I'm quite offended by the idea. I know DP will be shy of taking the bull by the horns on this.

Oh wisdom of Mumsnet how best to respond? Before I correct her correction one day and say "no darling it's actually 'godmother over mum's dead body'"

Point to note, DS is quite shy (with everyone) and doesn't reciprocate her affection for him.

grabaspoon Mon 20-May-13 13:42:25

My god children and in fact most of my friends children call me Auntie . B.

LemonBreeland Mon 20-May-13 13:43:00

I'm not sure on the etiquette of it, but that sounds horribly formal.

She sounds like a loon.

Tell her firmly that it won't be happening if she brings it up again.

Also as a fellow atheist I could never allow my DD to be influenced in anyway by outdated catholic shenanigans like this but I suppose that's not the point.

I could happily go with Aunty.

I could happily go with Aunty.

I think the word mother being referred to anyone else offends me to.

puddock Mon 20-May-13 13:58:20

It sounds weirdly formal and stilted. Does your DS have a preference?

I reckon your DP should suggest going with Aunty as that's more usual for you. (I was raised catholic and most of our godparents were our actual aunts/uncles, but the one that wasn't family was still called 'aunty', FWIW.)

Or how about something that's special to her Brazilian roots, tia or titia? (or madrinha - if you feel more comfortable with that?)

DS is still gaining vocabulary. I could be happy with Tia and it is something he could pronounce.

Oddly formal, but I suppose it may be a cultural thing. I'd just say "No that sounds a bit formal for us. I was planning on Aunty x" with a friendly smile.

Tommy Mon 20-May-13 14:13:03

agree with amuminscotland - my god children call me Aunty smile

Tommy Mon 20-May-13 14:13:22

maybe it's a Brazilian thing?

You guys are calming me down. Yes we are quite an informal family, (as in I never though DP would actually get around to sorting out a christening) so that could one way of putting it to her.

Yes it's a Brazillian thing.

HazeltheMcWitch Mon 20-May-13 14:19:53

My Brazillian friend didn't have a bridesmaid... she had her godmother. That was a Brazillian thing too!

Might it be worth checking on on mutual expectations of the role of godparent? I say that as you're an informal atheist (as am I), but godparent does have a very specific role in quite a devout culture.

squeaver Mon 20-May-13 14:20:22

Actually I have a couple of Godchildren and one of them in particular (who has SN, if that's relevant) always makes a point of saying "Hello Godmother" to me when I see him. But it's a funny thing, a way of him pointing out that he remembers what's different about his relationship with me. He only says it once.

I can only assume it's a Brazilian thing. Have they asked for the bloke to be called "Godfather" - which sounds even odder?

squeaver Mon 20-May-13 14:21:07

Anyway, aside from all that, you can't make your ds do something he doesn't want to. I'd just ignore it and carry on as normal.

kasbah72 Mon 20-May-13 14:33:46

Culturally she will see it as the equivalent of aunty in as much as her name and role are now interlinked. She is his godmother, therefore that is her name. She probably wouldn't understand why this is a problem, seeing as you asked her to be godmother and she is obviously honoured to take on what she will see as a very important (albeit spiritual) role in his life.

If her husband converted for her then her religion is obviously extremely important to her. Just telling her that she can't be called godmother is going to be confusing at best and offensive at worst - you definitely need to approach with stealth!

We have extended family in hispanic countries and they often refer to padrino (godfather) etc. to the person with that position. Could the Brazilian equivalent be more acceptable? Acknowledges her role as beyond Mum and Dad's friend but doesn't offend you when you hear it?

I understand why you don't feel comfortable with Godmother as a term if you don't believe in the religion he has been baptised in, but that is what she is now!

tribpot Mon 20-May-13 14:37:50

I agree, this is a cultural thing. Would be similar in Mexico, for example.

I would just explain it's not really 'done' here and it will be confusing for your ds - Aunty is a reasonable compromise. I agree with Hazel, though - you need to check what the expectations are now that the deed is done.

I know she does take it seriously and she is a well intentioned person. So I suppose it is her offended or my blood boiling.

DontmindifIdo Mon 20-May-13 14:42:32

Oh, just get your DH to explain that in England, the cultural norm for a Godmother to be called Aunty XXXX (get him to stress it puts her as important as his sister or the like, make it sound like an honour).

kasbah72 Mon 20-May-13 14:44:18

Nah, just come up with something you ARE happy with and stick to that. How old is your son? Bet saying 'godmother' isn't easy anyway. He is bound to come up with his own version which you can pounce on as endearing and sweet and personal to just them....

ChocsAwayInMyGob Mon 20-May-13 14:46:58

I don't think she's out of order, I think it's probably a cultural difference. in which case, just explain that "Aunty" is more usual in the UK.

No need to be offended.

HabbaDabba Mon 20-May-13 14:50:19

I don't see what the big deal is.

If a relative was from a different culture and in her culture it was normal to call her Oh Great Person with Blue Rinse then that is what I would call her.

Godmother won't roll off his tongue easily.

I don't want to have that conversation about expectations with her that alludes to fact that I took the christening seriously, which I did not.

Habba it's more than that.

One of DP cousins was at my house when she was 4 and told us in this voice straight out of the exorcist "Jesus died for me".

I'm not having that for DS and my intention was always let him choose when he is old enough.

cherhorowitz Mon 20-May-13 15:09:19

I agree that it's very oddly formal. I've always called my godmother Auntie. She likes it that way as do I. She sounds an utter loon.

It's a Brazilian thing, try not to take offence, it's common in Brazil. But i agree, it sounds very formal, suggest Aunty to her.

The tricky bit with that is that, as a catholic, your DH does believe that Jesus dies for him. Or he is at least supposed to believe it.

And by having your DS baptised, you have said you plan to raise him to know and understand the faith, so that he will choose to be confirmed when he gets older.

And his godmother stood in church and said the same. She may think you actually want her to do that...

Of course he can choose when he is old enough. But baptism isn't a "one-off dunking" it is the start of raising a child within the context of that faith, so that he can choose whether or not to "confirm" his membership of it later.

fubbsy Mon 20-May-13 15:16:03

Just say no, but in the nicest possible way. If DP won't take the bull by the horns, you are going to have to.

I would tell her I was not comfortable with it. I would explain that in our culture it is not done and sounds odd.

Don't forget, when he is old enough DS will make his own choice about what he calls her.

Thanks for sharing your points of view. The most sensible approach is to ensure DP informs them both that I am offended by the idea as I'm an atheist and that they choose a term like Aunty instead.

FrauMoose Mon 20-May-13 15:31:50

It seems absolutely ludicrous to have a child christened and then get cross because two of the other people involved in this ritual take the matter seriously.

Some compromise - and some respect for another person's faith and culture - would seem to be gracious and appropriate.

I think it's fine to say that it's more usual to say 'Aunt' in this country, as a way of acknowledging a close and special relationship to an adult who is not a blood relative.

OddBoots Mon 20-May-13 15:44:07

How would you feel about her being called "Madrinha" instead (the Portuguese word for godmother)? It almost sounds like just a first name to anyone who doesn't know Portuguese.

Blimey, I wouldn't tell them you're 'offended', i could imagine that leading to awkwardness. Just say you would prefer XYZ, rather than Godmother.

HabbaDabba Mon 20-May-13 15:49:36

smear - I hear what you are saying. I have relatives and friends who go on about how it's part of God's mysterious plan for a family to get wiped out by a drunk driver for example. So I share your distain for religion.

But if I were to make a stand it would be over something like saying Grace before dinner or singing/praying in church. However I accept that this god mother thing is a big issue for you. So how about simply getting your DC just to say 'hello' as opposed to 'hello godmother'? And to speak only when spoken to thus alleviating the need to directly address her?

If we were talking about a MIL then my advice would be different but this is the wife of a very close friend. I don't think that you should go nuclear just yet smile

ChocsAwayInMyGob Mon 20-May-13 15:50:06

you should not tell them you are offended because you're an atheist. You are having your child christened. It's a bit late to start getting offended by Christian stuff!

Moominsarehippos Mon 20-May-13 16:01:35

I've never heard of a godmother being addressed as anything else thgan Aunt/y X.

They are clear on the atheist part as I did not partake in the ceremony.

And I will be offended, so why not say it?

ChocsAwayInMyGob Mon 20-May-13 16:29:06

Moomins, yes but the Godmother is Brazilian and its a Catholic country so it may just be a Cultural difference.

ChocsAwayInMyGob Mon 20-May-13 16:30:48

smeared- I don't think you should say it because I don't think they are trying to be hurtful of offensive. I think it's an innocent or naive request made by someone brought up in a Catholic Latin American country. Why offend them?

HabbaDabba Mon 20-May-13 16:34:50

Sorry smeared but someone who makes a big deal about being an atheist is just as irritating as someone who makes a big deal about being a Christian.

The problem with being "offended" is that she is your son's godmother. If you weren't offended enough to stop that from happening, it seems a little weird to be offended by the use of the term afterwards.

I think you stand a much better chance by going for the "Well, in this country that would be an overly formal way of referring to you, and what we normally do here is call godmothers Aunty. Or would you like 'Madrhina' instead?" sort of line. After all this is your DHs best friend's wife, who you allowed to become your child's godmother, so it would be better to stay on positive terms surely?

Most people will be understanding about cultural/language issues, I'm sure she'll be used to those if she lives in the UK. But to say you are 'offended' by something you agreed to, and something she values very highly, risks spoiling the relationship, which I'm sure isn't the result you want out of this.

FringeEvent Mon 20-May-13 16:52:51

I think 'madrinha' sounds affectionate, in the same way that 'aunty' does. 'Godmother' on the other hand sounds quite formal/stuffy - like actually calling your grandmother 'Grandmother' rather than 'Granny' or 'Grandma' or 'Nan' etc.

In my family (the French side), godmothers are called 'marraine'. It's always sounded normal/pleasant to me even though I grew up in England with English cultural norms.

suchashame Mon 20-May-13 16:53:12

If you have married someone of any faith different to your own then I would have thought you would have some sort of respect to their belief system even if not in it.

I think that if you have agreed to the christening then it's unfair to criticise or be offended when those agreeing to the roles take those roles and promises seriously.

. I was baptised and confirmed catholic but an not one now ! Ds can also make his own mind up later.... but till then godparents are promising to assist in teaching ds about those beliefs and a devout Catholic will indeed take the role on.

If you don't want them to then maybe call it off and ds can choose to be baptised later in life if he wants.

Habba and Chocs, I do see both your points. But I can't help feeling red mist just thinking about it.

I didn't know this would be taken so seriously by her and that she would request a formal title when DP reasoned with me that because I didn't believe in god it wouldn't matter.

Saying grace at the table is fine but getting my child to say a title with 'mother' to someone else offends me.

It's now up to DP to sort it out and state the facts.

TheFallenNinja Mon 20-May-13 16:57:57

I personally like the idea of being called "Godfather" smile

Hmmm

HazeltheMcWitch Mon 20-May-13 17:09:33

smeared - I do think you need to forearm your DP with suggestions. In Brazil, you'd call your godmother, Madrinha as others have said - but this literally means 'little mother' (inho/a as a suffice to denote smallness, cuteness, affection etc) - and you've said you're not ok with someone calling someone else mother.

Saltire Mon 20-May-13 17:14:42

Well if it's any help, my youngest god-daughter calls me "fairy" as in fairy godmothergrin.

realises this is no help whatsoever

I think you have been a little naive in thinking that someone from one of the most catholic countries in the world wouldn't take her role as godmother seriously. And in Brazil, its not a 'formal' title, its an affectionate name, very similar to calling someone auntie that isn't really your aunt.

But lets hope your DP sorts it out and you end up feeling comfortable with whatever you choose.

No no saltaire that was worth mentioning. grin

tribpot Mon 20-May-13 17:26:24

I didn't know this would be taken so seriously by her

Perhaps a more detailed conversation between you and your DP would have been better - hasn't she renounced Satan or something on behalf of your ds?! As a believer, why wouldn't she take it seriously? You may not believe it (neither do I) but she and presumably your DP do.

But you've committed to it now by allowing the ceremony to go ahead. And so you need to find the best compromise for the ongoing relationship between your ds and his godparents.

ChocsAwayInMyGob Mon 20-May-13 18:08:36

AMuminScotland has put it beautifully and sensibly.

ImpYCelyn Mon 20-May-13 18:11:43

DSs call all their godparents either Parrain or Marraine, French for godfather and godmother. And all family members who are godfathers or godmothers are called this by their godchildren. So DH's niece refers to us as "Parrain and Aunty Imp".

It's a cultural thing, and they would all be really upset if someone told them they found it offensive. But ultimately they would suck it up I suppose, for the sake of a good relationship with their godchild.

In France it's also fairly common to give your children the names of their godparents as middle names, so at least you don't have that to contend with too grin (That was a fight I'd rather forget)

HabbaDabba Mon 20-May-13 19:16:32

Anyone would think that she wanted to be called something like Daughter of the Holy Christ our Lord Jesus Christ grin.

You are obviously going to make it clear that you are offended by her request despite other people's advice. I hope that it isn't going to torpedo the relationship between you and her.

Wishiwasanheiress Mon 20-May-13 19:18:39

God parents and any adult friends of mine are jus uncle and aunty. I've never thought of a gm expecting to be known as gm! That's v odd. Do they do that in brazil?

Wishiwasanheiress Mon 20-May-13 19:23:44

I've now just read more of the thread. (Dumbo over here didn't do that first.)

Yabu. That's the culture. To now dictate how she will be gm is too much. Be glad she's interested. The worst thing is here she's known as gm. Gee that's so huge I'm yawning. If you cannot sit with people taking this role seriously if given it, don't do it.

I have talked to DP tonight and let him know I am unhappy with the term gm. I could see his eyebrows ticking away thinking how he is going to tell them, but am so much happier getting it off my chest.

Did you offer him any alternatives? Maybe show him this thread?

CotedePablo Mon 20-May-13 20:44:45

I think if you say something to your child's godmother, you will offend her deeply, and come over as dreadfully rude. However, I see from your last post you're leaving it to your partner to do your dirty work.

It's really not worth getting worked up over.

ChocsAwayInMyGob Tue 21-May-13 15:50:22

I don't think he should be saying how "unhappy" you are with it. i think he should eb saying that in this country it's more usual to use "Aunty".

You're taking this way too personally OP, it's just a cultural difference. Your child has a Godparent who is actually religious and is taking it seriously!

ChocsAwayInMyGob Tue 21-May-13 15:50:35

sorry about typos.

raisah Sun 09-Jun-13 08:48:02

Could it be a Brazilian cultural practice as they are more practicing catholics so the whole christening thing is more formal? Be careful how you approach as you dont want to lose a friendship over it. Can you Say something like aunty is how godmothers are referred to in the UK/our family / friends circle. She isnt the actual godparent, her partner is. I think its more of an over enthuisiastic cultural expression and you are dealing with it in a Hugh Grant type way.

SoupDragon Sun 09-Jun-13 08:53:23

I'd try and go with whatever she would be called in Brazilian. Simply explain that "God-Mother" sounds far too formal in English but you understand she wants to take her role seriously and it is important to her. No one need be offended.

seeker Sun 09-Jun-13 08:58:38

So you chose a devout woman from a deeply catholic country to be your child's godmother, and now you're surprised she's taking it seriously? hmm.

For what it's worth, by the way, in the part of my family that 's very very old fashioned posh English, "Godmamma" is used. And Lord Peter Wimsey uses it.

Jan49 Sun 28-Jul-13 23:38:32

Maybe your dh could explain to her that people don't do that in the UK, they just use Auntie or first names. No need to tell her you find the idea offensive. Presumably you always speak English to her and she to you and your ds, so Auntie or first name is the usual term. If she continues to ask to be called Godmother, tell her that just doesn't work in English.

nooka Mon 29-Jul-13 00:01:25

I'm from a Catholic family and I have never heard of anyone calling their godparents anything other than their names. If I was in the OP's shoes I would be really surprised by this request so I don't think it is at all unreasonable that she wasn't prepared for it.

I don't think it's a good idea to tell the godmother that you are offended by her suggestion because the only result will be that she is then in turn offended. It's fine to say no on the grounds that this isn't an English tradition, and that you find it overly formal. some English families call close friends Uncle and Auntie, so Tia might be a option to suggest (easy for your ds too). Seems a bit weird to say that she should be called Godmother, but her husband not be called Godfather...

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