Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in posts
Search in pages

Why I Refused to be Called Grandma or Granny or Nan or Nanna

Why I Refused to be Called Grandma or Granny or Nan or Nanna

Becoming a grandmother is a truly wonderful experience and I have two myself; Caiden and Cody, 11 and 8. And when Caiden was born, I said to their parents that I do NOT want to be called Grandma. Or Granny. Or Nan. Or Nanny. And in no way was it because I didn’t want to be their grandmother but because I hated the connotations with the traditional names…

I just couldn’t bear the thought – those monikers all just bring images to my mind of a doddering, old, grey-haired woman. Bent over, shuffling along in elastic-waisted pants with one of those shopping trolleys on two wheels. A knitter. A baker of cookies. A shock-horror, bad driver. Apart from baking cookies, I am NONE of those other things.

Just the word Grandma is often used as an insult to a younger person. Don’t want to go clubbing Saturday night? “What’s wrong Grandma.” Driving too slow? “Hurry up Grandma”. Old bag. That’s what they mean.

Check out the images on-line that come up immediately for Grandma:

Not one photo of someone who still looks great. Not a GILF, amongst them.

Where’s the photos in the search engine for that same single word of these actual, real-life grandmothers: Tina Knowles, Tina Turner, Emmylou Harris, Neneh Cherry, Jessica Lange, Susan Lucci, Kris Jenner, Goldie Hawn and Susan Sarandon – all SMOKIN’.

I eventually, reluctantly, settled on the name Nonna which is Italian for grandmother. I wasn’t happy with that either but it seemed like the least painful of the choices on offer.

And then my daughter-in-law Cassie started calling me that. “Hi Nonna“. “Nonna, would you like some salad?” And each time I would pull her up on it and say, I’m not YOUR Nonna – please don’t call me that. Call me Carolyn. But she would laugh, ignore me and keep doing it. I finally cracked it a few weeks ago at their place and had a bit of a rant about it and told her that I have repeatedly asked her not to call me Nonna, that’s not my name, I don’t even like the kids calling me that and I wish there was an alternative but FFS don’t YOU call me that too. She looked bewildered.

And then last Saturday the subject came up over dinner and I asked my other son James if he thought Cassie finally got the message as he had been standing there listening to the conversation.

He said, “I really don’t see what the problem is. What exactly is it that you DO want to be called then”?

I said, “I don’t know. Just a cool nickname would do”.

He said, “like what?”

I said, “I dunno, like – maybe – just Cazza”!

He threw his head back with laughter and said, “when has ANYONE ever called you Cazza”?!

And then he said something that made me cringe. He said, “you need to get over yourself.”

Wow. Get. Over. Myself.

Besides the fact that was a pretty disrespectful thing to say to your mother, I was shocked to learn that’s what he thought.

So Monday I did some research and found quite a few on-line discussions about this very topic:

On are some comments from some grumpy daughters:

“My mother doesn’t want to be called Grandma! It is ridiculous and it’s driving me crazy! She is 54, and her mom was 48 when I was born and had no problem being called Grandma. Why can’t my mom just accept that she is going to be an old grandma? [umm, maybe cause you just called her OLD] But no, she insists the baby calls her the same nickname my little cousin calls her (he’s 7). To make matters worse, she has a friend her age whose granddaughters call her something else instead of grandma, so that’s not helping me out at all. [OMG, how horrible for you]. What’s with this?”

“I guess being a grandma is going out of style. My mother keeps insisting (joking?) that my baby will call her T, and I don’t find it funny at all. In fact, it’s making me mad! She’s 54, [one foot in the grave clearly] for goodness sake. It doesn’t help that she has a friend whose granddaughters call HER some other nickname besides grandma, and this friend is encouraging her. It’s all about vanity and not wanting to feel old [DOH]. I have no sympathy for her. Why can’t she just accept it? I gave her plenty of time, for crying out loud she is 54. [again with the number, she’s like…. nearly – dead] I am going to teach my kid to call her Grandmother and that’s what she will be called. [Stubborn much] I know my MIL is going to have no problem being called Grandmother, but my mom apparently still thinks she’s 27.” [So fucking what]?!

“Oh my God, I could have written the first part of this post. Have heard nothing but alternative names for granny since I announced that I was pregnant. Some like the Maori name for Granny and another that was derived from the Irish for granny. I got crosser and crosser, and my DH is just bemused by the total ridiculousness of the whole thing, until I lost it and rang her and shouted. Said that it was frankly annoying, upsetting me. Did she not want to be my child’s grandmother? She’s 66 so not exactly a spring chicken and I am in my 30s, so it’s not like this was a shock. Anyhoo, after much shouting she’s settled on Nonna which is fine. I don’t believe that I’ve heard the end of it, but as far as I am concerned I am no longer discussing it. Probably stupid to get upset about something like this [yes].

On it was reported that Goldie Hawn wrote in her memoir that when her grandson Ryder was born she didn’t want to be called grandmother, a “word that had so many connotations of old age and decrepitude.” Instead, “My son Oliver decided I should be called ‘Glam-Ma,’ [yeah, nah] which I thought was quite brilliant and made us all laugh so hard.”

Dana Points, editor-in-chief of Parents magazine says, “Today’s grandparents don’t feel like they look or act like the grandparents of a generation ago, so there can be a weird disconnect with the official term.” [Thank you common-sense person].

About 20 percent of families surveyed by Baby Center say the grandparents in their lives adopted “unusual or creative” nicknames says parenting site On Some of the most notable are Babs, Gaga, Lulu, Panda, Big Dawg, Jimbo and Yaya [All very cute]..

“Even at 60 years old, you don’t necessarily want to be thought of as ‘Grandma,'” David Elkind, PhD, professor of child development at Tufts University and author of “Parenting on the Go: Birth to Six, A to Z,” told Yahoo Parenting. “People don’t want to think of themselves in that way, even though, fortunately, we’re healthier now than those in other generations.”

On “My name is Nini, and I’m a proud, new grandmother. Just don’t call me Grandma. Why? I can’t really say. Maybe it’s because I think I’m too young — or young at heart. I’m not alone. Just ask G Mommy, YaYa, TaTa or Umi, for starters”.

“I want to be known as a vibrant, strong grandmother — not some old fogey,” says Denys Davis, an interior designer in Philadelphia, who’s known to her twin 5-year-old granddaughters as Umi. [Cheers to you Sista!!!]

So – see, I am not the only one who feels this way.

And really do I think any of my grandchildren (current or future) are really going to CARE what they call me so long as I love them, embrace them, cherish them and support them? I highly doubt it.






Carolyn Murphy

Carolyn Murphy

Carolyn Murphy is a married mother of three and regularly provides us with recipes and strange but true stories about her life. When she’s not here, she can also be found on her website where all her other recipes are located!


  1. That’s the most brilliant article that describes how I feel to a T. I have just had a granddaughter and whenever I am congratulated the first question is “what are you going to call yourself ” ( ? Call myself ? I thought my name was Gaye ? Did i somehow disappear?). Thank you for getting my thoughts out of my head and on paper….. I know I’m not alone now and I’m not crazy!!!

  2. some of these adult kids like to pigeonhole and put people in their so called place especially older women and cannot see how ageist they are being. 54 is not old.They think it is ok for transitioning men to call themselves women but women are not allowed to create their own names as grandmothers.Also non mothers and grandmothers get called grandma as an insult and I always stand up against it. It is time older people called out ageism in the young and in their peers and also frankly misogyny and patriarchy in assuming all women are defined by their reproductive status and don;t mind being called that.’old grannies’ is often used abusively and I am afraid from what I have seen, younger women seem determined to forget their progressive views when it comes to older women.Calling oneself a new name also teaches young children to realise that their grandmothers are people in society and not just related to them and at their service..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

For security, use of Google's reCAPTCHA service is required which is subject to the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

I agree to these terms.