I’m not sure if I ever mentioned that this is my second marriage. I’m a sucker for wedding dresses and ceremonies so once wasn’t quite enough for me.

My first marriage was to my ‘varsity sweetheart. We dated for six years and once we had completed our degrees we got married. We experienced all the things newly-weds do, bought our first house, planted a garden, cooked dinners for each other, got into debt and got out of debt. Our second house was quite a big purchase so we put it in both our names – Duffin and Westraat.

I never changed my maiden name to my husband’s surname. I used ridiculous excuses as to why I hadn’t done so. From feeling as though an identity I worked so long and hard to establish was been taken away from to me being a professional and people knew me as Westraat. I worked as a marketing assistant at a record company, for heaven’s sake. The lamest excuse was that I didn’t want to be known as ‘Melinda Muffin’. This was not the professional image I wanted to portray (as an assistant at a record company). There were a few signs along the way that this wasn’t a relationship made in heaven. When my ex-husband introduced me to people as his wife, and not as Melinda, I would throw my toys. I was independent and I was successful. I was not someones wife.

Clearly I wasn’t that committed and the marriage ended four years later.

Two years later Mark and I exchanged vows. I changed my surname this time round. Mark was a keeper and I was happy to be a Connor. Seven or so years later Emma arrived and I was once again fighting for my own identity.

I went from being Mark’s wife to Emma’s mom. Everywhere I go I am ‘Mama Emma’ or ‘Emma’s mom. It’s so bad that when we recently attended the birthday party of one of Emma’s school friends, an old friend also happened to be there. She excitedly asked the hostess of the princess party “How do you know Melinda?”. The awkward response was “I don’t!” Pointing in my direction my friend asked again, “How do you know her?” This time the response was “Oh, Emma’s mom. Emma goes to school with Zizi” This has not happened once or twice. It has happened a gazillion times.

Even at our local play spot (where every one’s supposed to know your name), a friend of mine arrived one morning and asked the security guard whether Emma and Melinda were there. He cheerfully replied “Emma’s here but I’m not sure who Melinda is.” “Emma’s mom”, my friend said a bit befuddled. “Ah Mama Emma, yes she is here.”

I am no longer Melinda the PR Manager or Melinda from such and such a company. And quite frankly it’s a title I wear with pride. In fact, if I were a president of a country I would insist people call me ‘Your Excellency Mama Emma’.


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