The Problem with “Mom”

Written by Emily

When I was young, my chest burned when the boys chastised each other with, “You throw like a girl!” I didn’t understand at first. I grew up playing catch in the yard with my dad, my pig tails sticking out of my red baseball cap, my knees covered in grass stains and scabs, sweat gathering above my upper lip, a mustache like dad’s. I couldn’t understand why or how “girl” became a derogatory term. It pissed me off.

It still does.

Now, though, there is a new derogatory term on my radar. We all throw it around like a hot potato we hope won’t land on us. The word is “mom.” You’ve heard of it, perhaps. You probably have one. You might be one. If either of those is true, please join me in my little crusade to take back “mom.”

When did “mom” become synonymous with sloppy, unaware, clueless and silly. Look up “mom jeans” and “mom hair” at urbandictionary.com. Pause for a moment and think about the images those phrases conjure for you–12 inch zippers, tapered light-wash jeans and shapeless, frizzy hair.

Oh, you know. This:

Now let’s be honest, we all know mothers who wear these clothes–ill-fitting jeans, sweaters with button eyes. You might even be one. So what? This mom connotation trivializes women, calls attention to superficial things and suggests that raising children makes us soft and detached from reality and completely oblivious. And while it sometimes feels like the rest of the world falls away when children become the priority–uh, can that not be held against us?

Now look up MILF. Thank you, fellas, for creating an acronym to objectify mothers (as though it’s a rarity when a mom’s still got it). How absolutely demeaning. And will you quit looking at women like that in general? Gross.

Collectively, we laugh at the images of mom as a run down, selfless martyr or a nag or (cue eye rolling), the person we, God forbid, might become.

If you watched that video like my mother did, she said while cringing, that Keds are kind of great.

The truth is, the term mom should evoke images of superheroes not bad jeans and weird hair. Sure there might be spit up on her suit coat, but why is that the detail we concentrate on and not the fact that she is raising a family, sometimes working outside the home, often contributing to her community and her church and her children’s school and doing so with grace (I write this in hopes of one day attaining it) and dignity and integrity and strength? Because it’s safe to put mom in the corner. Because we’re used to condescending her–why, I’m not sure. She certainly raised us better than that, but she forgave us time and time again for our indiscretion. We should have recognized her selflessness and learned from it. Instead we use the very title she loved to live–mom–against her.

If we acknowledge the breadth of a mom’s insight, strength and ferocity, we might change our tune. Mom can’t be an adjective to patronize. In our crisis to make women fit into categories we’ve relegated mom to a negative place in our culture. No more.

I’m taking back “mom”. It no longer means a particular size or shape or mental capacity.

Next time I hear, “Look at that (insert impressive adjective here) woman,” I hope what follows is: “she must be a mom.”

And for the record,

My mom jeans are skinny.

My mom hair is a color-changing faux hawk.

My mom job is (excuse me while I nurse my baby and write this post), exhilarating, exhausting, complicated, invigorating.

Yours may be different because you’re a mom, and that’s just how we roll.

7 comments for “The Problem with “Mom”

  1. roseriley
    September 24, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    Love it! Great follow up to Advertising to Women…
    For the record, I always hate(d) it in the business world when men/women would say “You must be a great Mom…” as if it were a weakness. My answer was always to laugh a say “If you mean a Dynamo of ultra-prioritization, organization, level-headedness and managing-of-chaos then yes!…”

    • Emily
      September 24, 2012 at 9:46 pm

      I assume that’s what they meant!

  2. Michelle
    September 24, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    I feel empowered just reading this! SO true!

    • Emily
      September 24, 2012 at 9:46 pm

      Yay! Well, you are a rockstar mama!

  3. September 24, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    Mom or not, I’ll rock pants with a 13” damn rise any day of the week.

    • Molar Mother
      September 24, 2012 at 6:05 pm

      Hahaha, Amelia!

  4. Mea
    September 25, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    Love the emotion behind this one, Em! Now, I would LOVE to know what happened to prompt it! 😉

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