I’ve wanted to write this vent for a long time, but felt like it would be a waste of time. Who cares, I told myself, about me objecting to getting called “Mommy” all the time–by people who aren’t my kid? I’m called “Mommy” constantly by random people who are looking for my attention as a parent–people like marketers, conference coordinators, headline writers, product developers, book authors, kids program creators, and bloggers.
PLEASE stop calling me “Mommy.”
Maybe my anger over being called “Mommy” by people I don’t parent strikes you as weird. If you know me personally, it might sound particularly odd coming from me–the same woman who tells my own boys, ages 7 and 8, that they can keep calling me “Mommy.” Apparently, the transition from “Mommy” to “Mom” happens organically somewhere around this age for boys. Somewhere in the depths of elementary school–whether in the boys’ rooms where kids don’t flush, or on the playground, or in carpools–they figure out that “Mom” is cool and “Mommy” is not.
While I realize that I’m going to have to go with the flow eventually, on a personal level, I’m resisting the transition to “Mom.” “Mom,” after all, is what is said before things like, “Can I borrow the car?” or “I’m dating this really cool person,” or “I’m at the police station.” I may be turning 40 next year, but I find that I’m just not ready to be “Mom” yet.
But when it comes to the world at large, if you random people call me “Mommy” one more time, I’m going to punch you in the face. Seriously. Because I’m not your Mommy, obviously–but more importantly, because I feel that calling mothers “Mommy” is a way to condescend to and denigrate women and mothers. For all the idiocies of elementary school logic, my kids are right: “Mommy” can have some bad connotations.
Maybe you think this is making a mountain out of a molehill. Please take the following quiz.
1. Let’s play word association. When I say “Mommy,” do you think:
a) A savvy person who loves to read, with a high IQ and wicked sense of humor?
b) Someone who cleans up vomit and whose crumb-filled bag is filled with Purell, diapers, and sippy cups?
2. When you read an article about stay-at-home fathers, are they referred to as:
a) “Dads,” in a way that connotes their hip, gender-assumption-defying status as “cool”?
b) “Daddies,” in a way that plays up their defenseless huggability?
I think you get what I’m saying without me having to indulge in more Cosmo-like quiz questions.
Is President Barack Obama referred to as a “daddy,” or as a “father”?
I find “Mommy” condescending. To me, the oft-used term “mommy wars” is sound and fury signifying nothing, as opposed to a legitimate discussion of the manifold ways to simultaneously raise our children and be fully-realized individuals. Even though this discussion–often heated and intense–has ramifications that go to the essence of who we are as parents and as Americans, saddling it with the term “mommy wars” places it on the same level of import as a sandbox dispute about a shovel that ends with a hair pull and time out.
In fact, one could argue that the frequent use of the term “mommy”‘ was MEANT to connote an inherent denigration of women. Let’s take the popularization of the term “mommy track,” first used in the New York Times in an article in 1989 entitled, “Mommy Career Track Sets Off Furor.” The article, discussing the fallout from a controversial Harvard Business Journal article about different career tracking for women who became mothers. The original article was a thoughtful examination of women in the workplace post-children. The New York Times, in headline-mode, coined the term “mommy track,” saying that a “mommy track” was one “in which women with family responsibilities are shunted into dead-end, lower-paying jobs.” Once you’re thought of as “mommy,” in other words, your career is about as valued as the poo in your kid’s diaper. It wasn’t called “motherhood track” or “mom track,” and I think it’s because neither of those words had the same inherent condescension endemic to the phenomenon itself. Nothing condescends quite like the word “mommy.”
Well, I’m taking my toys and leaving the sandbox. I don’t want to play into this “mommy” crap anymore. I’m not a “mommy blogger.” I blog about parenting. I don’t want to go to classes called “Mommy and Me”–first of all, because I’m the one paying for the damn classes, not “you,” and second of all, just because I had a kid doesn’t mean I no longer have a brain. Please don’t talk to me like the most cerebral thing of which I’m capable of understanding is Sesame Street.
So here’s a quick start to legitimizing women generally: quit infantilizing them. You can call me a “mother,” because that’s what I am–in addition, by the way, to a lawyer, a writer, a journalist, and a person. Show a little respect. You call me “mommy” one more time and I will wash your mouth out with soap, young man. And this time, I mean it.