With an impish look on his face my husband innocently asked if I’d read The New York Times opinion section recently.
Minutes later — with the requisite cartoon steam coming out of my ears — I was harrumphing my way through Our ‘Mommy Problem.’ I could also be heard grumbling and exclaiming loudly:
Finally figured out what I’ve been writing about since 2007 did you…?
Besides both having nearly unpronounceable last names, the op-ed author, Heather Havrilesky, and I do not share a lot in common with our current ways of life. What we clearly do agree on is how irritating the “M” word can be in the wrong context, as she wrote with this statement:
Why does this word [Mom or Mommy] irritate me when the wrong person says it?
Word, Heather! This ‘problem’ is one I’ve been writing about from the other side for quite some time. A spin through some of my previous blog posts illuminates the issue further. This cultural phenomenon has been picking up momentum for the past decade.
The Positioning Exercise (September 2007)
Momzilla Alert (February 2007)
Where did it begin? Look no further than many of the self-proclaimed Soccer Moms, Tiger Moms and Mom’s Club banner wavers who proclaimed their mom-itude loudly and often, which not surprisingly, caught the attention of marketers, who, reinforced by armies of Mommy Bloggers and those with Twitter handles who establish their mom status right up front, established entire campaigns aimed at “the Moms.” And the pendulum embracing all things mother has swung pretty far since the modern women’s movement. The organizers from the 1960s and 1970s would be hard pressed to reconcile today’s cultural shift as I made clear in this post:
If you think it’s irritating to be addressed with this label by the wrong person, try being the only non-mom in a room full of smug moms starting sentences self-righteously with “As a Mom…”
Yep, not so fun to be marginalized or condescended to, is it?
As I made clear in this post, The Unintended Consequences of Placing ‘Moms” on Pedestals, which coincidentally came together after listening to political convention speakers invoking their parental superiority (ala Michelle Obama and Ann Romney), the damage goes far beyond simple annoyance or an eye role. The calling out or elevation of parental status not only creates divides it can often imply unequal value for those who don’t count parenting among their day-to-day responsibilities but contribute a great deal to society in many other meaningful ways.
It’s the rare but happy occurrence now when I meet a woman for the first time and only discover — well into a business or social conversation on any number of varied topics — that she might have a relation that calls her mom, mother or ma.
You’ll never hear me referring to anyone as my “mom friends” (or my “infertile friends” for that matter) because to me they are simply friends. I’m not alone in thinking this way. One friend — who happens to be raising children — like Heather, can’t abide hearing women incessantly dropping the “m” word.
On more than one occasion we’ve each found ourselves stepping in, like referees, to keep the mom-itude in check. Let’s just say we’ve seen more than our fair share of fouls and penalties in recent years.
Moms: We Hear You Loud and Clear (November 2009)
So dear readers, do you see this ‘mommy problem’ getting better or worse these days?