• Tue, May 24 2011

Don’t Call Them ‘Mom Jeans’ — Call Them ‘Obama Jeans’

Susan Orlean has a brief essay on the language of motherhood that has me smiling. It actually relates to something Koa Beck wrote on this site earlier, “Don’t Call Me ‘Mom,’ I’m A Mother.” Orlean’s piece begins: “When did ‘mom’ become a swear word?” She ruminates on what people called President Obama’s sartorial choice to throw out the first pitch at the All-Star game a few years ago. People commonly referred to his medium-wash, high-waisted jeans as “mom jeans.”

She suggests that a better term might be “President Obama jeans.” (She has a point.)

I first heard the term from the brilliant Saturday Night Live skit about how JC Penney’s was now selling “Mom Jeans.” My favorite line from the ad: “I’m not a woman any more, I’m a mom.”

And the term resonated because it was so true. Many mothers don’t have the time, money or inclination to spend the same amount of energy on fashion as they did when they were 18. I just wish it weren’t such a dramatic change. My sister-in-law reminds me that I cornered her when she was pregnant with her oldest and told her I’d freak out if she got a “mom haircut.” You know what I’m talking about. I’m happy to say that she’s just as, if not more so, fashionable and beautiful now than she was when I met her. I love it and it’s a great model and inspiration for me. Particularly since she also devotes so much time and energy to her children, too.

Anyway, my favorite part of the Orlean post is where she knocks the world of “mom” and “mommy” things:

Then I started hearing it in conversation constantly: “I was saying to one of the other moms yesterday…” and “The moms in the playgroup are…” and “I’m doing a few mommy-and-me classes with Fifi.” Is the horribleness because it sounds so infantile? The only thing that has ever riled me in the same way is hearing couples refer to themselves as Mommy and Daddy—and I don’t mean as a joke.

I just want to stand up and cheer. I love hearing my children call me mommy and, heck, I’m even a work-from-home mother which means much of my day involves interacting with my precious little ones. But when adults speak this way, it also effects what we talk about. I notice that the people who speak this way often have very little to talk about other than their children. When I interact with other parents, I love it if our kids can play together but then I don’t usually want to talk too much about them, or about my roles as their mother. I want to talk about politics, religion, sports or almost anything other than that morning’s diaper surprise.

What about you? Do you have a preference for “mom,” “mother” or some other phrasing that indicates you have a child?

Share This Post:
  • ganzimal

    Mom or Mommy. “Mother” reminds me of the plaintive cry of a spolied teenager protesting her curfew. To be fair, though, that may actually be “Motherrrrrrrr”.

  • melissa

    love when my kid calls me mommy, but hate it when strangers do. it comes off so creepy and condescending.
    seriously, when i tell the manicurist that i’m so glad to be away from my kid for a few minutes, it ruins it when she murmers ‘you need some mommy-time’.
    no… i need UN-mommy time.

  • Patricia

    I live in Brazil and here people at children’s clinics have a very very very VERY annoying habit of referring to the mothers taking their kids to see the doctor as “mommy”. As in “so mommy, when was the last time he/she had a check-up” or whatever. It pisses me off to no end, because being a mother doesn’t sum up who I am but also because – and I can’t stress this enough – they know my name. Sometimes I toy with the idea of saying “well, secretary, the last time he had a checkup was 6 months ago”.