More Than Just a Mom: Mompreneur. Momoir. Sanctimommy. Why are so many words being momified?


Mompreneurs. Momfinitions. Momversations. “Mom” as a cutesy prefix or pun: it’s taking over the, excuse me, momiverse. And it’s driving me mom-nanas.

Make no mom-stake: it’s great even revolutionary to see the experiences of mothers named, recognized and shared, not just left to blend into the taken-for-granted background. With the grating exception of sanctimommy, most such mom-isms are well-intentioned, at least when they are coined and embraced, by hard-working mothers themselves. (What’s a little momnesia among friends or should I say, among one’s momtourage? And who, really, can argue with momnipotence?) Some mom-isms are just neutrally and usefully, descriptive, like momfriend (the one you hang out with only because of your kid). And others are hilarious. My friend Stephanie calls herself a momivore, as in, “mother who eats whatever is left on her child’s plate.”

Some of these punny expressions, however, only wind up patronizing. Rather than distinguishing our experience, they diminish it.

Take mompreneur. If it works for you, and helps you brand your business, that’s great. But let’s face it: when we are not among other mothers who are prepared to salute and support us, the word “mom” has a different and diminutive connotation. An entrepreneur means serious business. A mompreneur, far as it sounds, deals binkies. (Analogy: “chick lit.” Without the “chick,” it’s literature. Add the chick, and presto, it’s often unfairly dismissed as fluff.) This is hardly our fault. But it’s reality. So why buy into it when we don’t have to? I know mompreneurers work and parent full-time, which is laudable. But still. Why not just be an : entrepreneur? Would your husband ever call himself a dadtrepeneur? (Speaking of whom, the um:momnipresence of these terms implies that dad never does any of this stuff at all, which is a problem on several levels.)

As Susan J. Douglas and Meredith Michaels write in The Mommy Myth: “‘Mom’ – a term previously used only by children – doesn’t have the authority of ‘mother,’ because it addresses us from a child’s eye view. It assumes a familiarity, an approachability to mothers that is, frankly, patronizing; reminiscent, in fact, of the difference between ‘woman’ and ‘girl.’ ‘Mom’ sounds very user-friendly, but the rise of it, too, keeps us in our place, reminding us that we are defined by our relationships to kids, not to adults.'”

There has also been a bit of a war of words over the term “mommybloggers.” Some mothers who blog say hey, it’s what we do – so what? But the pitfall, according to bloggers like Joanne Bamberger of PunditMom (yes, one can be a pundit and a mom, she says), is that others pick up on the term as a pejorative. “It ends up as shorthand for someone who is less deserving of respect or influence,” she says. “It makes our opinions much easier to ignore.”

I’m not calling for a ban on the word “mom” in passing, in casual conversation, in calls to pre-school. (As in, “Hi, this is Bess’s mom.” Not, “Hi, I’m just calling for a quick momversation about nap.”) Motherhood does inform almost all that we do; there’s no shame or lameness in that. And, of course, everything wonderful and smart and strong that we do with the word “mom” attached should only serve to increase respect for the term. But let’s face it: our culture’s not there yet. Which is why I’m not calling this a mommentary.

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