You may have seen it in the comments of Instagram or on Twitter: "Mom." Just "mom" in response to an image or Tweet from someone (usually a celebrity) who may or may not, in fact, be a mother. It popped up a few years ago, but I'm just sort of tuning into it more now (because I'm actually a mom and we're dorky and late to youth trends... I still don't Snapchat you guys, because WTF is it even?). But however late to the trend I may be, I'm here to say I'm reclaiming "mom" from our younger sisters. Sorry youths, but you get lots of things — shopping at Forever 21 without getting weird looks, drinking more than a glass of wine without suffering from a hangover, waking up and having absolutely nothing hurt — we moms get "mom."
It began in 2014. Kim Kardashian-West, in her callipygian glory, bared her bare ass on the cover of Paper and broke the internet (which, miraculously, has nevertheless continued chugging along just fine and remains more than functional to this very day). Then-teen pop star Lorde tweeted the image with one word of commentary: "Mom." People were confused. Was this some sort of indictment against Kim K. showing so much skin? Because moms should be sexless? Because moms must always "think of the children" before they show some skin?! Screw you, Lorde! Moms can be sexy and show their booties however they damn well please!
But of course that's not what she meant, because Lorde would never be that uncool. "omg haha ok so. time to explain this," she clarified "i retweeted kim’s amazing cover and wrote ‘MOM’, which among the youthz is a compliment; it basically jokingly means “adopt me/be my second mom/i think of you as a mother figure you are so epic.”
... when you "mom" a peer it renders the term completely useless.
"Ah. OK," we all seemed to collectively say. Like, it's quirky but it also makes sense. Someone whose sheer fabulosity, poise, and ability to slay can set your very soul aflame. So Lorde used "mom" to signify that Kim K. is someone she looks up to. Someone who could actually be her mom (and I'll grant a little wiggle room here, because there's only a 17 year age gap between Kim Kardashian and Lorde, but technically it works, I'd imagine). I can think of several celebrities to whom I could apply Lorde's definition of "mom." Maggie Smith, Bette Middler, Mariska Hargitay (who is, shockingly, my mother's age). Like: they're amazing and they're moms to boot. I get it, you guys. I'm hip. I'm cool. So yeah, #mom all day every day.
The more I thought about this particular praise, the more I could dig it. Because it's about time moms were recognized for the remarkable creatures we are. Moms are someone you look up to, someone you look upon to nurture you and take you under their wing. Moms are someone you want to emulate and learn from.
I'm afraid I'm going to have to sit in my very best folding chair, don my fanciest housecoat and hair curlers, shake my fist crankily, and insist that you damn kids get off my lawn.
I also think the trend speaks to the idea that everyone, young and old, is openly embracing the idea that we don't know what we're doing, like, in life as humans. (And to be fair to ourselves as a species, have you seen the world lately? Like, at all? Who can make sense of themselves in a world like this?) So we stand in awe of anyone who seems to be successfully living their best lives and "adulting." We gaze at them and think, "Teach me and raise me and lift me up to your level."
But then things got out of hand.
Suddenly the astonished masses were tossing "mom" around without the necessary nuance. They were "mom-ing" people like Taylor Swift and Tavi Gevinson. Like... really, dudes? Are you really going to call a child-free 21-year-old pop star a mom? Are you at, like, 22 saying you want 27-year-old Taylor Swift to raise you?
No. Stop. I'm usually not one to deride youth culture or trends (because, if history has taught us one thing, it's that those who do so always come across as looking like bitter idiots), but I'm afraid I'm going to have to sit in my very best folding chair, don my fanciest housecoat and hair curlers, shake my fist crankily, and insist that you damn kids get off my lawn. Because enough. You've proven that you cannot handle "mom" as a compliment and now it has to stop.
I have dedicated my life to the protection, development, and happiness of my little creatures. I am the source of their courage, comfort, and calm.
Look, I know I have no power to stop you. I know this is making me sound old and ridiculous and I know this is absolutely not a big deal and even addressing it makes me look like a crazy person who takes everything way too seriously. But may I humbly put it to you, from my spot on my lawn, that when you "mom" a peer it renders the term completely useless. Even looking at Lorde's original explanation, "mom" in these contexts make zero sense. Like... what exactly do you think a mom is? What does a mom/child relationship look like to you?
"Soul twin," "idol," "life goals," "patronus" — all of these get the same sense of awe across. But there's more to "mom" than just admiration. I know I'm outside of the demographic that decides how such terminology is used, but I'm part of another demographic that I feel should have some say.
I'm a mom. An actual goddamn mom, and I know what it takes to be one.
I have sustained two children with my body for a collective four and a half years. I have been in active labor for 27 hours. I have been cut open and left scarred to birth a child who refused to "exit through the gift shop." I subsequently tore my vagina pushing out a nine pound baby.
I have been pooped, puked, and peed on more times than I can count. I have given up most of the square footage in my house to kids stuff. I have stopped swearing during most of my waking hours. I have given up vacations to anywhere that isn't child-friendly (read: particularly interesting). I have had mastitis. I have had post-weaning depression. I have had a miscarriage. I have spent months of my life running on so little sleep that would be considered torture under the Geneva Convention. I have honed catlike reflexes and James Bond-level improvisation skills out of sheer necessity.
"Mom" is not an honorific you should throw at just anyone.
I have known the pure joy of raising small humans from basically unaware bundles of impulses to little people. I spend my days striving to be the kind of person my children want to look up to and learn from despite feeling like I don't now what I'm doing or what's going on half the time. I have dedicated my life to the protection, development, and happiness of my little creatures. I am the source of their courage, comfort, and calm.
I am f*cking fabulous.
"Mom" is not an honorific you should throw at just anyone. This is especially not something you put on someone who could not actually be your mother (like... legally, physically, or otherwise).
There are so many words you can use bask in someone's greatness... but this one is ours: hard-won and meticulously maintained. Please leave "mom" to the professionals from now on.
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