Although I have given birth, I don’t particularly like being identified as a mother. Even worse, I hate being called “a mom” by anyone other than my son, because that strikes me as a word that only children use. Is being a mom different than being a mum or a mommy or a moms? (I know I probably won’t win this battle; I also have strong feelings about the difference between “house” and “home” that few others do .) But I am very tired of how the word “mom” is used to make light of women’s accomplishments.
Parenthood changes many people for the better. It makes them more responsible and more mature, gives them a sense of perspective, and gets them engaged in their communities in new ways. Parenthood does not change everyone for the better, though, and many people who change for the better over time manage to do it without procreating. Here’s the reality: there are 6.7 billion people in the world. With no offense intended to those who have struggled with infertility, becoming a parent is pretty easy. Put a penis in a vagina, and nine months later, you have a baby! It’s much easier than going to college, holding down a job, or training for a 5K race.
Why, many men become parents and don’t even know it, the whole thing is so easy.
Parenthood isn’t a special credential that shows that people have secret superpowers that make them better at whatever it they want to do. The U.S. Census department reports that 68.7 million children under age 18 live with a mother. That’s 92.6 percent of all children, so it doesn’t seem like mothers are exactly rare, either.
The latest person to use “Mom” as a job qualification is Sarah Palin. She has a spiffy new video out claiming that “Moms just know when something’s wrong.” I can’t stand Sarah Palin, but I don’t think it’s wise for her or any other candidate to put “Mom” on a resume. That’s because then you can be judged on your performance as a parent, which I’m not sure is fair to parent or child. How can I trust that Sarah Palin’s Amazing Mama Grizzly are strong enough to navigate difficult economic and foreign policy issues if she did not “just know” that something was wrong with her children’s behavior?
The mere fact that therapists have such a good gig shows that mothers and fathers, or Moms and Dads, or Mama and Papas, don’t always “just know” when something is wrong (and not all of those who “just know” “just care”).
The underlying sexism bothers me, too. To my knowledge, no one ever talks about the special insights of fatherhood. Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee have children, why don’t they ever talk about the things they can do better than other because they are dads? I haven’t seen Bobby Jindal saying that being a dad makes it easier for him to negotiate with BP. Women with children who start businesses are called Mompreneurs; does that make Steve Jobs a Dadpreneur? Women should be talked about on equal terms as men, and that means we need to do away with cutesy nicknames.