Wait, Before We Go—I Don’t Look Like a “Mom,” Do I?

I’ve asked my husband that question a few times, and not because I’m old enough to be a mother (which I am), but because I really, truly don’t want to look like one.

And I’m not alone. Michelle Horton points out in her recent article on Babble, U.S. Fertlity Crisis: Real and Growing, “Just think of what the words ‘mom jeans,’ ‘mom hair’ and, my personal favorite, ‘mom-ish’ conjure up.”


Horton’s article is a response to a Slate writer’s report that the country is experiencing a “serious fertility crisis” and asks why more young, educated women aren’t having children:

Are more women choosing not to become mothers because they love their careers — or is it because they feel like they have to choose financial security over family? Is there a reason why half of the pregnancies in this country are unplanned? Is there a larger force behind why more women aren’t intentionally getting pregnant? orig. emph.

One of the conclusions she reaches is that

Motherhood isn’t very appealing today. The ‘job’ of mother simply isn’t respected, which you can blatantly see in every crevice of our culture.

Well, this isn’t true. Every crevice? In fact, the problem all too often is that motherhood is revered – and to the mothers’ own detriment (I wrote about this problem in Our Country’s Psychotic Obsession with Motherhood Is Psychotic).

It’s looked at too closely, too analytically, from too many angles, and by too many people, and this kind of attention from so many people, groups, and organizations leads to camps taking sides. And from the looks of things, the two sides are “Asexual, Ineffectual Mom-Jeans Moms” and “Overworked Martyr Moms” (sometimes, OMMs will – as in shows like “Everybody Loves Raymond” – also be AIMJeMs).

I can’t be blamed for saying quite honestly that I don’t want to resemble either type of woman, can I? (No.) But what I can do is try to explain why most women (even moms) don’t want to look like what our society has decided are our “mom”s, and that among the many reasons fewer women are becoming mothers (one major reason is that they have the option not to, now) might be how it’s presented to them.

Horton addresses this, herself:

Some of the biggest TV shows and movies center around motherhood and family. Some of the most influential women in media are mom bloggers. But this platform has largely been used to highlight a lot of negative to the masses — exhaustion, stress, anxiety, unkept appearance, failing marriages, failing success.

This is true. Some mothers, themselves – specifically, the OMMs – are rarely shy about announcing how overworked and exhausted they are. (Have you been watching The Rachel Zoe Project this season? She hasn’t even had her baby, yet, and – as it’s edited, anyway – every five minutes she’s reminding anyone who will listen, her husband included, that she’s pregnant, that it takes forever to pick out what clothes to wear now that she’s pregnant, that she has “pregnancy-brain,” that she’s tired because she’s pregnant, etc. And then she takes on extra work, gets even more tired, and says before closing herself in her room for a nap that she has to remind herself what it is she loves about her life because she works so hard, and to top it off, in case anyone had forgotten, she’s pregnant.)

[Disclaimer: Aside from the pregnancy whining, I love Rachel Zoe and DVR the show weekly.]

This doesn’t make motherhood unappealing, it makes mothers unappealing. As is true in most cases, the most obnoxious voices are the loudest, and what young women are seeing is a very vocal group of OMMs who won’t stop talking about how hard they work, and how hard it is to be a mother – but how rewarding oh my god it’s so worth it but I’m so tired, and I do so much for everyone else, but no! It’s okay, because that’s what moms do…

It’s like watching a harried lawyer surrounded by paperwork tearing out her hair and screaming at her assistant. “I don’t want to become THAT person,” we think, and change our major to botany.

Don’t get me wrong – I have no doubt parenting is as challenging, exhausting, and emotionally draining as it is rewarding, beautiful, and exhilarating. But no matter what your job is – parent, doctor, aid worker, teacher, animal rescuer – no one likes a martyr.

Now, back to the mom jeans and mom hair and me (and many others) not wanting to look like a “mom”…

I, like millions of women in this country, watch a lot of TV. And we’ve all probably seen the same commercials selling dusting apparatuses, vacuum cleaners, laundry detergents, and bathroom air fresheners.

Do I need to describe the “mom” types created by advertisers for these commercials, the women they actually think either represent or will appeal to moms around the country?


1. Sexless (uninspired hair, boxy pink sweater sets and baggy khakis)

2. Cleaning-crazed (“I love scrubbing toilets! I loooove dusting! And I should, because I’m the only one who does it!!11!” Not to mention the ads that have them choosing sex with a Swiffer over sex with an old mop – you know it’s implied.)

3. Maid (“I know my son is fourteen, but he has no idea how to put pizza rolls in the microwave, so I do it for him and his friends every day after school, just like good moms should.”)

4. Mothers not just to their children, but to their husbands (“Henry doesn’t know how to bake chicken, so I leave him a casserole in the refrigerator every time I go away for a few hours. That, or a box of Hamburger Helper on the counter, with the bag already cut open. [whisper] He’s still getting used to scissors.”)

5. Doormats (“Yes, you just sit there on the couch. I’ll sweep up the confetti little Jimmy is flinging all over the living room while neither of us screams at the little shit to put that bag of confetti away pick up the mess himself and get his ass in his room.”)

“Who would want that gig?” Horton asks.


Most advertisers make motherhood look like the most thankless, unrewarding, all-consuming, boring, life-depleting, soul-sucking job on the planet, and they make mothers, themselves, look likes shells of what may once have been actual people, but we’re not quite sure.
Now, if we saw more women like the mother in a recently released breast-cancer commercial, the mom who wears fitted jeans and a small t-shirt, who doesn’t eat eggs without hot sauce, and who does the “dancing finger thing” – you know, if they were presented as the unique individuals most of them are, as women who have children in their lives instead of as women who have been taken over by this alien MOM creature – motherhood and mothers might not look so bad to those who have more than a passing interest in the job.

~ ~ ~

Tired of trying to explain that you’re actually not that confusing? Want him to understand what’s so sexy about a man doing dishes or vacuuming? Check out What Every Woman Wishes Modern Men Knew About Women, called “an odd combination of really funny and really insightful.”


2 thoughts on “Wait, Before We Go—I Don’t Look Like a “Mom,” Do I?

  1. bootsy

    it seems to me that the only people who revere the role of motherhood are the mothers (martyrs) themselves. and we all know self-praise is no recommendation at all. everything about the situation is off-putting. i, for one, am thankful to be blessed with a youthful appearance (which has probably remained because i don’t have the stress of motherhood) and no one has ever mistaken me for one of them. thank god.


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