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Parents are always encouraging our children to ‚Äúuse your words‚ÄĚ rather than scream or hit. That‚Äôs because we understand communication is a critical step along the way to being functional and getting our needs met. Yet, as much we implore our children to communicate clearly, many parents also revel in the bullshittery of their chosen avocation: Dadbod? Momgasm? Dad hacks? Momtrepreneur? What do these words even mean? Nothing. But they do insinuate that parents are somehow different from other people, their bodies and careers best understood in the context of their children. This is very dumb. Parents aren‚Äôt different than anyone. They‚Äôre just busier and poorer. Also, they are responsible for teaching kids to use language so they shouldn‚Äôt, you know, use ludicrous neologism in casual conversation.
Take the nightmare term momtrepreneur (please, take it), the unholy combination of mom and entrepreneur. Why does this term need to exist? Can a mom not just be an entrepreneur? Sure, someone could probably make the case that it‚Äôs more efficient than going through the work of explaining that a mom somehow (the implication seems to be that this was unlikely) managed to start a business. Okay. But the problem here is that it‚Äôs cutesy, adorable, relatable to the point of excess. You know what serious momtrepreneurs don‚Äôt think to themselves, ‚ÄúI want to be as good as other entrepreneurs that aren‚Äôt moms!‚ÄĚ They want to be the best. They want to win.
To be a parent is to run a marathon while juggling. But it‚Äôs not a race just between people who are juggling. Some people aren‚Äôt juggling. And parents compete with them as well. The siloing of parents as a subset of culture makes no sense.
Moms and mom culture are particularly guilty of wielding tortured portmanteau, many of which seem to borderline on branding exercises and almost all of which make me feel like I‚Äôm supposed to buy something (or buy into something) I don‚Äôt want. Consider the word ‚Äúmomgasm,‚ÄĚ which is apparently used to suggest a mom has received inordinate pleasure from a parenting moment, like a child being extremely polite to a strange old person. The term is pretty gross and within that grossness there‚Äôs a problematic idea. Mom‚Äôs may get pleasure from their kids‚Äô best behavior. That‚Äôs great. All for it. But they may also get pleasure from being touched in sensuous ways. Momgasm undermines orgasm. I know that sounds semantic, but when we imply that moms are moms first and humans second, we devalue the parts of their lives that aren‚Äôt kid-friendly. Orgasms matter. Let the orgasms be.
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Now, let‚Äôs talk about the out-of-shape elephant in the room. My body isn‚Äôt a dadbod. It‚Äôs just a body that could, you know, use a bit more care. I‚Äôm not going to die of dadbetes. I‚Äôm just going to die. You know, like people do.
You know what? The term dadbod should die in a fire. It‚Äôs ludicrous. Every dad has a body. All of those bodies are unique and varied. Some dads carry weight in their belly. Some dads walk up to preschool pick-up like chiseled Gods. But the dadbod has a very narrow definition for those who use it to call out the paunchy, slouched bodies of certain middle-aged men. It‚Äôs a term that is meant to both shame, celebrate (both arguably fine), but also segment. Dadbod implies that my body is what it is because of my life situation and that this is an understandable and predictable situation. Sure, except that dadbods are unhealthy. That dadbod dude? He‚Äôs weak and he doesn‚Äôt work out enough, which means he‚Äôs probably struggling with some mental issues as well. When we think of people as parents first and humans second, we forget that they have multiple core functions. It‚Äôs my job to take care of my kids, yes, but it‚Äôs also my job to take care of me.
All of these words seek to obfuscate real and important issues in parenting. A mom being an entrepreneur should not be anything special. A fat father should actively seek to get more healthy for the sake of himself and his family.
These neologisms remind me a lot of the Newspeak in George Orwell‚Äôs book 1984. In Orwell‚Äôs vision, Newspeak is a way of altering language to destroy imagination and better control the individual. Like the parenting neologisms, newspeak jams words together, shortening them to the point of nonsense. It‚Äôs all explained very well by a character early in the book. ‚ÄúDon‚Äôt you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúIn the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.‚ÄĚ
And yes, I get that it sounds unhinged and conspiratorial. But when we make up these stupid words, we are actually creating a little fenced off rhetorical space for parents. I, for one, am not going in there. Screw that. My kids help me expand. They make me harder to define. My role as a dad is additive and will never reduce me. I don‚Äôt have a dad bod. I am fat. And my dad hack of hypnotizing my kids into silence by playing Fortnite? That‚Äôs just selfishness. There are words for these things and for both my sake and the sake of my kids, I‚Äôm going to use them.