Our unwitting surrender to sexism enshrined in a single word: Mama

Super Mom - illustration of multitasking mother

More than two decades ago, when my children were small and I was a working mother, I read an article on how would we know that true gender equality had arrived.

You would know when you received a call at your workplace from your husband who said this:

“Honey, I just wanted to let you know that I’m taking next Tuesday afternoon off to take the baby for his MMR vaccine.

And I noticed that Jake, our three year old, is outgrowing his shoes so I’ll take him to Stride Rite on the way back.

Oh, you may not have seen it, but yesterday in the bottom of Sophia’s back pack there was a note from school; the first grade is making fruit salad tomorrow and Sophia’s been assigned to bring the papaya. I’ll pick it up on my way home from work.”

Nearly 25 years later, that day has not yet arrived.

I thought about that after reading two pieces by writers I admire published on Mother’s Day.

The first was Judith Shulevitz’ Mom: The Designated Worrier, which lays out the problem.

I wish I could say that fathers and mothers worry in equal measure. But they don’t. Disregard what your two-career couple friends say about going 50-50. Sociological studies of heterosexual couples from all strata of society confirm that, by and large, mothers draft the to-do lists while fathers pick and choose among the items. And whether a woman loves or hates worry work, it can scatter her focus on what she does for pay and knock her partway or clean off a career path. This distracting grind of apprehension and organization may be one of the least movable obstacles to women’s equality in the workplace.

The second, The Rise of ‘Mama,’ by Elissa Strauss offers an explanation for why nothing has changed.

This use of mama can be traced back to women like Ariel Gore, who began publishing her alternative parenting magazine “Hip Mama” in 1993. Inspired by her experience as an urban single mom, the magazine became the source of parenting advice for riot grrrl types, tattooed and pierced women who wanted to find a way to embrace parenthood while simultaneously rejecting much of the bourgeois accouterment that comes along with it.

This fringe quality of “mama” stuck, leading to websites like the “Wellness Mama,” the home of a popular alternative lifestyle guru named Katie who is into stuff like, “cloth diapering, natural birthing, GAPS dieting, homeschooling, not eating grains, making my own toothpaste, drinking the fat and more.” For her, being a mama isn’t just about parenting one’s kids, but seeing parenting as a medium through which one can change the world.

But “cloth diapering, natural birthing, … homeschooling, … [etc.]” is not about changing the world. It’s about keeping women in the home, too busy with mothering to do anything else. It embodies the fact that, as I wrote last week, both natural parenting and religious fundamentalism reflect fear of women’s emancipation:

…[A]ll three major components of natural parenting (natural childbirth, lactivism and attachment parenting) were created in direct response to women’s emancipation and their refusal to remain at home content with the traditional role of a mother.

It is not a coincidence, therefore, that natural parenting requires tremendous sacrifice on the part of the mother and only the mother. Indeed every element of natural parenting, extending to vaccine rejection and organic food, makes more work for mothers. Moreover, it is hardly a coincidence that the home is the heart of natural parenting. From homebirth to homeschooling, the natural mother never has to leave the house and certainly should never be employed outside the house when her children are small.

Sadly, the rise of the word ‘Mama’ reflects this generation’s eager, unwitting surrender to sexism.

Don’t get me wrong, I adored being called Mama by my children. I remember musing when my youngest was small that I had three different appellations from four children: Mama, Mommy, and Mom, reflecting their ages.

But Mama is reserved for children. Anyone else who uses the term to describe another woman is reducing that women to domestic work and relegating her to the home. Using it to describe oneself is capitulating to the backlash against women’s emancipation. Instead of rejecting relegation to the home, “Mama” celebrates it.

As a woman who struggled mightily to be accepted into a traditionally male career, I am dumbfounded by women’s willingess to call themselves by an infantilising, pejorative term. ‘Mama’ should have gone out with ‘girl,’ ‘honey’ and ‘Mrs.’ all traditionally used to keep women in their place.

Labeling yourself ‘Mama’ is glorifying gender inequality. Worse, it is a sign of utterly giving up on the possibility of gender equality. It is not merely “mothers draft the to-do lists while fathers pick and choose among the items” as described by Shulevitz, it is making mother’s to-do lists endless, grafting everything from growing your own food, washing diapers and homeschooling onto the already very long list.

This past weekend I was at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History that includes several exhibits on the rise of technology including domestic technology. You don’t need to be a cultural anthropologist to recognize that women’s liberation from domestic slavery was achieved because of domestic technology including ovens, washing machines, and dishwashers, and medical technology including the birth control pill and infant formula. By deliberately rejecting that technology, ‘Mamas’ are unwittingly re-enslaving themselves, kowtowing to the pressure to retreat from the wider world back into domestic confinement.

According to Strauss:

The cool factor of mama is why women are also using it to address one another as well.

“When I hang out with others moms we usually refer to one another as ‘mama.’” said Raquel Miller, a writer and graphic designer and mom of one in Los Angeles. She said it’s the go-to term among her hipper friends, the “Hollywood moms.”

This edgy sweetness has made “mama” a hit in the mothering blogosphere as well. Mama’s become the go-to term for talking about the sentimentality of the experience without sounding too old-fashioned, and one that mothers can be expected to rally around.

But there is nothing cool or edgy or sweet about viewing yourself as a domestic slave no matter how much you love mothering.

  • Ardea

    I chose “Mama” as an appellation because that’s what I called my mother, and that’s what she called her mother, who was from Arkansas (but who raised my mother in California, and I was raised in Seattle). At the time, I was rejecting “Mommy”. In public, I go by my name, because it really irritates me when non-children refer to me as “Mom” at the doctor’s office or at my children’s school. When referred to as a member of a group based on relational status, I prefer “mother” over “mom” – like “soccer mom”. I dislike that. But certainly being a mother made me a different person with different facets than who I was before I became a mother. I wasn’t really aware that “Mama” had become trendy. I was just “Mama” out of family tradition.

  • Gatita

    This is pretty much what Amy is talking about, only among the 1%: Poor Little Rich Women

    I was thunderstruck when I heard mention of a “bonus” over coffee. Later I overheard someone who didn’t work say she would buy a table at an event once her bonus was set. A woman with a business degree but no job mentioned waiting for her “year-end” to shop for clothing. Further probing revealed that the annual wife bonus was not an uncommon practice in this tribe.

    A wife bonus, I was told, might be hammered out in a pre-nup or post-nup, and distributed on the basis of not only how well her husband’s fund had done but her own performance — how well she managed the home budget, whether the kids got into a “good” school — the same way their husbands were rewarded at investment banks. In turn these bonuses were a ticket to a modicum of financial independence and participation in a social sphere where you don’t just go to lunch, you buy a $10,000 table at the benefit luncheon a friend is hosting.

  • Carly Grey Duffy

    Eh, I’m a feminist who cloth diapered, breastfed, etc.

    Oh, and my 10 year old son calls me Carly, as does everyone else.

  • Living for God

    So, having babies and breastfeeding is ‘unwittingly re-enslaving themselves, kowtowing to the pressure to retreat from the wider world back into domestic confinement?’ I’m overjoyed and thanking God you no longer practice medicine.

    • Linden

      Reading comprehension fail.

  • Living for God

    Gender equality is not possible, inherently, we are different. Poor people who don’t understand God’s design. This thinking is exactly what is destroying the family unit. So sad, your ignorance.

    • Cobalt

      Troll.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        Oh come on, don’t chase him/her away! This is great stuff.

        • Votre

          Agree. I’ll make us some popcorn.

          • sdsures

            Yum!

    • fiftyfifty1

      Maybe it seems sad to some, but it works for us. Our family unit is intact and thriving.

    • Cobalt

      Please, oh rich wise one, help me understand God’s design for my family unit, and why that means the adults cannot be equals.

    • moto_librarian

      And here I thought it was things like the divorce rate and abuse that were destroying the family unit…

      • The Computer Ate My Nym

        I’d like to put in a good word for the divorce rate: in general, a higher divorce rate is associated with a lower abuse rate. I’m in favor of keeping divorce relatively easy. Legally easy, at least, it’s never going to be emotionally easy. Marriage, now, I’d be in favor of making it harder to get married. That might cut down on abuse some.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          No doubt, readily accessible divorce is highly underrated.

          • yugaya

            Tell me about it. I’m still waiting to be able to file for a divorce a year since I first contacted the authorities. A good friend of mine has it even worse, she did manage to file but is still waiting for the judge to set the date for the initial hearing. She is not only dealing with that, but with father who has taken daughter away from her despite the mother being legally the caretaker and the child being registered as living with her. He has denied the child being taken to medical appointments and attending preschool which is compulsory. My friend has tried to get a reaction from social services based on all these things which are insane, but they evaded taking on a complex case and issuing temporary custody order saying that she should wait for her divorce court appointment. The social worker also told her that “she really does not want to push it with CPS because judges in divorce court hate it when a mother gets social workers to interfere in their divorce proceedings.”

            You guys don’t know how much I envy some of the things that are cultural norm in places where you live. 🙁

        • moto_librarian

          I wholeheartedly agree.

        • Mishimoo

          We were legally required to do pre-marital counselling before our wedding and I highly recommend it. We filled out a quiz separately and honestly to figure out what we differed on, with the idea that the counselling sessions would focus on the areas we were different in and healthy compromise/mediation.

      • Tosca

        No no, it’s same sex marriage. Get with the times.

        • The Computer Ate My Nym

          I know you’re being sarcastic, but wanted to use your comment as an excuse to point out that children raised by same sex couples are better adjusted and less likely to be abused than those being raised by opposite sex couples.

          • Linden

            *Every* excuse should be used to point this out, as it causes delicious cognitive dissonance in bigots. :-p

          • Guest

            Lol…another person living in fantasy land. This “fact” has been debunked several times by kids of same sex couples. For the most part, it is equal (some say it is worse, which I do not think has been studied enough to say either way). As far as marriage is concerned, I’ve seen as much or more infidelity among the gay community as I have the hetro community over the years. Just as with anything else, it depends on the person, not orientation.

          • The Computer Ate My Nym

            So you’re taking a couple of anecdotes as more reliable than studies of outcomes and parenting techniques among same sex families. Ok…

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      I’ve spoken with god and she says you’re wrong.

    • Neya

      And, which god would that be? As far as I know, we have not agreed on that detail!

    • Michele

      My god, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, created everyone equally and blesses all people and families through the touch of his noodly appendages. Ramen.

      • MaineJen

        Ramen. May the sauce be with you. 🙂

        • sdsures

          May the Fork be with you!

    • Amy

      I don’t know, my parents have a pretty egalitarian marriage, as do my husband and I. Stable family units all around, AND we attend church regularly!

      Inherently, except for identical twins, EVERYONE is different– we all have different DNA.

    • Nick Sanders

      Yet another person who confuses legal and social equality for Harrison Bergeron-esque identicalness.

    • yugaya

      “Gender equality is not possible” and “God’s designs”.

      I think we will need a patriarchal bingo for this blog if you keep on commenting, because you also get points for blaming “poor”, “ignorant” people who disagree with you for “destroying the family unit”.

      • sdsures

        Guess he missed the memo that God (if there is one) created LGBT people, too, just the way they are.

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        Don’t forget “God’s plan for families,” which, as we all know, is exactly the same for each and every family out there, down to the number of kids they have, which parent works, what school the kids go to, and how they all dress.

    • momofone

      It could be that that’s destroying the “family unit”, I guess. Or it could be the smug, presumptuous idea that you know better than a given family what and whose “design” works best for them. I agree with you on one point though–so sad, your ignorance.

  • Somewhereinthemiddle

    I just don’t get grown ass women referring to themslves or each other as mommies, mamas, etc especially as a group. As an “Do any mommies want to meet at the playground?” I get it, I’m a stay at home parent, it’s what I do and I like it. But to reduce your very existence soley to the fact that you have children is annoying and pigeon-holes all of us into this weird sect that doesn’t know shit about anything but all things kid related. Of course I have the same pet peeve with women to referring to themselves or others mearly as “preggo” or “preggers” or whatever other cutesy words for a gestating person. WTF? WHY? I have a NAME. I don’t greet women by their non gestating status. “What’s up empty uterus” “Hello Ms. Menopause” sound RIDICULOUS as should referring to someone as their parental/ gestational status.

    • Gretta

      I have a name. Silly. Your name doesn’t matter anymore. Only your vagina does.

  • Dr Kitty

    I would say DH and I have a very equal marriage, and we do divide up a lot of household tasks, but yes…certain things are definitely still “my area of expertise” (like sorting out the packed lunch for school, writing the shopping list and doing the weekly shop, organising my daughter’s out of school activities, buying her clothes and deciding what she wears).

    I vividly remember feeling totally out of my depth with a newborn, and DH just assuming that he was the only one who felt incompetent, and that I magically just a) knew what to do with the baby in ways he didn’t and b) would be good at it, when he wouldn’t.

    He has since been disabused of those notions.

    • Who?

      Parenthood is a steep learning curve in many directions.

    • RMY

      In some cases, the mom does have more of an idea, but that’s because girls are much more likely to have been babysitters/teacher’s aids (for community events/religious sunday school), etc. At least my experience of growing up in a fairly traditional Catholic family, my brother wasn’t expected to do any childcare (although he was allowed to), unlike me. There were only two of us and we were close in age, so it wasn’t a family-need driven thing.

      When we were tweens/teens, he was pushed into looking for lawn care jobs where as I was encouraged to babysit. I was encouraged to volunteer helping take care of children, he wasn’t. Although beyond a certain age, there is a prejudice about boys/men who take an interest in childcare, there’s much more suspicion of pedophilia in men than in women.

      • demodocus

        My dad completely freaked out over the male babysitter Mom found. He was a nice guy, I thought.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      Huh. I think this may be one of those ways where autism can actually be helpful in life…When my partner and I got together, it quickly became clear to him that shopping was not and never was going to be my area of expertise. (We had lots of conversations that went like this: “That shirt’s cute. Where’d you get it?” “Um…I don’t know. Probably my sister got it for me. Oh, no, wait, my aunt got me this one.”) He took up shopping for us all and doesn’t expect me to do neurotypical things like fashion. He also does the school stuff that involves socializing, though I do more of the helping with homework (mostly because my style of explaining things is, unexpectedly, easier for small one to understand.)

  • Sue

    I’m looking for the day that fathers don’t call it “babysitting” when they are looking after their own kids.

    (I’ve never heard a mother say “I’m babysitting the kids while Fred goes out to golf.”)

    • SporkParade

      That and referring to doing chores as “helping around the house.” You’re not helping your wife around the house. You are doing your flipping job!

    • Inmara

      At the same time, when dad is single caregiver and is actually doing all the chores and stuff, it’s seen as something “wrong”. I once read interview with single father of a girl (don’t remember where was mother – either divorced or deceased), and it was really eye-opening how sexist our society is towards single dads! (of course it’s just flip side of gender segregation with its underlying consensus that there are specific roles for men and women) He was constantly questioned whether he really can raise a girl, and how is he helping her with washing and hygiene (dooh! the same as mothers of little boys do it!), and what will he do when she hits puberty, and really he should find a woman ASAP and marry just to give proper caregiver for his daughter! Ugh, no wonder that many people are so hostile towards same-sex parents if they can’t accept the fact that ordinary dad is capable of raising a girl.

    • Ada Barnes

      My husband doesn’t consider it babysitting, and will correct people who refer to it as such. He finds it insulting, too.

      • momofone

        When my son was a baby, his dad took him to programs at the library and that kind of thing (he’s a stay-at-home dad). All the other parents with babies were mothers, and they’d gush about how wonderful and self-sacrificing he was to do those things. He was baffled by it and would say, but I’m doing the same thing you’re doing. What really got him was when someone would comment on his doing baby-care things like changing diapers in glowing terms–“Aren’t you the most awesome thing for doing that!” and he would say, “No. He’s my SON. I’m his FATHER. It’s part of the job description.”

        We do live in a place where this is not the norm, and I don’t know of any other stay-at-home fathers here, but it really got to be a bit much. I’d go to the grocery store and be inundated with people singing his praises, and we’d laugh it off, but it really did show the difference in expectations–if I’d been the stay-at-home parent, it would have just been my biologically ordained job, along the lines of “Well, of COURSE you’re changing his diaper–you’re his mother!”

        • demodocus

          I agree, though my husband works so he usually just changes the baby at bedtime and weekends. And, of course, there’s the “but he’s BLIND” element in his case. He changed K’s diaper before I did. (The nurses and my sisters took care of it at the hospital) K *prefers* it when Daddy does it!

        • Kelly

          When my husband took our then 18 month old across the country on a plane, he got the red carpet treatment. He was a male with a child. The stewardess took her for an hour. I was so annoyed. While I have never had the horror stories of taking my children on planes, I have never gotten that treatment either.

    • JJ

      Ahhhhhh! The dad’s babysitting thing!!!

    • Neya

      Back in the stone age, when I was in college, a girl in my dorm had a young child who was leaving with her parents. She would always refer to the time that she was parenting her son as “babysitting”. It was very puzzling to me that you would be babysitting your own kid…

  • Brix

    Back when kids were the only ones using it I thought “momma” was cute. I looked forward to, one day, having my kids call me momma. Now “momma” makes me gag. It slips under my skin and hops on my very last nerve. All of these grown women referring to each other as “momma”, even referring to complete strangers, who happen to have children, as “momma” squicks me out. For me it assumes a familiarity that is unearned because there is no relationship to indicate that “momma” is an appropriate way to address a woman who is not your own mother. This twisted “momma” culture has ruined the name for me. Sigh. I will probably have my children call me Landlord.

    • I love it when the vendors in our local open air market [the Machane Yehuda shuk] refer to me as “Auntie”. I’m obviously too old to be a mother of young children, and it’s not really polite to call me “Granny”. Sounds odd in English, but in Hebrew, it’s fine. The only other term [Mrs. or lady] is too formal.

      • SporkParade

        I was just thinking about that! I’m totally fine when Israelis call me Ima because I know they also call my husband Abba. But when English-speakers call me Mama, it’s like fingernails on a chalkboard. It’s the same with being called “motek” by strange Israelis versus being called “sweetie” by strange Americans.

        • I think it is partly because Israelis are generally highly informal. America seems to fall somewhere in the middle, between classical British formality [where even quite friendly business associates will still use last names unless “granted permission” to use first names], and the way Israelis almost always identify themselves by first names [teachers, nurses, etc. — even cops]. Women of a certain age are designated Ima [mother] or savta [grandmother] without any stigma. Men are “adon” [Mr.] or “saba” [Grandpa] equally., unless you are using the first name. Even bureaucrats in government offices will tell you, “Talk to Moshe, third door down” rather than “Mr. Meir is the person to speak to”.

          I also think it is because Israelis tend to see themselves as one giant family. A child begins to cry on a bus; immediately just about everyone adult gets involved with advice, candy, tissues, etc.

          • SporkParade

            “Ima, why isn’t your child wearing a hat? Three layers of clothing and a down bodysuit with a hood isn’t enough when it’s only 13 degrees outside!” 🙂

  • guest

    The way “mama” is used by adults to refer to upper-middle class women who happen to be mothers has made me hate the word so much I can’t even stand for my kids to call me that. I taught them to say “mommy” as soon as I could. Mommy is my name to my kids. No one else should be calling me that. If it’s absolutely necessary to call me by some title rather than my name, I would MUCH rather be called “doctor,” a title that took far more than nine months to earn.

  • yentavegan

    Sigh…I don’t fit in anywhere. I like being called Mama. The term describes exactly how I see and feel about my self and my place in the world. When all else is tumbling into decay or chaos I try to always behave as the “mama” in the room.

    • Stacy48918

      “Sigh…I don’t fit in anywhere…*perfectly* (added)”
      No one agrees with every single word written anywhere. Doesn’t mean there isn’t a place here for you.

    • moto_librarian

      You belong here.

  • Ellen

    Hey! My husband does ALL THOSE THINGS! He just texted me to tell me where on child’s sports equipment is located and how the other’s Suzuki violin evaluation went, and we chatted earlier today about how he needs to reschedule a kid’s dentist appointment so he doesn’t take her out of school for it during a field trip. He’s a great partner and a great dad.

    And yet, somehow, gender inequality persists in the world.

    I don’t think it’s because of the word Mama. Like a lot of words, Mama can be used to patronize, but among the bloggers who are labeling themselves “mamas,” and especially by writers like Ariel Gore, I see it as a marker of affinity. It acknowledges our shared experiences and concerns. I don’t see eye-to-eye with everyone who identifies as a natural mama or paleo-mama, or whatever else. So I don’t read their blogs. When I feel oppressed by someone’s use of the word, honestly, that’s pretty easy to walk away from. And while I don’t agree with a number of the mamas who blog about their mama-ness, that branch of the blogosphere offers economic opportunities that have improved some families lives. I can’t fault them for finding the niche in the market.

    • Amy

      I don’t think Dr. Amy or anyone else is saying that there is gender inequity BECAUSE of the word mama or even how it’s used. Rather, the current use of the word is INDICATIVE of the level of gender inequity we have.

  • Gatita

    Sort of OT but interesting letter to the Dear Prudence column: Should I leave my baby for three months for a job?

    Q. Leaving My Baby for Three Months?: 
I am a successful 38-year-old businesswoman who found herself with an unexpected pregnancy last year. I decided to have the child on my own, and thus far it has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Recently I was offered a promotion with a substantial raise, but the catch is, my work would require me to travel to Hong Kong for 12 weeks starting this June. Hiring a nanny to travel with me is not feasible with such short notice, but my sister, who has children of her own, has offered to watch my baby while I am away. I’m concerned that 12 weeks is too long to be apart from my 11-month-old daughter. I am concerned that she is too young to be without her mother for such an extended period. Then again, this is a fantastic opportunity and would be a feather in my cap on my résumé, not to mention it would help me save up for my daughter’s education. If she were older, I would have no qualms doing this. Should I take the position?

    A: What a Mother’s Day dilemma! First of all, I think you should explore the possibility not of taking a nanny with you, but finding a nanny in Hong Kong. If your company has an office there, they may have resources for you, and can also put you in touch with other families working there. You may find that you can hire a full-time nanny so that you can bring your daughter. On the other hand, if this is a three-month assignment that’s going to be all-consuming and you would feel more guilty about how much time you were spending away from your little girl—even though she is there with you—having her stay with your sister may be the better option. What a wonderful sister you have! That is a generous offer, and one that should relieve your mind. Your daughter will miss you, but think of how much fun she will have being surrounded by loving cousins. I disagree with you about this being an easier decision to make if your child were older. Your child is very young, and of course she is attached to you, but she will quickly be absorbed into your sister’s home. The three months are going to speed by. But it will have long-term benefits for your career—which will benefit your daughter in the long run. I say take the assignment and once you do, feel confident about the child care decision you make.

    I think if this were a man no one would question whether or not he should take the job. FWIW, the letter writer came back and said she’d accepted the position.

    • Mac Sherbert

      I don’t know they might, if he were a single Dad. It’s not wrong that the Mom was conflicted about going or not. I know a lot of dads that would question being away from their families for that long. My husband hates to travel for work and to be away from his kids. I do think she must have an awesome sister as she is willing to take care of the baby and encouraging her to do what is best for her and eventually the baby. (And I really like the way the columnist answered that question!)

      • Gatita

        Men’s paid work is seen as benefiting their children, women’s paid work is seen as taking away from their children. Plus you have the attachment parenting dogma thrown into the mix, which ugh.

        • SporkParade

          The best part was the person who wrote in to say that he had been left with relatives while his immediate family lived in Italy for a few months, and it was totally fine. I guess the mother-child bond isn’t so fragile that the mother must be her baby’s slave after all. 🙂

    • demodocus

      If they Skype a lot, it should be fine, though that first week will be rough for both!

  • nomofear

    Two things – one, I’m still fighting “girl” here in the deep south. Two, mama / mami can be a Hispanic thing. It may well have its own negative connotations there, but most of the times that I’ve overheard it, or been called it, it was among my Spanish-as-a-first-language amigos.

    • fiftyfifty1

      Yes, the spanish use of mami is very different from the english use of mama.
      (english language) mama=
      1. name young children use for their mothers
      2. title used in the NCB crowd
      (spanish language) mami=
      1. name young children use for their mothers
      2. “sexy” name men use for their girlfriends or as part of a catcall
      3. name that longtime married couples use to refer to each other (mami/papi) just like some stodgy married english speaking couples call each other mother/father.
      4. caring nickname for girls used by adults (parents, family members, friends, any friendly adult even a relative stranger). Boys of the same age are called papi. The first time I heard a mother call her own daughter “mami” I was confused.

    • Oh no, as a southerner myself I know that momma is perfectly chill on its own. It’s mama bear, hip mama, working mama, ap mama, whatever, as a cultural movement, not in of parenthood itself.

      Why? Because there’s never hip daddies, only hip men. They simultaneously downgrade fatherhood as “less” while giving this patronizing fetishisation of the grrl power associated with being a “mama” anything; ultimately, when a man becomes a father, he is still a man, while women will always wear the label of mama like an albatross around our already tread upon necks.

      • momofone

        I love being a mama (to my son), but it’s special to me because it’s exclusively his (and because after many years of infertility it’s a long-awaited joy). When other people say it, though, it can be presumptuous.

        • YES.

          I look forward to being a momma, but only to my progeny, and as part of the colorful tapestry that is my identity. I imagine that you feel the same, because as much as you love your son, you aren’t ONLY a momma, you’re a complete person.

          Congratulations on your besting of infertility, btw! I know too many couples struggling with that and know that it can be a real nightmare.

        • Bugsy

          Very well said, momofone. We can appreciate the name coming from our children, but might not be as keen on it from others.

        • Who?

          I loathe it when the vet calls me ‘mum’ when we are discussing the dog’s health.

          • Liz Leyden

            I’m not my cat’s mother, I’m her backup human (Hubby is her human).

    • Amy

      Different context, though. It’s not a cultural thing when it’s upper middle class white women in their 30s and 40s.

    • Mac Sherbert

      Come on girl. It’ not that bad. 😉

      • Mac Sherbert

        Actually, it is. All women are referred to as girls. I can safely say at this point in my life I am no longer a girl.

        • Who?

          Anyone who uses that word around me is given a curt update to the effect that I have not been a girl for close to 40 years, so unless they wish to address an adult they should stop talking.

        • just me

          I used to really hate that and would bristle at every “girl”. For some reason I’m no longer as bothered by it.

    • LibrarianSarah

      What I get a lot up here is “female.” I would rather be called “girl” than “female” any day of the week. At least girls are all human.

    • momofone

      I thought of this today, at a work thing that was a ridiculous waste of time. There was a team event, and the speaker kept saying “Ok, everyone, I need six girls and six guys!” He walked to where I was and made a comment about how (my) hoping he wouldn’t choose me hadn’t worked. I said, “Oh gosh–I had no idea you were addressing me; I haven’t been a ‘girl’ in about thirty years!”

  • just me

    I know of one local person who has something about being a “mamma” listed on her LinkedIn profile along with her employment. Gag.

    • I would love to see people honestly try to quantify themselves as chauffeurs, nurses, and chefs because of momma-hood.

      • SuperGDZ

        I’ve seen people compare their responsibilities to CEOs as well. I can only assume they’ve never been in a position to see what a CEO does.

        • Who?

          In my business I work with people who are going through divorce, alongside their lawyers, to help them manage their documents and use their lawyer’s time efficiently.

          One of those clients who never finished university and has never had a job is convinced she will get a managerial role in a business due to her running kids and household skills. Her kids are fine, her house is lovely, but she has no.idea.at.all. and it is very difficult to get through to her.

        • anh

          I’m in a really great mothers’ group on facebook. every once in a while a woman will ask for help with her resume to reenter the work force after a long break and she’ll put things like “nurse, CFO, chef” and I let them know as someone in a senior position, I would pass on that resume very quickly

        • Why are they always doctors because they fix boo boos, rocket surgeons for helping with math homework, and CEOs for running the household? From now on, it goes both ways.

          Mommies are authoritarian dictators because they choose what’s for dinner and decide whether Susie and Johnny go to the park. Mommies are cult leaders because they teach their children about [insert deity here].

          • Cobalt

            You could call what I do at home being a CEO, if you also add that the company only has two employees (including the CEO) and at most 15 customers (and that includes the large animals). We’ve very rarely turned a profit, lose tremendous percentages some years, and our goal is to eventually send all but the two employed customers elsewhere eventually.

            Not quite Fortune 500, but it works for us. 😉

          • Hahaha

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          I can only assume they’ve never been in a position to see what a CEO does.

          To be fair, very few people are. People not in management don’t understand what people in management do.

          But this applies all over. People in [whatever area of expertise] don’t understand what it takes to be in [that area of expertise]. People who aren’t doctors don’t know what it takes to be a doctor. People who aren’t farmers don’t know what it takes to be a farmer. The problem we have today is that too many people think they can read about being X on the internet and that makes them just as qualified as the people who have studied and/or otherwise trained to do X.

          I even have that in my job. People who are not professors don’t know what it takes to be a professor, and what I all have to do. Similarly, I don’t know what administrators do. I don’t know what the University President does all day. Then again, I don’t run around claiming that I could be the University president.

        • Bugsy

          I will say that the one similarity I’ve found is cleaning up other people’s poop…I’d much rather clean up my son’s than clean up that from my former employees/co-workers.

          In all seriousness, as a stay-at-home mom following working in a university administrative position, being a stay-at-home mom gives me much greater control. Yes, I have a 2-year-old dictator at home, and he’s usually the one in control. Still, the day-to-day functioning of the household gets determined primarily by me. At the university, control was much more subject to involvement from a myriad of voices – many too strong for their own good – and higher ed politics. That could have been, however, because our office was mainly dysfunctional.

      • Cobalt

        I see a lot of cutesy articles encouraging it. My husband (trying to cheer me up on a particularly dissatisfied-with-home day) showed me one, where it argues that being a “wife and mother” is worth like $200,000 a year to the family because that’s what it would cost to hire professionals to do all the household work.

        My response was along the lines of “if someone was paying me that much to do what they’re listing I would be fired within a week”. Not because I’m a terrible wife and mother, but because I don’t do professional quality work at any of it. I do good enough to keep the family running, and I’m totally ok with that.

        • I hate that shit. Recognizing that I’m sounding like a broken record, it’s gross that mothers are the biologically superior parents. Mothers would make that much a year because of that mother’s love bullshit, which men are somehow lacking because I never hear about how much fathers would make.

          It’s the mothers who are demonized when women choose their career or mental health first, when the partnership doesn’t work out and they move across the country, when they don’t have primary custody.

          This power mommy nonsense depends on the same evolutionary psychology that suggests overall female inferiority, White (and Asian) superiority, and the vital importance of virile, strong, sensible White men and their aggressive dicking.

          What you do at home is crazy important because *it’s what works for your family*, not because we climbed from the primordial ooze less suited for the outside world than the fathers of our children. (I know that you know that, I’m just shamelessly piggybacking on your indignance ;))

          • Cobalt

            “the vital importance of virile, strong, sensible White men and their aggressive dicking”

            I am going to have to add this to my list of “sensible awesomeness heard on internet”.

          • Awe. Thank you <3

          • Williwaw

            I thought your comment was great. Also, I snortlaughed wildly at the phrase “aggressive dicking” and need to figure out how to work it into a conversation.

          • Thank you. 🙂

  • Ellen Mary

    I am a little confused why Mama is worse than Mommy. All of the mother’s groups I have ever been in use one or the other . . .

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      I don’t know that it’s worse. I wouldn’t want to be called mommy by anyone who is not my kid either.

      • When I was in high school like a million years ago, the superintendent called my mom that. All the moms were Mom and it was the grossest. The dads? First name basis.

        What a fuck.

        • The Computer Ate My Nym

          I’d be seriously tempted to ask a school superintendent that called me “mom” if he were really my long lost son who I’d had to abandon in the past after that accident with the police box and the guy with the scarf and start asking him a bunch of personal questions as his long lost mother.

          • Haha! Lift up his shirt and demand to see his birthmarks.

      • Ellen Mary

        But would you object to being in a group of self identified Mommies? Like BuffaloMommies or AtlantaMommies? I realize that some would only be in a group called Parents . . . Mommy groups are female only spaces & maybe that is discriminatory? But I went to some female only schools & enjoy those spaces . . .

        Some of it is Internet culture. I only call my husband DH in jest if I am IRL. I would never use the word Mama except online.

        • momofone

          I would not join a group of Mommies. It’s just not me. (My husband, a stay-at-home dad, was a little bugged by the Mothers’ Morning Out program our son attended. He lobbied for Parents’ Morning Out, to no avail. 🙂 )

        • The Computer Ate My Nym

          I don’t object to people calling themselves whatever they like, including mommy, mama, or superman. I just don’t like it myself.

    • Sue

      I have no problem with what children call their mothers – to me, it’s about what adults call other adults who happen to be mothers.

  • Marianne

    I loved Hip Mama magazine when it first came out. Not sure when that was (1990’s?) but I remember 2 very astute critiques of the pressures put on American mothers. One article complained about how mothers were being singled out for generating waste via disposable diapers in a way that middle class men as a group were never singled out for their love of electronic toys. The author asked why a group that was statistically likely to be more economically disadvantaged was somehow more responsible for impacts to the environment than groups who consumed more.
    The other article was by a single mother in grad school describing why she budgeted for a cleaner for her small apartment, and how this luxury allowed her to remain sane.
    Several years later the magazine changed and broke my heart when I saw a headline about HIV positiving women “resisting” anti retroviral medicine during labor.

  • Backlash against feminism has been rebranded AS feminism now, drives me crazy. Liberal feminists are more concerned with personal feelings of empowerment than actual structural inequalities now. Being a mom is empowerment, prostitution is empowerment, etc etc. I’m so done.

    • KeeperOfTheBooks

      Ohmygosh, SO true. Frankly, when I was in academia (for a very, VERY short time) I cared a good deal less about how my male colleagues “affirmed” my feminism (since when is that their job, anyway? In fact, the idea that they were responsible for that was rather anti-feminist, anyway) and a good deal more about whether my work would be taken as seriously by them and by higher-ups since I was a woman.

    • Roadstergal

      While I agree with the general premise… I still don’t see the problem with consensual, non-forced prostitution? Unconsenting, forced prostitution, of course, is heavily influenced by systemic issues that touch on workers’ rights at the bounds of legality, women’s earning power, and societal sexual morality that makes illegal something that’s in high demand, but the basic idea doesn’t seem incompatible with feminism, to me.

      • Daleth

        Well, there’s theory and then there’s reality. Consensual, non-forced prostitution may in theory be fine for the women involved, but in reality the vast majority of prostitution is either flat-out nonconsensual or in a murky grey area where she “consents” for extremely dubious reasons (her pimp supplies her with the drug she’s addicted to, she’s a victim of severe child sex abuse and thus has no sense of her own ability to say no or her own value for any other purpose than sex, she’s financially/educationally very marginalized and someone she depends on for housing presents it as more or less the only way for her to make rent, etc.).

        And even in theory, if it’s fine for the women involved, it still reinforces–to the men involved–the idea that women are objects to be bought.

        So it’s problematic even in theory, much less in reality.

        • Roadstergal

          Hm, I’m not sure I’m on board with the theory.

          “it still reinforces–to the men involved–the idea that women are objects to be bought.”

          To me, that refers to slavery, not prostitution. Prostitution is providing an agreed-upon service for a price. If I sell performance of a sexual act to another person, I am not selling my body.

          (Also, there are male prostitutes/rentboys.)

          “in reality the vast majority of prostitution is either flat-out nonconsensual or in a murky grey area where she “consents” for extremely dubious reasons”

          Again, to me, a lot of this seems to be a combination of fallout from the act being illegal, which gives women involved no legal protection and recourse, and issues of poverty that have many other negative symptoms as well.

          “someone she depends on for housing presents it as more or less the only way for her to make rent”

          I mean, there are far too many ‘marriages’ where this is the reality.

          • Ennis Demeter

            Even jokingly comparing to prostitution to marriage is odious. Prostitution is overwhelmingly young, poor women being paid by men for sexual use of their bodies. This is not a regular service job, as service jobs do not normally come with the hazards of rape, disease, pregnancy and death. If prostitution were empowering, it wouldn’t be the poorest, least powerful people in the world who do it.

            In the end, it’s just not ethical to pay someone for sex. The idea that lonely, decent men are hiring perfectly happy call girls is just not the reality . There are websites online where Johns review prostitutes. Read some of them and then ask yourself if prostituting women is empowering.

          • Roadstergal

            “Even jokingly comparing to prostitution to marriage is odious.”

            I wasn’t joking. Some marriages involve rape, and I find that odious.

            “This is not a regular service job, as service jobs do not normally come with the hazards of rape, disease, pregnancy and death”

            They do if they are unregulated. There are non-sex jobs in poorly regulated regions – and work done by illegals in the US – where abuse, harm, and death of workers – many underage – is the reality. Is that the fault of the job, or of the context?

            “In the end, it’s just not ethical to pay someone for sex.”

            If we take the issues of consent and abuse out of the equation, why not?

            “The idea that lonely, decent men are hiring perfectly happy call girls is just not the reality.”

            But that was my reality. Why is it invalid?

          • Alcharisi

            I think you bring in an incredibly important point here–plenty of people are trafficked to do domestic, construction, and agricultural labor. All of these jobs are potentially very hazardous EVEN in properly regulated conditions. Why is sex work special in this regard?

          • Roadstergal

            I mean, I suppose what I’m getting at is that Work In General has tended, throughout history and into the present day, to be inherently exploitive without protections and regulation – minimum wage laws, worker safety laws, etc. Just making work illegal doesn’t stop it happening or make the people doing it safer.

            And when it comes to feminism, I feel like it’s back to that old saying – feminism is manifested in the freedom to make a choice, not the choice itself. Being forced into prostitution is, of course, just the opposite of feminist. I think that the freedom to choose to do it, hand-in-hand with the freedom to find it repugnant or just uninteresting and choose to not do it, seem fully compatible with feminism. We aren’t anywhere near there yet, but just making it illegal hasn’t seemed to have done much to help.

          • Alcharisi

            Yeah, I can make sense of (not agree with, but at least see as internally consistent) anti-sex work arguments that are situated within broader anti-capitalist arguments. But yeah, prohibition in general (especially when it’s of an activity connected with deep bodily urges) doesn’t seem to have a great track record.

            Personally, I’m not crazy about freedom of choice being the only determining grounds of feminism. (Another discussion, perhaps, except to say that choices are systemically influenced and have systemic reverberations of their own.) But I do agree that when we look at sex work in the context of Work in General, there does not seem to be anything fundamentally antifeminist about the uncoerced choice to engage in sex work.

          • Roadstergal

            “Personally, I’m not crazy about freedom of choice being the only determining grounds of feminism. (Another discussion, perhaps, except to say that choices are systemically influenced and have systemic reverberations of their own.)”

            I do agree on that. I enjoy it as a soundbite, but like every soundbite, It’s More Complicated Than That.

          • Alcharisi

            Would it work to say for the time being that (relative) freedom of choice is a necessary but not sufficient condition of feminism?

          • Roadstergal

            Yes, that’s a good phrasing.

          • just me

            I’ll pull a dr t on you and ask for your citations that show that usually it is a “choice”.

          • Roadstergal

            Where in my post did I say it usually is a choice?

            I say it _should_ be, and it _can_ be, and the fact that it isn’t is a failure, not of the work itself, but society at large. I think the current illegal status makes that more difficult.

          • Gatita

            But what about sex work that is legal, like stripping? Much better regulated and safer than prostitution yet the same issues of exploitation and agency apply, particularly with victims of childhood sexual abuse.

          • Roadstergal

            I didn’t say that making it legal would magically make it work out better. There are deep societal issues with any sort of ‘women’s work’ that get even more thorny when sex gets involved. But illegality makes it almost impossible to even start to have that discussion.

            There are women who choose to strip and enjoy it greatly. That’s the way it should be, even if that’s not the way it is in too many cases. Do you think that making stripping illegal would remove the issues of exploitation and abuse?

          • Gatita

            Not at all. I’m in favor of full legalization of all sex work and all drugs for that matter, mostly because I think investing in regulation and harm mitigation makes a lot more sense than criminalization. What I’m really addressing is an attitude among some younger feminists that sex work is only problematic because of puritanical attitudes and its illegal status when I would argue it’s not just that. Based on what I’ve seen in real life, I think that there’s something inherent in the selling of one’s body that creates very problematic power dynamics and exploitation.

          • Roadstergal

            But sex work isn’t selling one’s body. Isn’t that attitude problematic right there? It’s selling a service. If the idea is constantly put forth that selling a sexual service is selling your body, that’s going to create a problematic power dynamic right there, I think.

            You say the people you know who do sex work are all people With Issues, as you described. But is that the people you know who do sex work, or the people you know that you _know_ do sex work? The people I know who have done this work and I are going to show up on approximately zero surveys and be known to approximately zero of our circle of acquaintance, because in our current society, a history of sex work is considered incompatible with being Decent People with Decent Families in Decent Careers.

          • Gatita

            Selling an intimate service you provide with your body. Though point taken about not knowing whether other people I know have also done sex work. Still, the sex workers I know didn’t make long-term careers out of it and were all doing other things when I met them. One of them was a coworker of mine who was open about her experience. I don’t know what to say. I am very biased by what I’ve seen. This isn’t to say I think sex workers are awful people or don’t deserve to be treated with respect or anything like that. All of the people I know who were in the business were people I liked and even respected (one of them is a phenomenal artist). But I am pretty biased by what I’ve personally seen and the little research I’ve looked at doesn’t dissuade me from thinking it’s inherently problematic.

          • Cobalt

            Define “intimate”. Think of what that means to you, and whether or not that feeling is or should be universal.

            There are women who have completely uncommitted sex with people they’ve just met for their own enjoyment without financial gain. Is that different than prostitution?

          • FormerPhysicist

            I seem to get told a lot more than most people. I did know one girl who went to NYC after high school to become a model and ended up working for Sydney Barrows (the Mayflower Madam). She found the working conditions for a high-level call girl much nicer than for a low-level model.

          • Cobalt

            Sex work isn’t “selling your body” unless sex is an inherent quality of the body. Seeing sex as inherent to the female body is what objectifies women and creates “purity” standards used to oppress women who have “unapproved” sexual practices.

            If sex is an activity you can choose to participate in, instead of an innate function, women are free to choose for themselves.

          • Cobalt

            The stigma still applies, though. If regulations aren’t properly enforced due to the victim being “just a stripper”, then the regulations aren’t actually protective.

            If stripping is looked at by society as a job, without the moralizing over it being not for “good girls” (practically defined as women worthy of respect), then it would be a major game changer. If a woman can be seen as “tainted” by her free choice of employment then how are regulations going to help?

            Turning stripping into an act of desperation nearly ensures it is available only to the desperate and tries to force desperation on those few who would choose it anyway. Want to make stripping safer? Let the “good girls” do it.

          • just me

            You REALLY don’t see a difference?????

          • Alcharisi

            I see any number of differences, but on this particular point I do believe the comparison is a valid one. I would further add that I make the comparison NOT to trivialize the relative risks of sex work, but to highlight the risks of other physically demanding, low-prestige jobs. Our society asks people–usually members of marginalized groups–to do many undesirable, highly risky, physically demanding tasks for money.

          • Alcharisi

            To carry that comparison a bit further: human trafficking in the agricultural industry is an ENORMOUS problem, and trafficked farmworkers routinely suffer appalling conditions. This is an abomination and ought to change immediately. It does not follow from that, however, that the farmworkers who go into it voluntarily aren’t truly choosing to do so.

          • Charybdis

            Some marriages DO involve rape. My first one did, plus a number of other unpleasantries . *shudders * I also don’t identity as a “Mama”. I am a mother, among other things, but I don’t see it as my primary paradigm.
            .

          • Daleth

            **”Prostitution is providing an agreed-upon service for a price. If I sell
            performance of a sexual act to another person, I am not selling my
            body.”**

            Oh, sorry. I should not have said “bought.” I should have said “rented.”

        • just me

          Yup, and increasingly law enforcement is taking the position that prostitues are trafficking victims.

          • Daleth

            Yep, and that’s an approach I wholeheartedly support. Treating them like criminals is not just idiotic, it’s cruel.

        • Gatita

          I’m with you. I’ve known a number of sex workers and I would not describe them as empowered. I don’t know that I’d describe them as victims either. More like emotionally volatile, little impulse control, constant churn in their living situations and personal relationships, constantly short of money despite bringing in a high hourly rate and lots of drug use. They are a mess. Sure, people have the right to do what they like with their bodies. Doesn’t make it a good or healthy life choice.

        • Cobalt

          “And even in theory, if it’s fine for the women involved, it still reinforces–to the men involved–the idea that women are objects to be bought”

          Only if sex is this super special thing women are the guardians of and men have to earn, buy, or coerce them to give it up.

          If sex is just an activity that people enjoy and can choose to do together, if there is no false purity to be maintained, then women are no longer sex objects but sex partners.

          • Daleth

            Uh… not if they charge money for it. That only reinforces the idea that sex is a super special thing that women are guardians of and that mean have to earn, buy or coerce from them.

          • Cobalt

            People charge for all kinds of services. Why is sex different?

      • Stacy48918

        “consensual, non-forced prostitution”
        Because loads of preteen/teen girls say “I want to grow up to be a prostitute!”

        This is not a profession of choice, allowing for only the rarest of exceptions.

        • Alcharisi

          A.) Isn’t that also the case for such professions as cashier, fast food worker, janitor, etc? People don’t aspire to low prestige jobs as a rule, but that doesn’t mean that those who do those jobs are less deserving of protection and respect within and without their profession.

          B.) There’s a lot of middle ground between aspiration and straight-up coercion.

          C.) There are plenty of professions of choice that carry a great deal of prestige and are equally risky, exploitative, and physically demanding, if not more so, as sex work. (Playing professional football comes to mind, as does military service.)

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          Because loads of preteen/teen girls say “I want to grow up to be a prostitute!”

          And how many say, “I want to grow up to clean airport bathrooms”?

          Similarly not a profession of choice, but by necessity. I find this to be a poor objection to prostitution. It’s basically the “would you want your daughter to grow up to be a prostitute?” question. To which the answer is, no, but I also don’t want her to grow up to work at McDonalds, either, but I don’t think that should be illegal, either.

          I understand that the women who end up in the sex industry often have very bad experiences in their youth, but it’s not like not letting them be strippers prevents the child abuse in their past.

          • Roadstergal

            Yes, this. To me, the issue is not the work they fall into, but the fact that kids get abused and often don’t have access to mental health services.

            Generally speaking, I do not think any children should be forced to perform paid work, particularly dangerous paid work. I do not think anyone should be forced into a job they find repugnant due to circumstances beyond their control. I do not think anyone should be kidnapped and forced into any kind of work. It does happen, across a broad range of work around the world, and I don’t think that’s right at all.

            I come at the specific issue of prostitution with the basic premises that a: prostitution as a profession isn’t going away no matter how illegal you make it, b: some people actually enjoy it, and c: de-stigmatizing consensual adult sex work is a necessary but not sufficient step towards making the b: people a higher percentage of those actually doing it.

          • Gatita

            See, I would argue that selling your body is inherently problematic, regardless of your gender. I think the power dynamics and psychological issues are damaging regardless. I think the people who gravitate to that work generally start out with a significant degree of dysfunction that’s made worse by doing the work. The majority of poor women don’t perform sex work even though it pays much better than a McDonald’s job so it’s not just a simple economic incentive that leads people into it. My opinions on this are strongly colored by having known people in different parts of the sex business–strippers, prostitute, professional dominatrix, and a phone sex operator. Plus my husband worked as a tech person for porn sites and got to know the performers and he agrees with me.

          • Roadstergal

            Again, “selling your body.” It’s selling a service. If you put forth the idea that selling a sexual service is selling your body, you put forth the idea that there are no bounds on a sexual service, that boundaries and consent are not part of the deal, and that’s damaging right there, IMO.

            “The majority of poor women don’t perform sex work even though it pays much better than a McDonald’s job”

            I’m sure that has nothing to do with the fact that one of these is legal and another one isn’t.

          • Gatita

            Stripping is legal. Phone sex work is legal. Most poor women don’t do it.

            ETA: I don’t think selling your body implies no boundaries or consent. OTOH, I think boundary and consent issues are huge in that area given the number of sex workers who are raped and sexually assaulted on the job.

          • Cobalt

            Most poor women aren’t prostitutes, either.

            And sex work currently carries an enormous risk of assault, and most sex workers are too disenfranchised to have any legal protection or recourse. If sex work wasn’t so disrespectable, they would be less disenfranchised, and better protected.

        • just me

          Yes. I like this:

          · Isn’t prostitution mostly a choice?
          A. When prostituted women are asked if they want to leave prostitution, consistently around 90% say they want out immediately but the decision is out of their hands and in the hands of their pimps, their husbands, their landlords, their addictions, their children’s bellies. A recent study of street prostitutes in Toronto found that about 90% wanted to leave but could not, and a 5-country study found 92% wanted out of prostitution. If they are there because they cannot leave, they are not choosing to be there.

          If prostitution were really a choice it would not be those populations with the least amount of choices available to them far disproportionately pushed into it. If prostitution were a choice there would no billion-dollar black market trade in coerced, tricked, kidnapped and enslaved people known as human trafficking.

          From http://www.genderberg.com/phpNuke/modules.php?name=FAQ&myfaq=yes&id_cat=2&categories=Prostitution+FAQf

        • Cobalt

          “Good girls” aren’t allowed to consider it because society calls it icky and inappropriate. If we took away the social cost, women who wanted to do it could choose it, and women who didn’t could more easily choose not to.

          • Daleth

            What does taking away the social cost of being a prostitute have to do with making it easier for unwilling prostitutes to not be prostitutes?

          • Cobalt

            The stigma of being “unpure”. If you can be “tainted”, if you have a “slut stain”, how can you escape your stain and rejoin the “good girls” who have a right to be respected? After you’ve “sold” your body, can you ever get it back?

          • Gatita

            But men also engage in sex work and it’s equally problematic and unhealthy for them as well. It’s not just the good girl paradigm that’s the problem.

          • Cobalt

            With men it’s “real men” instead of “good girls”. Sex work for men is seen as not just icky but also feminizing, which is an additional layer of problems. I stuck with discussing female prostitutes because the general conversation, but the way sex work “feminizes” men due to the perception of sex as an inherent functional quality of the female body is a feminist concern also.

          • Gatita

            You know, I don’t disagree with you on the social and political issues around women’s bodies and the sexualization of feminine identity. However, I don’t think that removing those issues from the equation magically makes sex work unproblematic. I think the problems with sex work are baked in. The folks I know who’ve done it don’t seem particularly stigmatized by it (they talk about it openly) but the sex work is part of a bigger picture of self-destructive behavior.

          • Cobalt

            It changes who does sex work, and why.

            If sex work is limited to an avenue of base survival for the desperate, “damaged”, addicted, “untouchables” who have no generally available route to return to “good” society, then the overwhelming majority of sex workers will fit into that category.

            If it’s just a job, women who would do it but are stopped by the stigma would become willing sex workers, and women who are trapped by it would be freed.

            Keeping it dark and dirty helps those who would oppress.

          • Gatita

            Except I don’t think even if you removed the stigma there would suddenly be an influx of empowered women doing the work. What you’re saying sounds great in theory but I don’t think it has traction in real world.

          • Cobalt

            Sudden? No, definitely not sudden. And empowerment is too vague a term.

            What would happen over time is that sex workers would be free agents as much as any employee can be, bad employers could be dealt with, and the work could no longer be a tool of oppression. Removing the stigma of sex work is a side effect of insisting that women’s bodies are their own and that they are not defined by their sexual “availability” and choices.

    • RMY

      Yes and no. Feminism doesn’t have a clear answer to if women need to be treated the same as men period or if women just need the same options as men in addition to there being an increase in valuation of traditionally feminine work. Some feminists are of the mind that the devaluation of (particularly domestic) feminine work (such as cleaning) is misogynistic. I mean, the movement doesn’t really say women can’t do what men can do, just that their feminine-work is very important and awesome (basically saying they’re better than men).

      Personally I try to stay out of that fight as I feel wrong saying that traditionally feminine undervalued work should remain undervalued, and I certainly don’t want to say that being a SAHM who lives and breaths only for her kids is feminist or healthy.

      • Ellen Mary

        Futhermore: a home that both people work outside is generally only maintained economically by (typically female) low paid, low prestige workers. So you don’t solve the problem of domestic work being undervalued, you just do a different sort of work while hiring someone who gets underpaid to do domestic work that you don’t want to do yourself.

        I see the appeal, but I reject the undervaluation of childcare, vs. say, construction. But without the undervaluation of childcare, professional middle class women would find it less economically lucrative to leave the home. I am sorta into professional daycare as a place for children to spend their time, but not in the undervalued way it operates now, necessarily . . .

        • fiftyfifty1

          Actually, an in-home daycare can be a thriving business if you run it right. It was for both of the in-home childcares that our children used. And while it’s true that most entry level chain daycare center workers do not bring in high wages, they do earn benefits and build their resumes, and they frequently are allowed to bring their own children for free. So it’s ridiculous to claim that you are a SAHM because you are too ethical to exploit childcare workers or some such nonsense.

          • Ellen Mary

            The status of childcare workers is related to the quality of care. And don’t delude yourself that they are allowed to bring their own children for free!!!! That is an industry exception, not a norm. It wouldn’t be economically feasible to run a daycare that way.

          • fiftyfifty1

            Ellen Mary, I *work* out of a daycare center one day per week. I also have multiple patients who work as childcare workers. This is not delusion, it’s fact.

            I do agree that the status of childcare workers matters. Childcare workers should make a living wage. They should get benefits. They should have room for advancement. And around here at least, all of those things are true.

          • moto_librarian

            Daycare is expensive. Do I wish it cost less? Of course! But I don’t begrudge a single penny to the teachers at my sons’ school! They are incredible at what they do, and I never worry about either one of my kids when they are there. At least two of the teachers there bring their children with them.

        • Elizabeth A

          My housecleaner isn’t underpaid. To the best of my ability, I choose childcare situations where workers are also not underpaid.

          I don’t solve any of my problems by avoiding childcare because childcare workers are so often undervalued and undercompensated, and neither does anyone else.

          • Inmara

            That’s me, too – my housecleaner earns almost as much as I do per hour, and I’m quite well off comparing to average salary in country.Unfortunately, it won’t be the same with childcare, we have government and municipality subsidized childcare, and workers there are definitely underpaid, but it’s systemic problem, because so are most of teachers.

        • Who?

          I struggle with the idea that ‘women would find it less economically lucrative…’. Surely it is about the family’s income? This casual assumption that childcare is a woman’s responsibility is most unhelpful in taking forward a conversation about families coping with their many responsibilities.

          • Ellen Mary

            In our family we do consider childcare to come out of both of our incomes even though it would be a much larger percentage of mine. But in reality, if I only work weekends or when I can bring my children, we don’t have to pay it.

          • Who?

            That wasn’t directed at you personally, it just makes me sit up a little when anyone makes the assumption that childcare paid for when both are working should automatically be counted against the mother’s income.

            How we talk about these things matters.

  • Monkey Professor for a Head

    I’ve made the decision to be a stay at home mum for at least 6 months once this baby arrives (unless I go stir crazy at home, in which case it’s daycare and work!) in part because of what you describe here. I’ve seen so many women in my chosen field (medicine) struggle to juggle motherhood with a job that has very high expectations on your time and effort. I have an awesome husband but I know that, for example, if our child gets sick or a baby sitter cancels, then I will be the one having to make excuses and find cover at work. And that’s partly because of my husbands job (he’s in surgical training and I know it will not be possible for him to leave work early or take sick days because of our child), but also partly because as the mother I will be the first point of call, I will be the one who is expected to take the hit.

    As for the “mama” thing – my main objection to this would be the inference that being a mother is now my defining feature. Motherhood is important to me, I’m sure it’s going to be a massive part of my life, but I do not want it to be all I am.

    • KeeperOfTheBooks

      Random aside: DD’s pediatrician practice has two doctor/moms in it, and I rather like how they handle the combined demands of both roles. One works MWF, the other TTH, and they swap off call on weekends. Admittedly, I’m just a patient’s mom so what do I know ;), but they seem to be very happy and balanced in their take on both pediatric medicine and parenthood; as a first-time mom, I learned a lot from them when I’d come in for DD’s checkups and be a nervous wreck over the issue du jour.

      • Monkey Professor for a head

        Many women do juggle work and family, and do it incredibly well. But it’s hard, and the burden seems to fall disproportionately on the woman. Im in awe of all the women who do it, and I feel like a bit of a wuss compared to them. I also know I’m very privileged to have the option to stay home.

        • moto_librarian

          You’re not a wuss! After our second child was born, I opted to cut back to 30 hours a week (and took the corresponding pay cut). It was the only way to keep my sanity. On the two days that I am home, I get the house in some semblance of order and work on other projects that just aren’t feasible with both of the boys underfoot. I know some women make it look easy, but I wonder if it’s really working out as well as they claim.

    • Bombshellrisa

      “As for the “mama” thing – my main objection to this would be the inference that being a mother is now my defining feature. Motherhood is important to me, I’m sure it’s going to be a massive part of my life, but I do not want it to be all I am.” Yes! I wouldn’t appreciate being addressed as Mama by an adult any more than I would appreciate being addressed by any of my other features or interests. I belly danced long before I had kids and nobody says “hello belly dancer” when talking to me. I am many different things and do many different things.

  • The Computer Ate My Nym

    A friend of mine once told me how she ended up divorced: Her husband lost his job. This was not his fault and she was reasonably ok with working two jobs to keep the family out of debt, etc. However, one night she came home to find him sitting in front of the TV idling flipping through the channels. He turned to her and said, “Honey, what’s for dinner?” She concluded that he was dead weight and divorced him. Interestingly, it seems to have worked out well for both of them: he got a job and learned to cook for himself, she’s happy being single.

    • Jessica

      He’s lucky she just divorced him. I might have killed him.

  • Liz Leyden

    One of the most irritating parts of having kids so far has been medical professionals, from delivery suite on, calling me “Mom.” I hate it for the same reason I hate seeing elders called “Hon” and “Sweetie.” When I was in nursing school, I was taught that people should be called either their names or what they prefer to be called. I’m really bad with names, I end up saying “sir” and “ma’am” a lot.

    • Are you nuts

      I find that so disrespectful. When a doctor walks in, whether they’re caring for you or your child, they need to shake your hand and introduce themselves. Anything less is demeaning.

      • Monkey Professor for a Head

        I always prefer to err on the side of over formality with patients – I call them Mr/Mrs last name unless they specify that they are happy to be called by their first name. Come to think of it, I do that in everyday life too – if I have to speak to a stranger (for example if a stranger dropped something on the street and I needed to get their attention) I would call them sir or ma’am. But I’m a pretty shy, reserved person so it wouldn’t feel right to call them honey or something like that.

        When I introduce myself to patients, I tend to refer to myself as Dr Lastname, which is somewhat unusual for non consultant doctors in Australia. But it’s I’ve noticed that if I say “I’m Dr Lastname” rather than “I’m Firstname, I’m your doctor”, people are far less likely to think I’m a nurse. (Nothing wrong with being a nurse, but I hate the assumption that because I’m a woman I must be a nurse). This is usually followed by the consultant coming in and introducing themselves by their first name!

        • Who?

          Over the years we have got quite a lot of ‘I’m Mary X, one of the doctors here’, which seems to work too. It’s tricky when no one is in a recognisable uniform!

          I agree about introductions, if someone calls me ‘Mrs Y’ I tend to offer my given name-which I prefer anyway to a title I didn’t earn-and we go from there.

          Least favourite ever is being called ‘mum’ by the doctor. Or the vet.

    • dbistola

      Well said. It always rattles me to hear a younger person calling someone older “Hon” and “Sweetie.” And the playful “mom” has to go.
      Miss Manners advocates saying politely and pleasantly “It’s Mrs. Smith” and “Mrs. Smith, please” if it continues.

      • A

        It bothers me when an older person does it to me too. I mean, I have this teacher who is always “darling this, honey that” and it’s very uncanny to me. I’m the only woman in the class and he speaks to everyone else in a “you bastards are getting nowhere” kind of way, then he turns to me and it’s all darlings and sweeties. I get it that he may act like that towards me because I’m a younger lady and remind him of his daughter or whatever, but that’s not excuse. I may be someone’s darling, but certainly not his, just like being someone’s mama or mommy doesn’t make it so everyone can call you that.

        • Who?

          That’s icky.

    • just me

      I dunno. As someone who suffered 6 years of infertility and thought I’d never have kids, I LOVE it.

      • Wren

        I do get that, possibly because I was there too.

        On the other hand, with kids who are 7 1/2 and 9 now, I really appreciate getting a name rather than “Mum” now too.

  • Are you nuts

    One time as we were on our way out the door for a vacation, my husband asked, “Is someone coming to check on the cats?” They think things just magically happen! In our case, he works about 20 hours a week more than I do so it makes sense that I would take on the lion’s share of managing the household, it’s just funny how they think things just work out.

    • Jodi Hilla McCormack

      The worst is when the hubs brings it up when it’s a totally moot point, like on the way to the airport or after the plane takes off. If you’re going to ask like its my job to do it, at least ask at a time when the answer might make a difference! Did you bring headphones for the kids? Why no, should I ask the flight attendant if we can delay takeoff so I can run out to the newsstand and get some?

      • momofone

        “Oh, gosh–was I supposed to bring the kids?!”

        • Amy M

          There was a story on the news here today, about a guy who forgot his 1yr old in the car. It had a happy ending–he realized, once he got to work, that he had done that (the car was at the train station) and he called the emergency services while he headed back to the car. The baby was fine, and no charges are being pressed, as it was clearly an accident and no harm was done. I imagine his wife won’t be so cool though…..

          • Monkey Professor for a head

            There was a really good article in the Washington Post I think about this. It’s scary how easily it can happen, and how devastating it can be.

          • Kelly

            My uncle and Dad took my three year old daughter with them to run some errands. They took my van, and because of how many people we were taking around town, I had put her car seat all the way in the back. Well, they went into the second store and forgot to take her. Thankfully, everything worked out. It was cool outside, they were not in the store long, and she was not scared at all. Both of them love my daughter to pieces and were devastated that they forgot her. It can happen so easily. I remember that story from the Washington Post. Unless they were being negligent, like the people who left their children to go to a wine tasting, I give them a pass.

      • just me

        And my husband will blame me for not reminding him of something he failed to do…really….

  • luckymama75

    Oh I can remember as a young girl seeing the roles play out in marriages and thinking, no way. I’d never be like that! I’d never bow down to any guy. Now I’m married with 2 kids and my husband wouldn’t even be able to tell you who their pediatrician was, what shoe size they’re in or anything. Just yesterday I hung clothes outside to dry and went to see my mom. When I came back the clothes were dry and on a pile on the couch. He actually said, “I brought the clothes in. Where’s my thank you?” And was completely serious. Gender equality my ass!

    • theadequatemother

      My husband does that too – wants thanks and kuddos for every single chore. So I’ve started doing it back at him. Our division of labour around the home is very much along gender roles. I clothe the kids and arrange childcare and he has no idea what size they wear. I plan the meals (the nanny cooks them tho). However, he finds all the tradespeople, does things like re-silicone the bathroom tubs and seal the tile. he manages vehicular maintenance and cuts the grass. he’s on a first name basis with our mechanic while I wouldn’t even be able to find the guy. he keeps me in skiis. We share daily dishes and clean-up on an alternating basis so someone can go to the gym. So at the end of the day if he wants a few pats on the back I give them because he clearly finds it motivational and there is no way I want to reseal the bathroom tile. yuck.

      • Amy Tuteur, MD

        It isn’t simply a matter or chores, though. What I loved about Shulevitz’ piece is that she acknowledged the “worry work” that falls almost exclusively on women. That goes beyond doing chores to figuring out what chores need to be done: Who keeps track of the kids’ vaccinations? Who knows when the kids need new shoes? Who digs through the backpacks everyday to make sure the kids are prepared for school?

        • and who is demonized for failing to worry? for forgetting something? Not men. that’s for sure

          • Life Tip

            Yup. Mom gets blamed for forgetting something. And everyone acts like dad just cured cancer if he does just about anything. My husband takes car of all morning stuff (getting the kids up, dressed, dropped off at school, etc) and typically any school volunteer type stuff during the day. He works two minutes from their school, and his job is much more flexible than mine. His teacher always comments on it. I mean, yeah I think he’s a great dad…but not because he drops his kids off at school every morning.

          • CharlotteB

            I’ve had to point this out to my husband. He’s quick to say that some things don’t matter (“the baby’s clothes don’t have to match”) but I sometimes have to remind him that I will be judged for not doing things correctly, even if they are things that really don’t matter, like gray socks with a brown outfit.

        • JJ

          Yes. As a mother I feel a large percentage of my brain space is occupied by 1000 little things to keep track of. I feel like I am the keeper of all knowledge about the children. I sometimes wonder if this is why women have issues with insomnia. One good thing is that my husband does acknowledge that his business is a success in large part to me keeping track of all of it.

          • Roadstergal

            When my mother died, my father was at a loss, because she had kept all of the vaccination records and other matters of importance surrounding the kids.

            I do appreciate how much he stepped up to being a newly single father to the one still-remaining-in-the-house kid, me as a surly just-turned-teen. I really think it opened his eyes to what he had missed by not being as involved, and it made me think about might-have-beens a lot.

          • Inmara

            Yes, insomnia! Sometimes I’m running through so much to-do lists and plans regarding household that can’t get to sleep (and I’m not a mother yet!). It’s never the case for husband, though he has his share of tasks regarding remodeling our apartment – but he never loses his sleep over it!

        • just me

          Yes. My husband is great and does at least half the domestic chores/childcare. But I do 100% of or worry work.

          • theadequatemother

            I don’t. I probably do 80% of the worry work about the kids but zero of the worry work about the cars house or dog. Financial worry work is 60-40 but only because I worry less in general.

          • just me

            Lucky you.

        • theadequatemother

          In our house the worry work to do with the day to day of the children literally falls on the nanny. I buy the shoes tho. and in general, if our household had a government I would hold the portfolio marked “practical care of the children” but I don’t have day to day worry it’s more like – fall is coming what’s the rain boot situation? Or hmmm I wonder when we need to register for kindergarten? Husband on balance does a lot more day to day worrying than I do. He just does it within his portfolios of “vehicular maintenance” “home maintenance” and “pets”. I mean he couldn’t tell you when the next vaccination is due but he could tell you when the next kennel cough booster for the dog is needed. Do we really have to share 100% of the worry in every area of our lives to have equality? I don’t think so. It’s more that equality will be here when no one assumes that I hold the day to day child welfare worry.

        • Jessica

          I wonder sometimes how much of this women assuming this burden, unasked, and how much of it is an agreement between spouses regarding the division of labor (including the worry work) in a household. My experience as a stepmother is illuminating in this regard.

          My husband has primary custody of my 15-year-old stepson. Because my work schedule is far more flexible than my husband’s, I am the one that takes my stepson to medical appointments (and boy, do the doctors look at me funny when I’m not able to recite every detail of his medical history). But my husband is the one who is monitoring cell phone and internet usage, homework, grades, study time, chores, and so forth. I suspect that his ex-wife did these things when they were married, but post-divorce, these tasks fall on him, and he’s quite capable of doing them AND knowing to do them in the first place.

          • just me

            Not by agreement and not voluntary and it’s not like I haven’t asked/complained/etc. I take care of this stuff out of necessity do we don’t eg lose our house.

        • Gatita

          My husband did a lot of this because he was a WAHD and I worked full time. But I still did more of it probably because of cultural expectations.

          • Amy M

            My husband also takes on quite a bit of the child-related chores, since he’s been home part-time on and off over the past 6yrs. However, he also has ADHD, and can’t get organized if his life depended on it, so I do more of the “worry-work.” I don’t know if that would be different if my husband didn’t have ADHD?

        • Wren

          That is the aspect of what I do that my husband just cannot see, despite being able to see all of the equivalent work at the office.

          Just once I’d like him to notice the kids need bigger clothes and buy them, or ensure that the Cubs uniform is clean for the right day, or heck, just figure out where the new whatever we bought should go in the house. It’s just not something he does, as long as I’m around to do it.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          Who keeps track of the kids’ vaccinations?

          The doctor 🙂 But I am the one who has set up access to the kids’ health records through MyChart. I don’t know if my wife has done that.

          Who knows when the kids need new shoes?

          We both do. We just went shoe shopping on Sunday.

          Who digs through the backpacks everyday to make sure the kids are prepared for school?

          We both do. Depends on what’s there and what needs to be there. I’m more likely to remember to include a drink if he brings his own lunch.

      • A

        Reminds me of a radio prank call:

        Caller: I’m calling because I think I’m a good father, but my wife says I don’t know the kids well enough. And really, I’m a good father. There may be fathers who are as good as I, but not better.

        Broadcaster: I see. And how many kids do you have?

        Caller: There must be four or five of them I think.

      • Roadstergal

        I think that’s a common division – dude does the vehicles and outside chores, woman cooks and takes care of the kids – and the thing about that is, what ends up being the ‘man’s work’ is stuff on no crazy schedule – the tiles need to be grouted within a window of time, the oil has to be changed at a certain point, you should put some time on your schedule to cut the grass. The ‘woman’s work’ is the work that tends to be more ‘must done now’ – the kid is awake and screaming, the kid is sick and needs to go to the doctor, food has to be made. It seems like the sort of thing that would influence the feeling of control over one’s life?

        • Dinolindor

          YES. This is what bothered me so much when we were first married and bought a fixer-upper house – my husband got all the “projects” and I got all of the daily/weekly maintenance. I was so frustrated and he just didn’t understand my point, although he tried. (Wow, a lot can change in 9 years. I had forgotten about that whole issue until this thread.)

        • Ash
      • The Computer Ate My Nym

        My partner and I split the cooking: One person cooks, the other cleans up. Occasionally, we’re both tired and end up passive-aggressively trying to get the other to cook. Usually this ends up with someone pulling all the leftovers out of the fridge and calling them “dinner”, but once in a while it ends up with one person (usually me because I’m like that) cooking an elaborate meal that involves most of the dishes in the kitchen (which are then left for the other person to clean up). So far the meals produced in this manner have been deemed worth the extra cleanup so I suppose we’ve got a workable dynamic.

    • FEDUP MD

      My husband complained that I never did enough around the house, that what I did wasn’t such a big deal, etc (we both work outside the home, I work part time). Then I had surgery and enforced bed rest. He seems to be rather busy doing the “nothing” I was doing before….

      • Wren

        Oh yes.

        I went away for a long weekend and oh boy was my husband more appreciative of what I do when I got back, and that was only 4 days.

    • Mishimoo

      When we had our eldest, things looked like they were heading that way. Especially when my dear husband thought I was going to get up at 6am every morning simply to make him a coffee while breastfeeding a reflux-y baby who was still having night feeds, and then wondered what I was doing all day. As soon as she was weaned, I left the baby with him and our housemate (who wasn’t scared of nappies), and went out for the day with my best friend. I left a list of daily chores + feeding times/amounts, and received a desperate phone call in the late afternoon, asking me to “come home please!!”.

      Ever since, he’s been more willing to help out and rarely complains. Might be worth a try!

      • Who?

        Sounds like a familiar story-but always remember, a child’s father does not ‘help out’ with that child, he takes responsibility for it. Just like fathers caring for their children are not babysitting.

        • Mishimoo

          I couldn’t agree more!

          I should have been more clear – I meant “help out with the housework”. He took over all of the laundry while I was breastfeeding (there’s a system now!) except for sorting the kids clothes, because we disagree on what is wearable and what isn’t, and it’s best if I look after that. He wants to learn how to cook so that he can do dinner some nights and try new foods even though he’s a picky eater. He empties the dishwasher, vacuums the floors if they need doing, and takes the girls to school and sport when he’s not working. He picks up milk and bread without being asked. He chases the toddler while I’m doing stuff like gardening in the unfenced front yard or emptying our bedroom so I can repaint it. I wake up to a waiting cup of coffee and two little girls who are almost ready for school, as well as a toddler who has had milk + breakfast. He also does an equal share of the discipline, instead of me being the ‘bad guy’ and him being the fun one.

          • Who?

            Sounds great! I just reflexively respond to those forms of words as I’ve heard them too many times fro people who think it is a miracle if their partner is just slightly less hopeless than usual.

            And it is best to stick to what’s important to you-I completely get the ‘wearable/not wearable’ thing-easier for you to sort if otherwise you’ll be unhappy with the outcome.

            I have friends who won’t let their grownup kids wash their own clothes, in case they ruin them. It’s not clear how that would happen, or why that would be the mother’s problem, and yet they persist.

          • Mishimoo

            Don’t feel bad, I know where you’re coming from and agree. I also find it vexing when friends complain about their partner not doing a fair share of the work BUT also don’t let them help because they’ll “Do it wrong!” instead of trying to change things for the better.

            Yes, I think the way we’ve divided the responsibilities is awesome because we both have time and energy to do things that we find fulfilling as individuals and as a couple. The clothing thing was a source of contention until I explained that from the current societal and cultural viewpoint, I’m regarded as responsible for how my family is dressed and it reflects negatively on me if they’re all wearing mismatched partially outgrown faded clothes with a pair of thongs. It’s also unfair that I dress nicely and make him look good if he’s not willing to do the same for me. He’s now shopping for his own clothes for the first time in his entire life! (Mother and grandmother treat shopping like an Olympic sport, so he’s never had to buy his own clothes)

          • Who?

            That reciprocity point is such a powerful one, and so is the judgment on mum not dad if the kids aren’t well turned out.

            The martyr’s badge is definitely best in the bin!

      • JJ

        This works. So does having a mental breakdown.

        • Mishimoo

          I’d like to hope that it would change things in a positive way because breakdowns are a big deal and they’re not fun, most especially not for the person having one.

          At the same time, I don’t have any faith that a breakdown will change anything for the better because as an adult and a parent, I can now recognise that there’s a fair chance that my family’s descent into Christian fundamentalism was precipitated by my mother having a breakdown. My dad didn’t step up to the parental responsibilities, I had to and it’s unfair that I can barely remember a time where I haven’t been in a maternal role.

          • JJ

            My husband was raised fundamentalist and would come home and ask what I did all day and look around disapprovingly when I had a 6 week old baby. I had a rapid decent into severe PPD where I was on a psych hold for a weekend. He has never had that issue since and admits he was just doing what he learned from his family and it was wrong. Sorry about your family Mishimoo.

          • Mishimoo

            Oh, I’m so sorry that happened to you. It’s awful and I’m glad that things are better for you now.

    • Who?

      My son works shifts, and is living with us at the moment between share houses. The last two nights he has come in after 11, made himself something to eat, cleaned up the kitchen and gone to bed. The only way I know he has cooked is that there is food in the fridge that has moved, and extra items in the dishwasher.

      His first flatmates have trained him well!

    • SporkParade

      We have a fairly egalitarian marriage, but it’s hard to keep it that way when society expects me to be the responsible one. For example, my e-mails to the pediatrician always have my husband CCed and my pediatrician, who is otherwise fantastic, NEVER hits reply all instead of reply. And then there’s all the stuff that delegates to me because I’m the only one who knows how to cook/drive/see in low light.

      • Inmara

        Well, some people just are bad with CCs. I often send work-related e-mails with colleagues CCed, and 90% of respondents don’t reply to all.

        • KarenJJ

          Or the company wide email goes out about the lack of “mugs” in the office and ALL the “reply all” jokes about “mugs in the office” fill up my email quota.

    • demodocus

      To be fair, I’m not sure which shoe size the kid is in, either. I’d have to look, and he can’t.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        Depends on which shoes.

        Our older guy is best in size 13 right now, with the younger guy in 12s. But their tap shoes are a little bigger (1.5 and 1, I think, but they are borrowed) and the older guy’s baseball spikes are 1s.

        • fiftyfifty1

          My husband used to be the buyer of shoes and the knower of sizes. But that phase didn’t last forever. Now the kids know their own sizes and search for their shoes on line, and put them in the cart for us to buy. It all goes so fast.

  • beachbum

    Anyone who calls me Mama gets corrected to what my name really is. There’s only two people who call me Mama…well, and one of my cats. no seriously, he says Mama. People wonder why I get so skeeved but you don’t walk up to a man and call him Dada, so why am I Mama?

    And I was lucky enough to find a man who actually fits the description in the beginning. He’s active duty military, but when he’s here, he’s HERE. Got a call yesterday that he was given liberty early and would pick up the girls (he had dropped them off already that morning), then asked if I had left any laundry in the closet because he noticed the bin on the washer was getting full last night and wanted to run it. He also cleaned the litter box and Swiffered the house because the cats had poofed all over while we were at work. And he always cooks when he’s home. Delicious culinary delights, unlike my cooking which involves a box of Mac and Cheese and chicken nuggets.

    We’re going on six years of marriage and the only gripe I have about him is that he leaves the sponge in the sink after he does the dishes. He’s been this way since Day One. We always split tasks as evenly as we could with his underway schedule. I’ll be honest about not knowing what he would have been like with babies in the house, our girls were adopted at ages 4 and 6.

  • Amy

    I used to think of it like the last mom profiled in your post– that it was a hipper way for women to address each other *face to face*. But that’s not what I see among the online crunchy crowd anymore. Now it’s used in the third person, as the *only* word for women with children, as in, “Are there any mamas going to the corn maze next weekend?” “How many mamas here read Hathor the Cow Goddess?” and on and on. And women will use it casually and very, in my opinion, un-hip-ly, as in, “I’m Amy, mama to two nurselings.”

    I find it extremely distasteful.

    • Maria

      I don’t know how I would react if a friend or acquaintance called me Mama. I would probably smile and say, “Oh, you can just call me Maria!” I mean, really? I stay home with my kids, but my identity as a woman isn’t so wrapped up in being a Mom that I prefer to be nameless among friends!

    • KeeperOfTheBooks

      Likewise. It makes me cringe. I adore hearing DD say “mama,” but I’d never refer to myself in the third person that way. Ugh.

    • Amy M

      And who came up with “nurseling?” That’s a word that seems completely unnecessary—I have two children, or two babies. That word reduces babies to one function: how they get sustenance. So I guess it makes sense that a woman, whose entire identity is “mama” would have a baby whose entire identity is “breastfed.”

      • Sarah

        Of course it’s necessary, we can’t have anyone not knowing the child isn’t being breastfed!

        • Life Tip

          Right. And someone might falsely assume the toddler is weaned, and then “mama” won’t get credit and accolades for still breastfeeding her. Can’t have that.

      • Amy

        Oh yeah, nurseling is gross IMO.

      • Cobalt

        Oooh, can I start calling my older kids “weanlings” now? I want booby points 4eva!

      • MegaMegaMeg

        God, nursling. Its just so gross in a completely indescribable way.

  • no longer drinking the koolaid

    I prefer “The Mum”. It has more of a regal quality, she who must be obeyed.
    My adult children started calling me this. As for that “mama” thing; it’s like nails on a chalkboard.

    • KeeperOfTheBooks

      It’s cutesy. And I *loathe* cutesy.

  • Kelly

    I completely agree. There are cultures in which it is used differently such as my very Southern and older colleague who referred to me as mama and my husband’s Mexican family. Other than that and my children, I want to slap anyone who refers to me as mama.

    • MLE

      Yes, I’m in TX and my husband and I call each other mama and daddy and I hope that never changes even when the kids are 45. It reminds us of our most important role and of the lives we created together, in our two career household. And it makes us both feel honored that we chose each other to raise children with. Anyone ruining that intimacy by calling me mama outside of that context gets a death look.

  • sighs a lot

    After the husband cherry-picks what he wants to do from the list, he minimizes the rest of it as unnecessary and the making of the list itself as overthinking.

    • luckymama75

      You know my husband?? That’s him to a T.

  • Jessica

    I loved this.

    My son seems to be a late talker (possible speech delay/disorder – we’ll know more soon), and he has very stubbornly refused to call me “mama” – like my husband, I’m “Da.” (As is my mother and my mother-in-law.) So it seriously irritates me when anyone else calls me Mama or Mommy. If my own child won’t, you can’t either. And that includes the technician at our vet’s office who asked if I was Mocha’s mama. Wow, did it take a lot of restraint not to snap back that I didn’t give birth to a chihuahua, so, no, not her mama, but her owner. But I digress.

    • Kelly

      My first child used mama and then quickly refused to use it until she was two. She preferred to call me da da. My second one is doing the same thing unless she wants something really bad. I don’t know why they do it but I now hate that I worked so hard to get my first to say my freakin name. Now, she never goes to her father and it drives me insane.

      • Houston Mom

        My husband’s cousin’s little girl called him “Mommy” because he did most of the childcare due to his wife’s disability. She came over to stay with us for a weekend when she was two and started calling my husband “Mommy.” She looked at me a little puzzled and then decided to call me “Daddy.”

        • Kelly

          That is hilarious and cute.

    • nomofear

      Oh, I know that feeling of pure revulsion when someone calls me a mom to the cat. I’m fine if we’re the weirdos because that bothers us. Just glad to know I’m not the only one. It’s just gross.

    • just me

      I hope everything turns out ok. My DD was delayed too but then a verbal explosion shortly after age two and now at 4 is quite the sophisticated talker.

      As for pets, I didn’t mind being called Manama of my late cats and in fact referred to myself as their “mama lady” (coined by my husband, bc we had taken in a stray mama cat and two kittens–so she was mama and I was mama lady).

  • PickAUserNameForDisqus

    Doesn’t anyone see a bit of the re-taking of a pejorative term to mean something else here? I Especially think of the Hip Mama group as taking mama to mean what they want it to mean and screw the patriarchy. Similar to “f word” for gays, and well, other words for other groups.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      No, because I don’t think they recognize it as a pejorative term. They use it to describe a certain type of mother: one who glories in domesticity.

      • PickAUserNameForDisqus

        I would love to see some internet-etymology for “mama” in e-discourse. I would wager that you are spot-on in the current use/misuse of it in more-popular AP parenting circles. My guess, as a tattooed, punk rock broad, is that in 90’s and 00’s this/my group of counter-culture feminists started using the term mama in reaction to other mom-words we didn’t feel matched us. I have had mama used, and used it myself while greating other moms with a loud outburst that I would have said “hey my mother-f-ers” before the group was all moms. But, I think the NCB/AP group took our cool kid word ‘mama’ and have turned it into something else. I hadn’t yet been aware of their personal-coining of the word until all these ‘Mama’ essays started appearing.

        • Amy

          I also wouldn’t discount the fact that there are actually quite a lot of “tattooed, punk rock broads” who are ALSO into NCB/AP. I’m thinking for example of a certain self-identified feminist who used to be part of a punk band and now has kids.

        • Cobalt

          When I was young and way too cool, my future kids were going to say “Mama” because “Mommy” was for whiny squares that drove minivans and wore unflattering jeans and would clutch pearls over the purple stripes in my hair.

          Now I’m old and not cool at all.

  • Ennis Demeter

    I’ve been annoyed for a long time by the use of “mama” from women to refer to other women. It’s just so dumb.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      I agree. Precisely one person has the right to call me “mama” if she chooses*. Everyone else is going to get, at best, an odd look if they try it.

      *Being a tween, she mostly calls me MOOOOOMMMM!

  • momofone

    I called my mother Mama, and thought it would be what my son called me. He called me Mummy/Mum to begin with, thanks to his Kiwi dad (and I loved it), but once he started school the other students wanted to know why he called me something different, so I’ve been Mom ever since. I love Mom, but Mommy I just can’t deal with. It has an inherently whiny sound to me (maybe because of regional accent), and I absolutely hate hearing someone describe herself as a mommy. It just grates, and has a certain smugness (for me).

    I haven’t had much experience with other people calling me mama, just a couple of friends for whom it’s natural, and it doesn’t bother me. Other than that it’s First Name (or Ms. First or Last Name, and any of the above is ok with me). Other endearments are off-limits for anyone but my husband. It may be age-related, but “girl” is not tolerable to me. It comes across to me as incredibly over-familiar, and the people close enough to me to use a familiar name would never address me that way. A few months ago my former life insurance agent called me to try to sell me something, and he started off by saying, “Hey, GIRLLL! How are you?” I didn’t even respond to the sales pitch–I said, “Did you seriously just call me GIRL?! On a professional call? We are not even on a first-name basis. For future reference, Ms. Last Name is my preference.”

    I prefer “mother” or “motherhood” if I’m talking about parenthood. My husband, a father who stays at home, doesn’t actually talk about parenthood much with anyone but me, but he also tends to stick with “father” or “fatherhood”/”parenthood.” (“Parenting” is kind of a pet peeve.)

    • Houston Mom

      I live in the southern US and come from a long line of “Mamas” although mine always signs cards and notes “Mom” in quotation marks. She says it’s because that is not her name. When I point out we have never called her “Mom,” she has no further explanation. My brother and I used to joke that maybe she did that because we are secretly adopted.

      I thought I would be one more Mama but my kid calls me “Mine.” Now he’s three and is going through a phase where he calls me by my first name. He has always called my mother by her first name. I’m hoping it’s a habit on the way out – I got called “Mine” again this morning. Yay! My husband wanted to be Papa but is “Pop.”

      I would never self-identify as a “mama” or refer to another woman who is not my mother as one though. I don’t even self-identify much as a mother. My Disqus name was chosen after about 2 seconds of thought. I always think of being a parent in terms of the kid – we have a son, he needs stuff and love, and to be told to give up the idea that he can drink milk from the elderly dog’s “boobies.” He told me because she is black, the milk will be chocolate

      • A

        Hahaha, how precious! I just love his chocolate milk idea.

      • momofone

        I love the chocolate milk idea too–what a thinker!

        I’m also in the southern US, and I called my mother Mama. I thought I’d be Mama too, but my son only says that when he’s referring to me, not talking to me directly.

        I would never call another mother “mama” either. Where I live it’s common for children to address adults as “Ms. First Name” or “Mr. First Name”, and I worry about being too familiar with that sometimes.

        A friend of mine said that when her younger child was born, her older one saw her nursing and asked if she could turn on orange juice on one side and chocolate milk on the other.

      • MLE

        Your mom sounds cool.

    • Medwife

      I am “mom” to my 3 year old, except when he’s hurting or scared. Then I’m “MOMMY!” It’s how I know shit just got real for him. I’m very thankful I don’t hear it on a regular basis because I’m with you, it can sound Whiney.

      • Amy M

        More often than not, my husband and I are Daddy and Mommy, but our children put an unusual inflection into it, so it doesn’t sound whiney (unless they are actually whining.) It comes out: ma-MEEya and da-DEEya. I have no idea why they do that, we live in MA, but I don’t think I’ve heard any other kid say it like that.

  • Driving280

    I took my mother to an emergency room about a year ago (it was painful but she was fine in the end) and the nurse there kept on referring to her as “mama.” It really rankled my mother (who is European, where people tend to be more formal generally) so I finally told the nurse, this is not “mama,” this is Dr. __ (my mother is a professor and holds a PhD). She asked my mom snippily, “oh, so you mind being called “mama.” She said, “I do, unless you are my child.” The nurse seemed almost offended. Interestingly, the doctors always referred to her respectfully.

    • Ennis Demeter

      That is so disrespectful of the nurse. Thank you and your mother both.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      To be fair, the doctor was probably warned by the nurse that he or she should be respectful in his/her address of your mother. Not that that respect shouldn’t be automatic, of course it should.

      • Roadstergal

        My doctors have always called me “Ms. *Lastname*” when they first meet me. At which point I tell them “Call me *firstnickname*” and they do. It’s not hard. (“Call me “Dr Soandso,” “Call me Warrior Momma Priestess,” etc.)

        • The Computer Ate My Nym

          I call patients Mr/Ms/Doctor Lastname unless they ask me to do otherwise. But occasionally nurses will warn me that Patient Soandso will get really upset if you call him/her Firstname, which makes me think that not all doctors follow this pattern.

        • demodocus

          One thing I *really* can’t stand is when I say “I’m firstname” many will automatically say “Hi, Commonnickname” One person had the temerity to say that when I’m more mature, I won’t mind people calling me by whatever nickname they choose. (My name has 2 common nicknames) Others whine “but firstname is too long!”

  • Ellen Mary

    Also when I reject the Oral Contraceptive Pill, I’m not retreating backwards, I am moving further forward, into a realm of sophisticated computer aided Internet peer supported fertility monitoring. Other women are rejecting it in favor of an exponentially lower hassle, lower dose product like Skyla or Mirena. When I rejected formula, I didn’t retreat back into my home, I insisted on my right to participate in society AND Breastfeed, when my foremothers had to choose one or the other . . .

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      Of course you are moving backward by rejecting the Pill. You are letting your religion (which has a history of being extraordinarily patriarchal) control your intimate decisions.

      It’s fine to make that decision, but it is the equivalent of wearing a burqa. You have the right to do it, but don’t try to pretend it is a feminist choice.

      • Wren

        I rejected it because I just don’t handle hormonal forms of contraceptives well.

        I think it’s great for those who do choose to use it though.

        • Roadstergal

          There’s a difference, IMO, between not taking an option and rejecting it. I’m not using the pill right now because LARC – but I didn’t reject the pill, it’s just not my choice right now. You can choose to breastfeed and not use formula rather than ‘rejecting’ it. You can choose a sling without ‘rejecting’ a stroller. Rejection is a moral judgment.

          • Ellen Mary

            You are using a LARC because you think it is a better choice. Not just ‘for you’, but in general. And it is . . . It uses less hormone and requires less user compliance for greater efficacy. You rejected OCP, not morally, but you did not accept them, you’ve moved forward . . .

          • Roadstergal

            “You are using a LARC because you think it is a better choice. Not just ‘for you’, but in general.”

            Did you even read my post? There are people in my life for whom the Pill works better, and therefore, no, LARC isn’t a better option IN GENERAL. I think it’s an excellent option that should be available – along with the Pill. More options (_effective_ options) is a Very Good Thing.

          • Fallow

            Yeah, I don’t get the pill hate. I never tolerated any birth control pills well, and I currently have a copper IUD – by far my favorite contraception I’ve ever had. Whereas many people can’t tolerate the copper IUD at all, but do very well on the pill. It’s good to have choices. Women are different.

          • Wren

            To be fair, two of the pill options I tried were fairly violently rejected unless I took them right before bed. Not good for me.

      • Ellen Mary

        You don’t know my exact religion, actually. I am guessing you are referring to Catholicism. I do hang out with a lot of Catholic women but it is because they are technically better @ the science of fertility than the secular women who dabble. And aspects of Humanae Vitae I agree with. But Jesus was the first feminist. His BFF was a sex worker. It doesn’t matter to me if YOU consider me a feminist. I am a feminist. I don’t want a device in my uterus. Not because I think it is a sin, but because I don’t need one. I enjoy the science of fertility management. I enjoy the data collection, I enjoy the ovulation observation & I enjoy providing peer to peer support. But yk, disparage it all you want. Just like Skyla/Mirena is fast making OCP look clunky & obsolete, emerging NFP technology is making these objections obsolete. We will have wearable monitors within the decade. I do not buy it is one but feminist to endure adverse effects to be available for intercourse every single day.

        • Amy Tuteur, MD

          Do YOU even believe what you’re saying, Ellen Mary? I certainly don’t.

          Jesus was hardly a feminist; he was an Orthodox Jew.

          You seem to start from the premise that if you do something, it must be feminist. You don’t seem to take into consideration how you have been influenced by the culture in which you live.

          • Ellen Mary

            Jesus elevated the status of women in the Biblical world. He was BFFs with an economically independent woman most shunned, he prevented the stoning of an adulteress, etc, etc.

          • Amy Tuteur, MD

            Jesus had virtually no influence in the Biblical world. He was basically unknown until his followers glorified him long after he was dead.

          • Ellen Mary

            Really? I am reading Bad Faith by Paul Offit right now & he argues that Jesus elevated the status of children . . .

          • Alcharisi

            I assume your point, though, is that regardless of what kind of influence the historical Jesus may or may not have had, the Jesus who shows up in the Gospels seems far more egalitarian than his social context and thereby gives room for feminist articulations of Christianity?

          • Ellen Mary

            Yes. The Jesus of the Gospel treated women better than those around Him . . .

          • Amy

            But not in the Biblical world. Christianity wasn’t influential, period, until Constantine and more so with Charlemagne. Before then it was basically a cult.

          • NoLongerCrunching

            I’m not saying he was a feminist, but it doesn’t really matter if he had an influence or not. He tried to stick up for human rights.

          • Alcharisi

            Aack, I have to take issue with two aspects of this phrase: “Jesus was hardly a feminist; he was an Orthodox Jew.”

            First off, there were no “Orthodox Jews” as such during Jesus’ day; rabbinic Judaism as we know it was in the very beginning stages of its development. Capital “O” Orthodox Judaism is a modern phenomenon that developed in reaction to enlightenment-era reforms.

            Second, it doesn’t follow that someone who is an Orthodox Jew isn’t a feminist–in fact there’s an active feminist movement within Orthodoxy itself. (See: https://www.jofa.org/, for example.)

        • Ennis Demeter

          Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute. That is a common misconceptio

          • Ellen Mary

            What was her job/position in society then? Why was she shunned?

          • Fallow

            There isn’t a Christianity-wide or even Christian-scholarship-wide consensus on the status of Mary Magdalene. She’s often conflated with a woman in the new testament who we interpret as being a prostitute, but Mary Magdalene’s name isn’t actually associated with that woman’s story, as I recall. My religious family does believe she was a prostitute, but that is not what everyone believes.

            Source: My family is very religious and I studied religion in college. Forgive me for the imprecisions, though. It’s been a while and I am irreligious myself.

          • yugaya

            Women did not have jobs/positions much in that society.

          • Ennis Demeter

            She wasn’t. She’s been conflated with the adulteress by tradition and misogyny. No where in the gospels does it say she was the same person. She was cured of mental illness by Jesus and she has fairly high status in the gospels as one of his followers, and was the first witness of the resurrection. She can be argued to have the same status as the apostles, but like many important women in history/legend, she was turned into a prostitute over time.

        • Roadstergal

          “I do not buy it is one but feminist to endure adverse effects to be available for intercourse every single day”

          Um, it’s not feminist for me to endure a lack of painful periods (the main side effect of hormonal contraception) in order to have sex whenever I feel like it?

          Your phrasing – ‘available for intercourse’ – indicates that you do not enjoy intercourse and consider it a service you provide. Which is perfectly legitimate – many women don’t enjoy PIV, and IMO, shouldn’t have to ‘provide’ it at all. For women who enjoy the hell out of it, hormonal contraception is magnificently feminist in the sense that it allows us greater freedom to enjoy life.

          • Ellen Mary

            I both enjoy PIV & consider it a service. I reject OCP on technical grounds, their efficacy is low, their dosing is high, the user compliance required is nearly as high as NFP/FAM, just less interpretation, and talking about using them for a woman’s health indication outside of contraception is beside the point, but I will bite: there are better, lower dose ways to eliminate the cycle (that is all they do, they don’t regulate it). Implanon, Mirena are both better choices for cycles that are intolerable.

            Women can’t have a full range of choices when a perfectly viable choice is consistently misunderstood & disparaged. So I’ll stop dissing OCP when y’all stop dissing NFP/FAM.

          • Roadstergal

            “the user compliance required is nearly as high as NFP/FAM”

            We have very different definitions of ‘nearly.’

            And ‘efficacy,’ I think. OCP vs NFP, and you’re calling OCP ‘low efficacy’?

            Yes, I’m glad there are more options than the Pill; I was happy to move from the Pill to LARC. It’s not sensible to then say one must ‘reject’ the Pill. There are some women for whom these other options jut don’t work well, for whom the Pill is just the right match (a friend of mine, for one – she’s tried other options, and the Pill just works best in terms of side effect profile).

            Again, there’s a big difference between “not choosing in favor of an option that works better for me” and “rejecting.”

          • Ellen Mary

            Okay, do you reject cassette tapes? And CDs? I guess one day we could regard the OCP like Vinyl, quaint and hip . . . But in my crystal ball the way I see this going is that OCP will become OTC in the next decade in an attempt to recapture the market share that is rightly going to LARCs, and then fade away, much like Vinyl or Cassette Tapes . . .

          • Roadstergal

            No, I think of NFP like 8-track.

          • Ellen Mary

            Well that 8 track has been rocking my world for 10 solid years . . . Punctuated by 4 very planned pregnancies. Including 17 months of Cesarean healing. To be clear, I *definitely* reject two forms of NFP that are fluid only, those are Billings & Creighton. I regard them as NFP woo. I also discourage DIY NFP whenever I get the chance. The only methods I promote or endorse involve temping or fertility monitoring, i.e. quantitative data.

            If you are expecting NFP to go the way of the 8 track, though, you will be disappointed. It is enjoying a resurgence thanks to the same market that wearables for exercise related data is serving. New products include the Wink, the Lady Comp, the Persona monitor, Temp Drop, etc. My biggest regret is that I am right now debating here and not developing the next iPhone integrated NFP product before someone else does. 😉

          • Roadstergal

            “If you are expecting NFP to go the way of the 8 track, though, you will be disappointed.”

            Oh, there are definitely people who are super-into 8-tracks. They realize it’s old tech and doesn’t sound as good, but it’s just cool for them. Similarly, as long as women are aware of the options and the relatively high failure rate of NFP, they can of course choose to use it. But denigrating OCP as having ‘low effectiveness’ to promote it, as you did, is doing a disservice to women.

            The failure rate of NFP is ~18 per 100 women in a year, so it’s not exactly surprising we can find someone on a message board who’s done it successfully. It’s like HBAC in that way – the odds are better than 50-50. And the 18+ women who get unexpectedly pregnant don’t show up on message boards anymore to pimp it.

          • Ellen Mary

            First, I really resent the comparison to HBAC in that HBAC is actively life threatening to a full term infant. It very well could be construed as negligent homicide, IMHO, if one was clearly aware of the stats, so no NFP is not like that . . .

            OCP is low effectiveness & high adverse effect compared to other contraceptive products. It has a much lower effectiveness & much higher hormonal exposure than IUDs or Implants . . .

            The best NFP (Marquette and Boston Cross Check) is only about as typical use effective as OCP which I readily and regularly concede . . .

          • Medwife

            Pregnancy itself is in many ways a dangerous medical condition. Sometimes life threatening.

          • Bombshellrisa

            Vinyl has always been the better choice for sound quality and has never gone out of style. It’s true that it’s equipment specific and not portable. It’s a superior choice for those who enjoy the sound, understand how to maintain it and the equipment it requires.

          • Medwife

            Oh I don’t know. There are still plenty of people who prefer the pill. Some women don’t tolerate the irregular bleeding that the progestin IUDs can cause. IUDs aren’t helpful for acne and for some women they cause unacceptable cramping. It’s nice that there are so many options.

          • Amy M

            I like the pill. I am quite infertile and could probably get away with not using contraception at all, so the pill (in my case, mini-pill) is a backup. Since I have been taking some kind of bcp since 1996, with a break for about 2yrs (07-09) to conceive (with ART), it’s not an inconvenience. I have an alarm on my phone, just in case I forget it, which is rare, and have no bad side effects.

          • Who?

            I like it too, and have been on one or another for more than 30 years, since my late teens. It frees me from pain, controls my otherwise out of control bleeding during periods, and entirely eliminates the mid-cycle pain that would leave me fainted on the floor. My doc and I take the view that if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. At some point I suppose I will transition to hrt, but am in no hurry.

          • Medwife

            It has a protective effect against ovarian and endometrial cancer, too. I’m leery of starting adolescents on them, but for plenty of people the pill is great. I love IUDs but they’re certainly not for everybody.

          • Monkey Professor for a Head

            I’ve never used the pill because I’m afraid that it’ll worsen my hormonally linked migraines but I think it’s awesome that it exists. The more safe effective options out there, the better.

        • The Computer Ate My Nym

          I don’t personally use hormonal contraceptives because barrier has always worked well for me, but I’m only “available for intercourse” when I feel like it. Not when the calendar says I’m available, not when my partner demands it. Only when we BOTH want it.

        • Roadstergal

          “I do not buy it is one but feminist to endure adverse effects to be available for intercourse every single day.”

          Okay, I finally figured out why this is so creepy to me. I’m slow!

          Hormonal contraception is a method for a woman to control various bodily functions, including pregnancy. It has fuck-all to do with a woman being ‘available for intercourse.’

          A woman is ‘available for intercourse’ when she wants to have it. Full stop.

          It sounds like the sort of thing a religious person would tell a daughter to talk her out of hormonal BC, trying to sell anti-hormonal-BC as ‘feminist.’

          • Ellen Mary

            It has everything to do with being available for PIV. It is *contraception*. Pretending that contraception is about regulating your period or curing acne or that it is just Vitamin P is rejected rightly by women on both sides. Because it is a way of sidestepping the central issue.

            Here is the radical feminist left saying the exact same thing: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/08/women-sex-health-excuses-birth-control

            Contraception is for contraceptive purposes. Anything other indication is irrelevant to the conversation about contraception.

          • Ellen Mary

            And what is ‘anti-hormonal BC’? . . . the radical feminist left ALSO recognizes the disparity in who is asked to endure adverse effects of contraception (some try to reframe this by thinking of 1000 ways the Pill could be Vitamin P, but it is another side step), which is why they call for increased use of Vasectomy and swift approval of technologies like Vasalgel and increased use of the veritable latex condom . . .

          • A

            Ahem, you know one can use the Pill and condoms at the same time, right? In fact, is recommended since condoms prevent STDs. So it’s not like they’re advocating for condoms so they don’t have to take hormonal BC.

          • A

            * it is recommended, I meant.

          • Wren

            It also works well when you really, really don’t want a baby. I spent years doing both after watching a couple of friends get pregnant on solo methods.

          • A

            That too, combining two methods is much more effective than just using one.

          • Ellen Mary

            Just saying, when I was a young woman, I thought the only women who would use both didn’t understand the mechanism of OCPs . . . Or had unfaithful BFs. In the field, every single study has shown that OCPs reduce condom use. I mean every one.

          • A

            I feel stupid for asking this, but what is an OCP? I had never heard this before and the Internet is not being helpful.

          • Wren

            The pill.

          • A

            Thanks!

          • Medwife

            “Oral contraceptive pill”. You might also see “COCP”, Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill, to specify they mean the pill with estrogen and not the minipill, which just has progestin.

          • A

            Thanks again! It’s a bit hard to get used to all the acronyms English speakers use sometimes.

          • Wren

            When I was a young woman, I thought that using both was actually a pretty good way of decreasing my odds of pregnancy even further. Yes, the pill reduces condom use in many cases, but that isn’t all cases.

          • Roadstergal

            If you’ve been using condoms primarily for pregnancy control in a monogamous, reasonably trustworthy relationship, dispensing with them when you go on hormonal contraception isn’t the most unreasonable move (although, of course, it’s added safety to do both). So I wouldn’t be surprised to see a moderate decrease in condom use with the switch to hormonal contraception, overall. (Or with a vasectomy, or tubal ligation, etc.)

          • Amy

            Exactly. If you’re in a relationship with someone you’re planning on having kids with, there’s going to have to be at least some time when condoms aren’t being used.

          • JJ

            I used triple protection as young woman–pill, condom, and spermicide. I am obsessive like that though!

          • Bombshellrisa

            Vasectomy and condoms are relying on someone else to control your fertility.

          • Ellen Mary

            Like a doctor? MANY women ask their partner to get a Vasectomy and that is where the control stops and starts. If I have ever used a condom, I put it on & I ask that it be used based on my fertility status at the time, so no, I am at least in part, the one controlling that. Condoms are also the ONLY way any woman protects herself from STI.

          • Bombshellrisa

            No, like the man you are asking to wear a condom or get a vasectomy.

          • Alcharisi

            “Condoms are also the ONLY way any woman protects herself from STI.”

            Not quite. Gardasil works very nicely for the most significant HPV strains. There also seems to be decent evidence that PrEP is reasonably effective in preventing HIV infection in women (though it suffers from the same user error issues as OCPs)

          • Roadstergal

            There are lots of ways to protect yourself from STI. Think outside of the box and have sex in different ways that put you at less risk. Co-masturbate. Have a monogamous partner and get tested yearly. And these can all be integrated with each other, and with condom use.

          • Ellen Mary

            You can’t be serious. You first on the ‘having unprotected sex with untested partners armed with only Gardasil or PrEP’ tip. I would never do that, I would never allow any daughter of mine to do that knowingly. Gardasil and PrEP are HARM REDUCTION strategies only. They will never EVER replace a condom.

          • A

            No one said they will, it’s only that a woman could have prevention from at least some serious STDs without a condom. The way I see it, if you have taken such steps to protect yourself is likely that you will want to use a condom as well.

          • Ellen Mary

            Protection is not risk reduction.

          • Alcharisi

            Good thing that wasn’t what I was saying, then. I am incredibly gung-ho about condoms, and anyone who has penetrative sex with a partner with whom they aren’t monogamous and who hasn’t been tested ought to be using condoms religiously.

            But you claimed that condoms were the only way a woman could prevent STIs as a class, and that is not a true claim: there ARE specific STIs that are preventable by other means.

          • Wren

            I think it’s the phrase “available for intercourse”, like it’s not about the woman but about whether the man can have intercourse with her. She’s just a resource or something.

          • Ellen Mary

            Maybe that was a misstatement. I am really just talking here, it isn’t my doctoral thesis and I don’t revise . . . However, I do think NFP in my own life puts me in the sexual drivers seat. I know a lot of women who are indeed on a man’s sexual schedule. In NFP, I get to say what days I am open to the idea & set the schedule and it does shift the balance of power into my court.

          • Roadstergal

            So you’re using NFP because you can’t just say, “No, I don’t feel like sex right now?”

          • Ellen Mary

            No, I am using NFP precisely because I can say ‘no I am not open to sex today’, amongst other reasons. I am using NFP basically because I can . . . I think emerging technologies are ‘neat’ and I enjoy witnessing my ovulatory (NOT menstrual, ovulatory) cycle . . . I do NFP for the same reason people play Scrabble, Debate, read books or the NYT . . . It is an intellectual hobby that involves sex and also spares me some possible adverse effects. I want to reduce my risk of Ectopic to near zero and don’t want the risk of perforation, and would only consider an IUS/D for contraception. To be fully honest, I am not okay with even a little wastage of a fertilized human egg, which is a very remote risk of Paragard as well as any contact with sperm during fertility . . . I also am offended by all they myths and misconceptions around NFP/FAM and like doing my part to prove all the naysayers wrong. 17 months this round . . .

          • Roadstergal

            Myths like…
            http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/UnintendedPregnancy/PDF/Family-Planning-Methods-2014.pdf

            And no, re: your first sentence – that’s not what you said. You said:
            “However, I do think NFP in my own life puts me in the sexual drivers seat. I know a lot of women who are indeed on a man’s sexual schedule. In NFP, I get to say what days I am open to the idea & set the schedule and it does shift the balance of power into my court”

            You are saying that it is _because_ of NFP that you get to say when you want to have sex or not, and therefore imply that a drawback the Pill would be the inability to ‘set the schedule.’

            So women who are not using NFP are not in the ‘sexual driver’s seat,’ and NFP allows you to not be on the ‘man’s sexual schedule.’ I do find that highly creepy. ‘Sexual schedules’ are when both partners feel like fucking.

          • Ellen Mary

            Not with 3 children . . . Yeah, I openly prefer my sex life to be about when *I* feel like having sex and I like to/have to plan ahead for it . . . Does that make me a creepy dominatrix in your world? So be it.

          • Roadstergal

            “Yeah, I openly prefer my sex life to be about when *I* feel like having sex”

            As do we all. But you keep saying that it is only because you practice NFP that you can do that.

          • momofone

            Yes, this is what I’m trying to understand. I don’t see this as an NFP issue at all; I see it as a matter of consent. If I don’t want to have sex during my fertile time, I don’t have to–but it isn’t because I’m fertile; it’s because I don’t want to. Either way I get to decide, just because it’s what I choose (and my husband gets to do the same).

          • just me

            But what if you want to have sex in your fertile time yet not get pg? You’re sol.

          • momofone

            I would have sex and use a condom (or satisfy that need in one of the many other possible ways), but my religious beliefs don’t specify what would be acceptable vs not.

          • just me

            That’s my point. If you can’t use any kind of bc, then you’re sol during this time (which incidentally is when most women are usually most randy). So, “methods” that don’t allow you to have sex during this time are not empowering.

          • momofone

            No, I understand that. But my comment was more about ability to give consent just because/without the justification of fertility as a reason to abstain. Ironically when I was Catholic I was trying (unsuccessfully) to get pregnant, so this wasn’t an issue I had to deal with.

          • momofone

            Sorry–meant to reply to Ellen Mary.

          • Ellen Mary

            The CDC groups all fertility awareness methods together for their efficacy stats. So methods that only involve the *calendar* or fluid are grouped with methods that involve temping and fertility testing. So yeah, myths. The FDA also does not permit any monitors to be advertised for TTA. Not only do they not allow them to be paid for by the ACA, they can’t even be advertised.

          • Roadstergal

            Show me efficacy data, then, if you don’t like the CDCs. And an n of 1 of “I’m not pregnant right now” isn’t data.

          • The Computer Ate My Nym

            I do NFP for the same reason people play Scrabble, Debate, read books or
            the NYT . . . It is an intellectual hobby that involves sex

            I know I basically parsed this wrong and it’s not what you meant, but my first thought on reading this was “Scrabble involves sex? I’ve been doing it wrong…”

          • A

            Glad to know I wasn’t the only one.

          • Roadstergal

            O1R1G2A1S1M3 doesn’t give you much, even on a triple word score. Neither does C3L1I1T1O1R1I1S1, if you can find it. :p

            V4A1G2I1N1A1 gives a higher score than P3E1N1I1S1, though. 🙂

          • The Computer Ate My Nym

            And S1E1X10 can give you a lot of points if you put it in the right place.

          • Roadstergal
          • Ellen Mary

            Maybe . . . 😉

          • Wren

            I get to say what days I’m open to the idea and my husband has had a vasectomy.

          • Roadstergal

            Yeah, exactly this. If you have to hang the ‘threat’ of an unwanted pregnancy over someone’s head to not have sex, the ‘balance of power’ is not in your court.

          • Amy Tuteur, MD

            You’re only in charge as much as your partner is willing to respect your wishes. With hormonal birth control, only you are in charge and it doesn’t matter whether your partner respects your wishes.

          • Ellen Mary

            Right . . . And we can agree that FAR too many women are in relationships where their partner doesn’t respect their wishes. I have helped my friends in those situations access HBC to the extent that it is difficult for them, eagerly and without any real moral conflict (I’ve encouraged LARCs but not all are willing to accept those). However being in a relationship where my partner respects my wishes is an absolute prerequisite for being in a relationship at all, to me, at 38 years of age, and NFP does encourage & support that dynamic for us.

          • Roadstergal

            There we go again. “NFP does encourage & support that dynamic for us.” My way of approaching sex is that the threat of unwanted pregnancy should not be a ‘support’ for a respectful sexual relationship.

            We definitely agree that “being in a relationship where my partner respects my wishes is an absolute prerequisite for being in a relationship at all,” we just don’t agree that this respect should be fully independent of method of birth control. It should exist so squarely on its own that NFP (that is, the threat of unwanted pregnancy) won’t have any room to ‘encourage’ it.

          • Ellen Mary

            Yeah, I also don’t view it as ‘the threat of unwanted pregnancy’. You’ve finally scratched hard enough to uncover the Catholic part: it is the *opportunity* to CoCreate HumanLife . . . That we right now, respectfully decline.

          • Roadstergal

            If I change my post’s wording to “the threat of unwanted cocreation of human life,” the point still stands.

            The implication is that he wouldn’t be as willing to respect your wishes to not have sex if unwanted co-creation of human life weren’t on the table.

          • Ellen Mary

            It is actually about putting the opportunity to CoCreate human life at the center of our sexuality . . . When we decline it, it is in service of the human lives we have already created . . . We wouldn’t be married if we were ChildFree by Choice, because for us the whole purpose of our marriage is to create and nurture children. Please post your predictions of divorce below. I’ve tried the other plan (relationship based only on shared interests with no central purpose of child nurturing) it wasn’t for me.

            I will concede that I find NFP liberating precisely because I view it as something I elect to pursue and that I know women who view it as a mandate from Rome that they are under, who view it as much more of a burden . . .

          • Roadstergal

            And that’s all very pretty, but wholly beside the point. The implication still remains that he respects “I’m fertile” more than he respects “I don’t feel like sex.”

          • Ellen Mary

            It is entirely my option to use NFP in my marriage . . . Husbands don’t get to say how women will manage their fertility anymore than a woman could demand (rather than ask) her husband to get a Vasectomy . . .

          • momofone

            Of course you can. It just sounds like there are a lot of control issues at play rather than joint decision-making. “Husbands don’t get to say…” and “I’m in the sexual driver’s seat” say to me “I have to grab control in the only ways I know how,” rather than “We make decisions about this together.” And I realize I could be totally misinterpreting.

          • Amy Tuteur, MD

            It’s your choice to put the co-creation of human life at the center of your sexuality, but that’s not how most people view it. Life and sexuality last a lot longer than the childbearing years.

            Most people, myself included, put pleasure at the heart of their sexuality, often accompanied by love and intimacy. There’s more, much more to a deeply satisfying marriage than children.

          • Bombshellrisa

            So how does that change your relationship when creating human life is no longer an option? I don’t assume that you will divorce over it, but it seems short sighted to base a lifelong union and your sexuality on something that you will only be able to do for a limited time in your marriage.

          • Wren

            That’s an excellent question.

            If your marriage is based in large part on cocreating human life, what happens when they are all grown up?

          • yugaya

            Or when your reproductive life ends? Or you marry in order to create children but it turns out you’re infertile?

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Hmmmm, I, too, am curious about the answers to these questions. If marriage is only about having kids, what happens when kid having is over?

            My wife and I were married for 16 years without having any kids. Was that a waste of time?

          • Poogles

            “My wife and I were married for 16 years without having any kids. Was that a waste of time?”

            Exactly. My husband and I have been together for 14 years and are just now starting to feel comfortable with bringing a child into our life and have started planning and making changes that will help us get there. Our relationship/marriage is about the 2 of us – not about procreating – and that will serve as the foundation upon which we raise our child.

          • Ellen Mary

            We’ll have the obligation to nurture our children & their children for the rest of our time on this Earth, as many, many parents do . . .

          • Bombshellrisa

            Yes, you are the parent to that child forever, but sooner or later they are going to want to have a life of their own, be their own person and you and your husband will have to take a step back and let them do that. And you will at some point have to focus on each other as a couple with common interests and something other than your children to talk about.

          • Ash

            How does your relationship change when all the children are grown and out of the house? They may have grandkids but who knows when that will be, or if the children will live in close proximity to you and your H.

            Not a snarky question, just wondering how does a relationship based on the nurturing of children work when the kids no longer need parental care?

          • yugaya

            “We wouldn’t be married if we were ChildFree by Choice, because for us the whole purpose of our marriage is to create and nurture children”

            Marriage as a means to an end. IDK, I kind of find it amoral in terms of emotional interactions. Works for business but not my friendships or relationships.

          • Cobalt

            The threat of pregnancy should NEVER be what stops a husband from forcing sex on his wife. It should be basic human respect.

          • Amy

            I’m sorry, I think it’s a big problem when a partner doesn’t respect the other’s wishes with regard to having sex. NFP shouldn’t affect that one way or another.

          • momofone

            But how is that different than if you weren’t using NFP? Would you not then get to say what days you were open to the idea?

          • Ellen Mary

            I would, but it would just drift toward his schedule, as his libido is higher than mine, generally . . . And his work (read external) demands are greater . . .

          • momofone

            I can see that. I guess I don’t understand why it would change your ability to say “Sorry, honey, maybe another day.” If he were interested, and you weren’t, NFP or not, you still get to decide, right?

          • Roadstergal

            Why would it drift anywhere? You want sex, you have sex. You don’t want sex, you don’t have it. You’re feeling meh, he doesn’t get to ‘talk you into it.’

            What do his work demands have to do with your ability to say no to sex?

          • Cobalt

            So NFP is the excuse you use to manipulate your husband’s sexual expression to suit your needs. Have you tried honesty instead?

          • Amy

            You can do that when you’re not on NFP, too. Indeed, I’d argue that in a healthy relationship nobody should be having sex unless both partners want to. I’m not on my husband’s “sexual schedule,” nor is he on mine. When one of us doesn’t want to, we simply say, “I really don’t feel like it now, sorry.”

          • Roadstergal

            “Pretending that contraception is about regulating your period or curing acne or that it is just Vitamin P is rejected rightly by women on both sides.”

            I have to call bullshit on two different grounds.

            One is that I didn’t say the Pill wasn’t important for contraception. I pulled that out specifically as a key bodily function that it regulates, and I am grateful that it does.

            Secondly, it is absolutely a medicine used commonly without contraception in mind. I was on oral contraception for many years as a virgin – because I had debilitatingly painful periods that interfered with my education and my enjoyment of life. This is not unusual.

            You’re sidestepping the issue. Why does a woman’s ‘availability for intercourse’ depend on anything other than her desire to have it? Why is decreasing the window for a woman to have child-free sex anti-feminist? You said the first explicitly, and implied the last.

          • Wren

            Agreed to other uses. I used it for cramps and I later used it for PCOS when we were not trying to conceive.

          • Ellen Mary

            You know decreased libido is a possible and even likely OCP adverse effect, right?

          • Roadstergal

            You’re sidestepping the issue. Why does a woman’s ‘availability for intercourse’ depend on anything other than her desire to have it? Why is decreasing the window for a woman to have child-free sex anti-feminist? You said the first explicitly, and implied the last.

          • Ellen Mary

            Why would it be a window except in NFP? Any menstruation on Birth Control is a real throwback that is no longer necessary . . . And it was a marketing ploy to begin with . . . Even if one is still going to be using OCP, there is no real need to use the placebo week.

          • Roadstergal

            Um, what did that have to do with my Qs?

          • Alcharisi

            Jessica Valenti is a fairly mainstream liberal feminist. I hardly think she qualifies as “the radical feminist left.” For that, you want Shulamith Firestone.

            And while I agree it may be incidental to the major political debate, contraception for me has EVERYTHING to do with regulating my cycle, seeing as I am a cis woman in a monogamous relationship with another cis woman.

          • Ellen Mary

            Then it really is not contraception . . . It is hormonal therapy . . .

            But I was totally unaware that there were feminists left of Marcotte/Valenti, so you have me there! Off to read up.

          • Amy

            Right, it’s about contraception because the WOMAN TAKING IT wants to be ABLE to have intercourse and not get pregnant. It’s about HER wants, not her availability to a man. I mean yes, hypothetically, an abusive man could force his partner onto hormonal contraception because he wants her to be available to him and doesn’t want her to get pregnant, but most women using contraception are using it for themselves. Do you not get that women can have agency here and choose to have sex for nonprocreative reasons?

          • Poogles

            “Pretending that contraception is about regulating your period or curing acne or that it is just Vitamin P is rejected rightly by women on both sides. ”

            Uh, what now? I am not “pretending” to have endometriosis that causes mild to moderate pelvic pain most days of the month and excruciating pelvic pain during my period. I specifically went back on the pill just to deal with the pain and very heavy bleeding, nothing to do with contraception (my husband and I were using condoms before I went back on the pill). Hormonal treatment is the only non-invasive “treatment” for endometriosis.

    • Zen

      I would find “sophisticated computer-aided Internet peer supported fertility monitoring” much more restrictive, complicated, and nerve-wracking (in the way of “did I do it right this month?!”) than just popping the pill once a day when the alarm on my phone tells me to. But to each her own.

      • Ellen Mary

        Indeed. It is the most fun you can have with science from within the confines of your ‘domestic slavery’ 😉

        Seriously though, the science isn’t complicated and when you fully understand it & monitor quantitative data, it isn’t nerve wracking. I literally have never had an issue in nearly 10 years of marriage. But I do treat it like a hobby, because I enjoy it. If someone didn’t enjoy it, fine, great, other options are available.

        • Zen

          Well, if you enjoy it so much, I respect that. To me personally, that life still sounds soul-sucking. Fertility monitoring is the MOST fun I get to have with science?? Screw that. I find so many other things in this big wide world much more fascinating than my own menstrual cycle.

          • Ellen Mary

            To have more fun, I’d have to work in a lab. Sounds okay, but can’t afford daycare @ at entry level lab salary, as I don’t qualify for subsidy by virtue of my captor’s wages.

      • Wren

        I did try it a bit while trying to conceive (it did help me realise I wasn’t ovulating, confirmed by the docs), but I’m less confident about it for prevention, especially as I have wonky cycles.

        • Bombshellrisa

          Yeah, there is a huge difference in using it to get to know your cycles, another to depend on it to keep you from getting pregnant.

        • Amy

          There is a secular method (called FAM, or fertility awareness) that my husband and I have used for YEARS, because I have too many medical conditions incompatible with any kind of hormonal contraception, and we had a very bad experience with a paraguard. Basically, you use barrier methods when there is a risk, however small, of conception. That’s pretty much exclusively between menstruation and ovulation. You monitor your fertility signs as you would with NFP, use barrier methods until 48 hours past when ovulation has been established, and then get to take advantage of your temporary infertility for two weeks. Twelve years, two planned children, no unplanned children.

          • Mishimoo

            This is what we used to space our kids out as well, because I’ve tried various hormonal methods and had breakthrough bleeding with all and increased depression with one. FAM was useful to get nice gaps between the kids, and being in touch with my cycles meant that I could give my GP accurate information when I was concerned. (Cycles stretched out to ~45 days for 5 cycles, erratic mild spotting instead of my usual heavy period, lower back pain, lower abdominal pain, lack of appetite + feeling full easily, unusual bloating. Luckily, it’s just IBS.)

            Now that we’re finished, my husband has had a vasectomy and it’s made life a lot less stressful.

        • just me

          Yeah it helped me (not) and probably approx 0% of infertiles. Although it did help me prep for IVF cycles.

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        I’m Catholic and use NFP. I’m also a member of a number of NFP groups. For the record, Ellen Mary’s experience with NFP is not that of most of the women in these groups. We use it because we need to space or avoid children for a wide variety of reasons, and because for us, due to our faith, it’s either that or total abstinence. We don’t like the options, but we accept them and deal with it–sometimes by venting to friends online. 😉 We don’t like that it means that when we’re most interested in sex (ie, near ovulation), we can’t have it. We don’t like the worry that can be a part of it, though I will say that (again, in my experience) those who practice it very carefully are unlikely to be particularly worried. Annoyed and frustrated, yes, but not worried. Technology has improved NFP considerably, in that objective medical information (hormonal testing, temperature taking, etc) can be used to identify fertile/nonfertile periods, and those of us who hate mucus observations with a passion are grateful for that, but we still have a ways to go.

        After over a year of dealing with NFP to avoid, I can say that it’s been quite effective and worry-free for us, in part because we don’t take risks, but that it can be hard to maintain our sexual relationship while using it because of the on/off nature of it, rather than being able to have sex whenever. That’s balanced for us with our religious beliefs re: contraception, in that we’d be much less happy having sex anytime but using it because of the way we feel morally, but I know that’s not true for most women out there. Just wanted to give a more balanced viewpoint. 😉 And, as Dr. Amy very rightly points out, this assumes that DH is willing to respect me when I say “we need to abstain for about two weeks starting tomorrow.”

        • Roadstergal

          Tangent, because I’m curious – does your religion allow methods of sexual satisfaction that do not involve PIV?

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            Yes and no 😉 Basically, oral and manual stimulation are fine within the context of PIV. I.e., a man can use his hands or mouth to stimulate his wife to orgasm before or after PIV happens (during, too, though I have a hard time imagining oral in that scenario…), she can give him a BJ nearly to the point of climax and switch, etc. He can also continue to stimulate her to orgasm after he’s finished. It has to be a part of/buildup to/occur after the PIV part, though. Does that make sense? (Within the religious context, that is. 😉 )
            Short version: as long as the husband finishes inside his wife and what happens between them is respectful of the other’s desires and mutually agreed upon, it’s fine.
            Interestingly, John Paul II wrote a text on why it’s really important for a husband to try his best to bring his wife to orgasm–basically, that it’s not fair to her if he doesn’t, and she could, understandably, feel very used if he doesn’t.

          • Roadstergal

            Ah, I see, so PIV has to be involved somewhere along the line. Sort of a ‘wasting seed’ thing?

            I can definitely see the frustration!

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            Sort of. The idea is that sex has to be “open to life,” because the CC teaches that the primary vocation of marriage is having and raising children. “Open to life” is defined as not interfering with conception happening within a sex act itself, even if conception itself is simply not going to happen–say, a woman is past menopause/had a hysterectomy or the man is sterile; the idea is to leave the results of the act itself up to God, but that choosing to use only infertile times for the right reasons is okay because under the normal course of events, a married couple would have sex during infertile as well as fertile times as well. A man climaxing in his wife’s mouth wouldn’t leave the possibility, however remote (and in some, insanely remote) for conception. It’s not that his sperm is special, it’s that the possibility of creating another human being is.
            I should add for clarification that the CC does not consider it sinful if PE occurs during the course of things. It’s the intent that matters.
            Yes, you’d be amazed just how much housecleaning one can get done on and within a day or two of ovulation day. Sexual frustration is good for that, I suppose… :p

          • Roadstergal

            That’s very interesting – thank you for answering my doofus questions. 🙂

            (Personally, I would probably die. But then again, my best friend some days is a JeJoue Mimi, because I have a ridiculous sex drive.)

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            Not at all! I enjoyed it. Thanks for being respectful; I know that the CC’s position on all that can be a pretty weird one to wrap one’s mind around. 🙂
            Re your last: that I can sympathize on, having always had a fairly high drive myself. The one time that NFP didn’t identify my ovulation day was my first PP cycle–hardly surprising, but the timing couldn’t have been worse, because a) it meant no sex for over a month and b) I was an emotional, miserable, depressed, hormonal mess who JUST WANTED HER HUSBAND NAOW. It wasn’t pretty. Still glad we used it at the time, and still glad we didn’t opt for contraception, but it sucked, and that mightily.
            (edited for clarity)

          • Roadstergal

            It’s a funny tangent that I hope you don’t mind, but – I’m in the kink community a fair bit, and there’s a subsection of it that’s really into orgasm/sex control. Some of it is driven by those who like to control others, but the people they hook up with are often those who get a kick out of that external control themselves – of getting through the time without sex/orgasm, experiencing the denial, feeling a surge of victory for the accomplishment, and experiencing the eventual orgasm/sex as being better after the deprivation.

            It does seem to have some parallels… well, and I do also know a fair number of kinksters who are ex-religious, so it might just be a sort of continuation. :p

          • Alcharisi

            Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised to find kinksters who are currently religious, too. In addition to the control, it seems to me that when done right, kink communities are a really good example of how to make sex into a communal concern without being repressive about it (something that religious ethics, IMO, should strive to achieve.)

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            No, don’t mind at all. Interestingly enough, I have heard of some couples in the NFP world who experience something similar when they get to the end of the abstinence period and can have sex again; they describe it as being like their wedding night all over again in that they waited and waited, even though they *really* wanted to have sex, and then could FINALLY have it. For us, and for most couples I know, that hasn’t generally been the case, but I suspect it has to do with individual wiring as much as anything.

          • Life Tip

            I would say it is that way for me, to some extent. Maybe not wedding night exciting, but the ten days or so of “can’t have sex” makes me want it more. When I get busy or stressed, I don’t think about sex much. But, knowing that I’m in my infertile phase for only a few more days motivates me to clear my head/make the time to enjoy intimacy. So, for me, the phases are good for the libido and waiting a few days builds anticipation/excitement. However, I don’t have such a high libido that the waiting is super unpleasant. So, like you say, individual wiring makes the difference.

          • just me

            Ok, over my head here. What are nfp and piv? Asked by a nonreligious person who went thru infertility as in preventing pregnancy was not the issue…

          • Monkey Professor for a Head

            Natural Family Planning and Penis-In-Vagina I think

          • fiftyfifty1

            natural family planning. Penis in vagina

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            NFP=natural family planning. Basically, you track signs/symptoms of fertility (cervical mucus, waking body temperature, cervical position, or–what I use–urine hormone testing) in order to determine when you are or aren’t fertile, and use the information accordingly. It can be used both to avoid and to achieve pregnancy–knowing when you’re ovulating can be very helpful in getting pregnant, or even knowing that you *aren’t* ovulating so that you can notify your doctor and treat accordingly. It’s also the only method of “birth control” that the Catholic Church allows. PIV=penis in vagina.

          • fiftyfifty1

            Wow. What an unfair bummer for women all these rules are. Either get pregnant or give up sex when it brings you the most pleasure.

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            The CC sees it differently: until the 1960s, the only moral option, in their belief structure, for women who wanted to avoid pregnancy was to engage in total abstinence, which of course can have seriously bad effects on a marriage. (Better than a pregnancy that’ll kill you, but still very rough.) Ergo, NFP is seen as a sort of exception, a way that you can still have sex even if you shouldn’t get pregnant right then.
            That having been said…yes, it can be a major bummer. Most people who use it won’t argue with that point.

          • Ellen Mary

            This I do NFP but it sucks & I hate it & barely even agree with it seems to me to be very undesirable & I seriously wonder what other parts of faith life you find equivalent to cleaning a bathtub? The works of Mercy? Mass? You don’t speak for ‘most NFP users’ anymore than I do. If most NFP users found it that loathesome I wouldn’t support it, that is definitely not the impression I ever got from CCLI or from Marquette.

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            NFP isn’t part of my faith life. It’s a practice I adopted as a result of my faith life. There’s a big difference there. Catholics aren’t required to use NFP. I don’t “agree” or “disagree” with it; it’s one option the Church offers, it’s the best one for us right now, so we use it, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. It’s just one of those things.
            Faith, as taught by the Catholic Church, isn’t about how you feel about something. It’s about what you believe. Look at Mother Teresa: saint though she was, she seems to have spent much of her life in that “long, dark night of the soul,” in which she couldn’t feel God’s love or mercy at all. Yet she cared for the lepers, she fed the hungry, she tended the dying, not because it made her feel good, but because it was the right thing to do. Why? Because love is an action, not a feeling.
            When DH comes home from work hungry after a long day, I might not feel like making dinner. After all, I’ve had a long day, too. I still make dinner. I might not especially enjoy the process of making dinner, but in this family, it’s my job, so I do it, and try to focus less on “I’m tired, my feet hurt, etc” and more on “okay, just need to get dinner on and DD in bed and then we can relax for a while ourselves.” He might not feel like giving DD a bath, and might not especially enjoy it at the moment because he’s tired and would rather rest. He still gives her a bath, and smiles at and plays with her so that she can have a fun time with Daddy. Why? Because love is an action, not a feeling.
            Our feelings are real, but they don’t always align with what we’re supposed to do. We’re rational beings, and expected to act like it. This idea that a natural feeling of disappointment at not being able to be with one’s husband when one wants sex is “bad” or “wrong” is quite unreasonable. One can feel something, and still act differently. Haven’t you ever wanted to bite your husband’s head off, but stopped, took a deep breath, and phrased something better even though you really, REALLY wanted to yell at him? Why? Because love is an action, not a feeling.
            The CCL has serious attitude problems on a national level that are only beginning to be addressed. If you pick up a copy of this month’s CCL magazine, you’ll see an article by Anne Gundlach dealing with unhelpful positions taken by teachers and hierarchy there, but they still have a long ways to go. This is extremely tangential at this point, but did you know that until the founding couple left, female teachers were required to have ecologically breastfed all their children in order to have become teachers, and if they didn’t, they had to write an essay explaining why and hope their application to teach would be approved despite this failing on their part? This expectation is totally out of reach of any working mother, which means that until 2005 (?!?!!!!), when the Kippleys left, virtually no teachers of the most common method of NFP in the US were women who worked outside the home…and they claim to be speaking to mainstream Catholics?! Marquette seems to be far more balanced in their approach, admitting that abstinence can be hard but giving suggestions as to how to deal with it without entering into the shaming common in CCL circles.
            Remember, the key here is that the Church doesn’t see NFP as an alternative to contraception, which is, in its theology, never morally licit. It’s an alternative to total abstinence until menopause, which, until NFP came along, was what was recommended to couples who had to avoid getting pregnant again.

          • just me

            Yup yet another reason why I find most religion ridiculous. Would “God” really give a $hit?

          • Medwife

            To be fair, hormonal birth control can certainly kill libido. (Why I think the copper IUD is the Method That Rules Them All.)

          • KarenJJ

            Now I’m humming a Monty Python song.

        • Life Tip

          I’ve used NFP for almost ten years, and I agree with you. It works well for us (no surprise pregnancies) and, at this point, it’s not something we have to put a lot of thought/time into figuring out. It certainly isn’t a hobby for us, like Ellen Mary says it is for her.

          I do see it having some positive effects on our relationship. Since we can’t have sex any ol’ time we want, we tend to make more time and effort to have sex when we can. This has been helpful for us as our kids/jobs make life busier. Also, the short monthly periods of abstaining have helped us develop more non-physical ways of expressing our love for each other when sex is not possible. But I don’t think we would be unable to develop those things without NFP, just that the nature of having to periodically abstain has aided in that aspect of our relationship. And, of course, all the NFP in the world would be useless if there wasn’t a fundamental level of respect between both partners. Respect is essential no matter the form (or lack) of contraception a couple chooses.

          • Ellen Mary

            I am genuinely curious what you suggest women do in the times of her life where she finds herself in a relationship lacking in the essential respect? This is part of why I don’t consider myself fully in line with Catholic teachings on the subject, because I know far too many women who find themselves in relationships that lack respect, so while I deeply want all women to have access to NFP, I can’t honestly say I believe it can work for all women in all situations.

          • Life Tip

            If someone doesn’t respect your “I don’t want to have sex right now,” I suggest you do whatever you can to leave and get therapy. No matter what your preferred form of family planning is.

          • Ellen Mary

            Right & when my friends are in those situations, not where sex is forced but where sex is currency & there is an expectation of it, I suggest it strongly & emphatically over & over & then they just do not. A fact of life on Earth is that women stay in abusive relationships. For years.

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            I couldn’t agree more with your last two sentences. No matter what a couple are using, respect (not to mention communication about it) are major, MAJOR keys to a good relationship. You won’t really have one without them.

          • Ellen Mary

            The level of attention one has to devote to the practice to make it successful is akin to a hobby, as is the mental stimulation provided by practicing the science, but to say that it is ‘just a hobby’ in my life isn’t adequate. Compared to other forms of family planning, it requires a higher level of attention, akin to the time one might spend on another pursuit such as a hobby, that is what I was saying.

        • Ellen Mary

          Practicing Catholic women feel all sorts of ways about NFP . . . As evidenced by the way the vast majority just use contraception . . . All the Catholic women in my family do this.

          I am a Christian. I agree with aspects of the theology, but I can’t live my life in the ‘I hate NFP & it sucks’ kind of way. I do find NFP liberating, I don’t particularly think it is wrong to do so and one doesn’t have to frame it as a cross or a burden . . . IMO if is is really that burdensome and difficult it wouldn’t be a sustainable way to run a Faith community, to ask all the women in that community to take on a loathsome burden they hate or get pregnant.

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            Actually, it is, kind of. For example, a lot of women have a hard time orgasming when not in their fertile phase, even if their husbands do their darnedest to help them with it.
            I can see the benefit of NFP on a philosophical and religious level, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. By the same token, I can say that I hate NFP–and I do–but not really dwell on it. It’s a part of my life right now, just like diaper changes are. Someday it, and they, will pass. Whining about it endlessly won’t help, though occasional venting and reevaluation of my method (“is this still working as best as NFP can for me, or is there a better method out there for me right now?”) do. I also don’t like following other areas of the Church’s teachings, but I still suck it up and deal with it, and find little point in complaining about it.
            At the same time, I can think of approximately five million more interesting hobbies than tracking my fertility symptoms–much like I can think of about, say, five million more interesting activities than scrubbing my bathtub periodically. I do both anyway ’cause they need to be done. If you enjoy it, though, more power to ya.

          • Ellen Mary

            I need a citation that women are more readily able to orgasm during their fertile phase . . . I’ve literally never heard that before, although it is known that libido itself can be higher, but libido isn’t necessarily directly related to the ability to orgasm . . .

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            That’s anecdotal; aside from efficacy studies, there just aren’t many studies done of women using NFP. Which is understandable, because efficacy is the most common concern and money is terribly tight, but there it is. As I said, I’m in a lot of NFP groups. Many, though far from all, of us have this problem.

        • fiftyfifty1

          What is the party line on non-PIV sex?

        • Ellen Mary

          Catholic women make up a substantial portion of the world’s population, if you hold the theology behind NFP to be morally true and contracepting to be objectively sinful, then you can’t really frame it as a niche practice for a tiny minority of women who happen to just feeeeeeeeel the same way as the Pope. Like wearing a Mantilla . . . If it is something that Catholic women are officially supposed to be practicing or be in *mortal sin*, then it would have to be possible and sustainable for them . . .

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            A relatively small percentage of Catholic women use NFP, and a much larger percentage use contraception/sterilization instead. That’s due to all sorts of reasons, many of them having to do with catechesis. NFP use (or, for that matter, abstinence until you can either have another child or you’ve gone through menopause) is possible; we aren’t animals, and we have control of our bodies and whether or not we engage in sex. (Obviously, this excludes those for whom sex is nonconsensual, but that’s unacceptable in Church teaching, too.) It’s just difficult. So are other teachings about married sexuality. In many cultures, it’s considered perfectly normal and acceptable for men to cheat on their wives long-term while remaining married. That doesn’t mean that the Church considers such behavior acceptable, or that it’s not hard to go against a societal trend that suggests you’re much less of a man for not having a mistress or two on the side.

    • A

      “sophisticated computer aided Internet peer supported (…) monitoring” From now on I’m always going to say that, instead of “posting in an Internet forum”. I mean, just look at that sentence! It makes it sound like NASA is involved somehow.

  • Amy M

    I HATE being called ‘mama’ even by my children, I prefer Mommy or Mom, because of how the term ‘mama’ has come to be used. When I had the children, I got a few “good job, mama” comments from some friends. They were applying it in the context of giving birth and I was no one’s mama before that. I won’t say I loved it, but I saw it as a recognition of my changed state.

    Calling someone who is not your mom ‘mama’ is condescending, just like calling someone (who isn’t your spouse) honey. I think I hate being called honey, more than I hate being called mama–and when someone does (in a condescending way), I usually answer with “sweetcheeks” or “babycakes” or some other obnoxious nickname.

  • Michele

    I cringe when people who are not my children call me “mama.” It’s the same kind of cringe I get when people (almost always men) refer to women or a woman just as “females” or “a female.”
    I don’t mind “Mrs.” but I also don’t care if I get called “Ms.” or “Miss” instead.

  • demodocus’ spouse

    I didn’t mind in certain circumstances, such as someone asking my son a question like “Did Mommy knit you that sweater?” but I’d be deeply annoyed if no one ever used my name. On a related note, my initials are E. C. and I hate it when the preschool I worked at for a while wanted the kids to call me Miss E or Miss C. Sounds too close to Missy. grr.

  • Allie P

    I have no problem with “mama” — of course, my friends and I use “papa” to casually discuss people in the context of their parental identity, too. (For instance, I just sent a “congrats, papa!” message to a friend of mine whose baby was born yesterday. But I also don’t get the virulent hatred women of the older generation than me (of which Dr. T is one) have toward the word “girl.” I think nothing of it, it doesn’t feel like a diminuitive. To me (mid-thirties) and to most of the women I know my age and younger, it’s the female equivalent of “guy”, not of “boy.”

    I’m not into the competitive natural parenting movement by a long shot, so I have no association with the word Mama to the movement. Mama (or papa) is just a hip, fun little term to use when discussing our parent identity, vs our professional identity (which nearly all my friends and acquaintances, except my stay-at-home dad brother, have) or our other identities. “Motherhood” is so weighty.

    • SporkParade

      I think the girl thing varies by English dialect since I, too, grew up in a place where it was the female equivalent of guys. But I hate being called mama by adults.

  • Ellen Mary

    What you miss is that I don’t want to be replaced as the person who ensures my children’s survival. It is my life’s work & there is no way it could ever be replaced. And only women who come from considerable means can achieve truly world changing work without mountains of soul crushing, life destroying debt. Excluding the statistical few who earn scholarships. I won’t trade my role as my children’s provider & protector to be an consumed Admin or an Office Manager, sorry.

    • Stephanie

      It doesn’t take soul crushing life destroying debt to become educated to a level that you can provide for a family. It takes careful selection of a career path before you attend school. Programs like Art History are unlikely to pay off with only a BA, however programs like Engineering, Computer Science, and other STEM and business areas do provide you with a successful career. You are right that being uneducated limits your choices, but that is the case for a man or woman.

      • Ellen Mary

        Once you have children, furthering your education requires appx 8-10G a year in childcare per preschool age child. And most women & men have to borrow money to attend 4 year college in the US. Almost all doctors borrow, almost all lawyers. I don’t buy that debt is a legitimate road to emancipation, but in addition, ensuring a child’s survival is a noble & beautiful work. You don’t have to stop doing it to have a meaningful life.

        • Ellen Mary

          This has been an issue since Sanger’s day: only very upperclass women could achieve meaningful work & those women didn’t want children or didn’t want money. Her desire to liberate women who didn’t have meaningful options for work outside for the home was stymied by the fact that they found meaning in childbearing & raising.

          • Ellen Mary

            should read: or didn’t want many . . .

          • Ennis Demeter

            Sanger and the organization she founded have liberated millions and millions of poor women. Finding meaning in childraising is NOT the same thing as having a baby every year until you are worn physically worn out or die in childbirth. how meaningful is motherhood if you can’t enjoy it because you are overwhelmed, unhealthy and destitute?

          • The Computer Ate My Nym

            What, poor women are always perfectly fulfilled by keeping house and bearing and raising as many children as they can before dropping dead and never dream of a better life? I doubt that. Some women, rich or poor, don’t want children or don’t want many children or want to do something with their lives besides raise children. My (rural poor) grandparents used any form of birth control available to them. My (very poor) great-grandmother encouraged my mother to never listen to anyone who told her she MUST have children or that she couldn’t do anything else with her life. Said great-grandmother had had 11 children and seen several of them die before her. She knew the joys of motherhood and the dangers of motherhood as well. And came to the conclusion that it wasn’t for everyone.

          • Ennis Demeter

            I’m the mother of an only child and I find plenty of meaning in mothering

          • The Computer Ate My Nym

            Me too. In mothering because I want to raise a child. I don’t think I’d find much meaning in mothering 11 kids because I couldn’t convince my husband to stop having intercourse, didn’t know how to get birth control, and couldn’t have paid for birth control even if I could get it. Which was my great-grandmother’s situation. She also had what sounds like 3rd to 4th degree tears which each of those 11 births (though this is third hand, so it might not have been that dramatic.) I don’t think she really found motherhood fulfilling.

          • just me

            Um I would have to disagree that today only very upperclass women can achieve meaningful work. I would say the more educated they are the more liberal kept it is. You can be highly educated and still not the 1%.

        • demodocus’ spouse

          It is very difficult to support a family on high school degree-level incomes. Not that it can’t be done, but the opportunities are not great.

        • Amy Tuteur, MD

          But you can get a top notch education BEFORE having children.

          • Ellen Mary

            Yes, but this is statistically much more likely for women of the upper middle class & above & still saddles even these women with debt quite often . . .

          • Ellen Mary

            Men with only HS generally can earn more than women with only HS.

          • Alexicographer

            Men with any level of education generally earn more than women with the same level of education. That is certainly part of the problem — I don’t think you’ll get much argument about that here.

          • momofone

            It certainly can, but it isn’t a foregone conclusion. I came out with no debt (Master’s degree), and had no undergraduate debt. It’s not easy but is possible, and I am far from upper middle class.

          • Ennis Demeter

            If you don’t have very many children and if you and your spouse both work your children are less likely to go into debt for college

          • Karen in SC

            Truth! I am working 3 part time jobs to make sure we can pay the college bill after scholarships and a student loan is applied. If I had stayed in my high paying career full time this wouldn’t be an issue and my sons wouldn’t even need the loans. My husband mentions this from time to time, his own mother worked full time and his parents scrimped during the college years for him and a brother and sister.

            Families I know with a lot of children are blissfully ignorant of this reality and say that their smart kids will get scholarships. My kid goes to one of the top high schools in the nation and there is still 8 grand for us to pay after scholarships and loans.

          • Medwife

            Also more likely if you embrace effective contraception 🙂

            Yeah yeah, NFP is effective IF you do it just right, and only if you disregard the number of women who try it for a while and say “screw it” because it’s inconvenient. And that is a lot of women.

          • Gatita

            Even with the debt women with more education come out ahead financially–your lifetime earnings make up for it.

        • Stephanie

          Which is why you need to choose your career hopefully before you have children and have it in place in case of emergency by death, divorce or disability.It is much harder to attend school after children. You can get through school with minimum debt by 1) living like a student 2) working full time during the summer and part time during the year 3) not attending an ivy league school.

          And guess what – I did attend school, graduated nearly debt free and I had a child before I finished. I worked hard, didn’t waste money, and wasn’t supported by my parents.

          • Gatita

            How old are you? Because I graduated from college with relatively little debt but I don’t think that’s possible today unless you have wealthy parents. It’s really bad for younger people right now.

          • Amy

            It is possible. Live at home and attend a public university. It’s not glamorous, and you don’t necessarily get the “college experience,” but it’s doable.

          • just me

            Well I got my law degree 8 yrs ago. Worked ft, school at nite, full scholarship. Zero debt. Yes I was lucky but that was a merit scholarship. I earned it.

            And yes we are saving for our kids. I was a “starving student” as an undergrad (yet incurred only 4k in debt) back in the 80s.

          • Liz Leyden

            When did you graduate? I did all of that, in 2008, and ended up with $25,00 in student loan debt. My public urban BA cost $250 per credit, and I lived with my husband and didn’t own a car. Tuition, fees or both went up every semester (one semester they went up 3 separate times).

            Plus, financial aid is calculated based on parental income until the student turns 25, even if they don’t live with the parents and the parents don’t provide any financial support. The only exceptions are students who have a child, are married, a ward of the state (or were a ward of the state until age 18), veterans, have a bachelor’s, or homeless (or at risk or becoming homeless). That has been the case since 1992. Lots of students end up ineligible for any need-based aid, including student loans because their parents refuse to fill out financial aid paperwork.

        • OttawaAlison

          Husband and I both have good jobs and now have zero student debt. Granted we graduated university 14 years ago. Heck I even have a Bachelor of Arts degree and use it in my work.

          • OttawaAlison

            I’m still technically in my childbearing years too (and hope to have one more).

          • Ennis Demeter

            My husband and I both have good jobs and no debt as well. Also we both find a lot of meeting in being parents, even though we work

          • OttawaAlison

            I love being a mom and family always comes first, but I also have meaningful employment. Is it always easy? of course not, we do make it work though.

        • The Computer Ate My Nym

          So then why don’t more men stay home and enjoy the “noble and beautiful work” that is childrearing? Why is it nearly always the woman who stays home?

        • Alexicographer

          OK. I mean, I find ensuring my child’s survival essential and phenomenally important, though it doesn’t do much for me philosophically, but if it’s your thing — go for it.

          Still, unless one chooses a career or volunteer path that ensures a child’s survival, or has a *lot* of children, one is likely still to have a lot of decades when one is not engaged in that “noble and beautiful work.” Is that a problem? I think I’d find it to be such, if it were my primary occupation.

        • fiftyfifty1

          ” I don’t buy that debt is a legitimate road to emancipation”

          It worked for me. I grew up in a low income family where our utilities got cut off for non-payment and we didn’t have health insurance. WIC and free school lunches kept us fed. I went to college and medical school and took on debt. I canceled all my debt by working at a FQHC (sliding scale clinic for low income families like my own). I was debt free within 3 years. If I had refused to take on debt I could never have pulled myself out of poverty.

          ETA: When I say “pulled myself out of poverty” I want to be VERY clear that I did not do that alone!

        • just me

          working moms also ensure their children’s survival. You don’t have to not work to do it.

      • Liz Leyden

        There are no guarantees. A hot career field can go cold very quickly. Ask anyone who got a nursing degree after 2007.

      • Who?

        Markets change overnight-what is a good choice at the start of a degree can be a terrible one by the end.

        My daughter is in the final year of an engineering degree (civil) with no prospect of work, and the vast majority of her cohort, across each engineering discipline, is in the same boat. If nothing comes up by the end of the year she will do a maths/statistics degree which she hopes will be a better field in which to look for work.

        When she started in 2012 there were jobs all over the place, the universities couldn’t churn them out fast enough. Now many of those young professionals are unemployed and more are coming through very fast.

        There are no guarantees.

        • KarenJJ

          I took off overseas when that happened to me. Times are tough downunder for engineers at the moment.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      What does not referring to yourself ‘Mama’ have to do with being replaced? Nothing.

      What makes you think I wasn’t my children’s provider, protector, #1 fan, etc.?

      • Ellen Mary

        I *know* you were. But your article implies that being the ‘number 1 worrier’ is not a liberated role & we will only be liberated when we either share the title or cede it. But I wouldn’t cede it, I would fight for it.

        • Ellen Mary

          The job I would be happy to shake is the idea that I would take care if my spouse as if he were a child. I have pretty much shirked that one already.

        • Elizabeth A

          ‘number 1 worrier’ is not a liberated role & we will only be
          liberated when we either share the title or cede it. But I wouldn’t cede
          it, I would fight for it.

          Wait, why?

          Over the last few years, I’ve been fortunate enough to have someone in my house sharing the daily worrying grind with me. That person is my nanny. He is obviously not thinking a single thing, ever, about educational financing or health insurance, but he has let me know when the kids’ shoes are wearing out, dug out their backpacks for moldy fruit and field trip forms, thrown together brownies for school events, brushed hair, cooked dinners, and deloused both children.

          Here’s what I have noticed: It makes not a single difference in the world to my children that I signed the permission slip because someone texted me to say it’s on the fridge, as compared to signing it because I pried it out under a decomposing banana myself. They complain just as much when I wield the delousing comb as they do when the nanny does. It doesn’t matter who does these things. It only matters that they get done. But it makes a difference to me to have a partner in these thing, to know when I get home from work, or from chemo, that I can sit straight down and spend time with my kids instead of starting by inspecting their shoes, hair, and school bags. If I could permanently assign the distracting scut worrying to someone else, I would do it in a heartbeat, not because I don’t care, but because I want more minutes of helping people learn to read, baking cookies, shampoo mohawks, heartfelt conversation, ukelele improv, fingerpainting, fussing over tomato seedings – basically, all the stuff I signed up to parent for – and because I, frankly, resent it when that stuff has to sidelined because someone stuck a plum in her bookbag and I didn’t notice until it began fermenting.

        • just me

          Um why shouldn’t your husband share the worrying?

    • Life Tip

      I think you missed the point of the article.

      Be a SAHM if you want and can afford it. That is your choice. But you are an adult, and other adults should treat you like one, which includes referring to you by your name rather than a diminutive title. And if life circumstances change, it should not shatter your entire identity if you can no longer afford to SAH, use cloth diapers, or spend time creating elaborate meals (or whatever). You do not have to be a SAHM to be a good mother or to ensure your child’s needs are met.

    • Jessica

      I am my child’s (and my stepchild’s) provider and protector. I also happen to have a law degree and a full-time career. Yes, there was a breathtaking amount of student loan debt, but 10 years after graduating it’s less soul crushing, and I wouldn’t describe it as life destroying. It enabled me to pursue a career I love, a career that has give me more power and autonomy than I would have had otherwise, a career that has not stood in the way of marriage or family. It is a career that will enable me to live comfortably in my old age and not need to depend on my children unlike my own mother – a SAHM without much education or ability to provide for herself. I love her, but I did not want to end up like her, so I chose a different path and thank God everyday that I was able to do that.

    • EllenL

      Gosh, so many assumptions in your post. I’ve been a bookkeeper, an office manager, a teacher – and a mother. I was never “consumed”
      by my jobs, though I took pride in them. They were a role in my life, alongside my roles as mother, wife, member of the community, etc.

      I also got my degree after I became a mother, with no debt and no apparent trauma to my children. In achieving a personal goal under
      challenging circumstances, I believe I was setting an example for them.

      I agree with you on one point: no one can be my kids’ mother but me! But I reject the idea that a woman can have only one significant or
      successful role in life.

    • Amy

      Um, wow. I’m the daughter of public school teachers– I grew up in very modest circumstances. I’m now a teacher myself. I graduated from college debt free. There are these things called public universities, you know– they have much lower tuition than private universities. There is also the option of taking more than four years to graduate and holding down a job through college.

      If we have to go by your goalpost changing definition of “truly world changing,” then I probably wouldn’t qualify, but I consider what I do to be very important and have a huge impact. And my children have repeatedly told me that they regard me as a role model in my career.

      • Ash

        @disqus_j5kbGmL2j5:disqus, Undergraduate tuition and fees combined at the state school here is $6K per semester. The max federal First-Year Undergraduate Annual Loan Limit for dependent students is $5,500. So the maximum the federal gov’t will lend for a student’s first year is half of what tuition costs. It is very hard to graduate debt free these days. It is also hard to go part time and work your way through college given that minimum wage is 7.25.

        If one made $8.5/hr after taxes, that is working 765 hours per year for tuition alone.

        • Amy

          I’m not saying everyone, everywhere can graduate debt-free. Nor did I say it was easy. It wasn’t easy when I did it a few years ago, either. But Ellen Mary is VERY wrong when she says that getting a college degree necessarily entails going into “soul-crushing” debt.

          Working full-time during an academic year is approximately 1600 hours. One would assume that working full-time might also mean not carrying a full-time course load, which would cost less than $6,000. The truth is quite a bit different than “soul-crushing” debt that lasts for years, particularly if it means increased earning power at the other end.

      • Liz Leyden

        My local state U, one of the most expensive in the country, charges in-state students $600 per credit. My alma mater, a public urban school with no dorms, charges in-state students a hair over $500 per credit.

    • fiftyfifty1

      ” I won’t trade my role as my children’s provider & protector to be an consumed Admin or an Office Manager, sorry.”

      Don’t be ripping on my office manager. There is no way that I could do what I do if she didn’t do what she does. Our safety-net clinic would have to close and a lot of low income families would be SOL.

    • Elizabeth A

      When I was an admin and office manager, I didn’t stop being my children’s provider and protector – the one role did a hell of a lot to facilitate the other. (Also: I did find the work meaningful and fulfilling, and I didn’t need soul crushing amounts of educational debt to get the job.)

      So yes. Don’t shit on administrative professionals, please. Or other traditionally female jobs. Or anyone’s job. There are a ton of employment practices in the world that could stand to be improved, but loads of us find that work gives us more than just money.

  • Bugsy

    Drinking the fat?

    Ummm….

    • momofone

      I wondered about that too, but was afraid to ask.

  • dbistola

    Dr. Tuteur-This article is genius. The way you tied this together and highlighted what makes this particular word so cringeworthy online is excellent.
    For what its worth-my children call me Ma MA (emphasis on the second syllable) Greek.

    • sdsures

      That’s nice. Do you have Greek ancestors?

      • dbistola

        my parents came from Greece, and I grew up speaking mostly Greek.

        • sdsures

          If I do have kids, and husbad agrees, I’d like to be able to speak both English and Russian with them.

          • dbistola

            They do catch on fast when they are young. When my daughter was 2-4, she mostly spoke Greek, due to spending a lot of time with her grandparents. We kept it up, but when she began to read, things shifted radically within a year. It became hard to keep it up. Now she uses Greek words but doesn’t seem to be able to construct sentences anymore. My little boy who is younger is even more English speaking.

          • sdsures

            There are lots of dual language kids’ books out there. I even found some Russian Dr Seuss once!

  • sdsures

    As a student of Russian, this is a very interesting topic to me, because “Mama” – the exact same word in English and in Russian (and it looks and sounds the same in both), means any or all of these depending on context: mom, mommy, mother. (Same, incidentally, for “Papa” = father, dad, daddy.) Both have emphasis on the first syllable –> MA ma. PA pa. Stress does not change if diminuitives are used.

    “Mama” is the formal word “mother”, even though to Western ears, it might sound informal. Adult Russians call their mother “Mama,” and their father “Papa” – that’s just the way Russian works. Diminuitives, sweet names, or pet names, include “Papochka” and “Mamochka” – and again, both adults and children use these words with their parents in everyday conversation.

    It’s not seen as a form of sexism in Russian culture, although I do understand the point in your article. The use of “mama” could be a cultural appropriation?

    There are, of course, things which you would not say to your parent in Russian (or in any other language): the diminuitives “Papka” or “Mamka” are insults.

    • dbistola

      My children call me MaMa, but this article is not supposed to address what a kid calls his/her mother. It addresses the cultural significance behind the the use of the word Mama online with these online mothering groups.

      • sdsures

        I know that, but what I meant is that if this trend is unique to English-speaking women, it might seem a little odd to women who are not English-speakers natively. “Mama” has less of a hippie association in non-mothering online groups.

        I would definitely cringe if someone referred to me as “mama” and wasn’t one of my own kids. I’m afraid to join moms’ groups when I have kids, for this very reason, that I might be exposed to the crazy.

        • dbistola

          Yes, that is interesting. This term was traditionally used by certain cultures in the US, like southern or African American. It seems like it’s being used by people traditionally and culturally would normally use “mom” or “mother.”

          • sdsures

            I moved to the UK from Canada in 2008 and still can’t quite get used to seeing “mum” printed out instead of “mom”, though they sound pretty much the same.

            Also Mexican: there is a character called “Mama Elena” in “Like Water for Chocolate” by Laura Esquivel. She insists that her daughters call her “Mami” because she thinks the word “mama” has a disrespectful sound to it. (She’s a dictatorial parent.)

          • sdsures

            That would make sense according to something the Feminist Breeder once tweeted, about her showing “solidarity” with her “black sistahs”.

        • yugaya

          Hehe. The crunchy parenting groups in languages that use “mama” as one of legit words are instead full of grown women addressing each other in even more childspeak-like ways ( other diminutives). Translation of a typical sentence would be :
          “Hi ladies! Any of you sweet little mommies out there know where I can buy….”

          Infantilization of the way women were to be spoken to or with had a role throughout history, and it was never feminist in an way.

      • sdsures

        Wonder why “papa” is never mentioned.

    • yugaya

      Mama is a diminutive/term of endearment in south Slavic languages, accent the same as in Russian. The more pronounced and formal word is mother – majka.

      Russian has similar vocab distinction with мать/мама pair.

    • Amy M

      My mom called her Hungarian parents “mommy” or “daddy” in English, but she also used the Hungarian–Apu and Anu (I don’t know how to spell it, that’s probably close). I don’t know if those are diminutives or formal though.

      • yugaya

        Apa/anya are dad/mom. Apu and anyu are with suffix change when you are addressing or calling them like “mooooom there’s no toilet paper in the bathroooooom”

        • Amy M

          Yeah, if she was speaking with them in Hungarian, she used Apu/Anyu, but if the conversation was in English, then it was Mommy and Daddy. Unfortunately, my generation didn’t learn Hungarian—its not really offered in schools like Spanish or French.