Busy mum, and other phrases I’d change in the parenting dictionary

May 21, 2015

  I read the news this morning that the Scrabble dictionary is being updated with slang and more modern terms. While I doubt I’d actually have the brain capacity for a game of Scrabble right now – is zzZZz a word? Oh, the lolz – I’m always interested in these types of news around language.

Especially because language changes so much when you become a parent. Straight off, you’re introduced to a whole new world of words. Time become trimesters, and it’s measured in weeks not months. Then there is baby wearing and weaning and self soothing, and all the other motherhood myths and legends and phrases and words that come between.

But some of it is pretty questionable. And if language is power, then a lot of the lexicon has the power to seriously annoy. So if ever the parenting dictionary is ripe for a re-write, here’s the words and phrases that I’d bear in mind:

Busy mum:  Adverts, magazines, TV, an in-box full of marketing emails, as a ‘busy mum’ I’m bombarded with this targeted phrase. ‘Busy mum’ brings to mind an image of a supermother running round with an armful of small child and cleaning products, ferrying things from A-Z, noisily and self-importantly swishing her busy cape.

But you know what? Mums don’t hold the monopoly on being busy; what about dads or doctors? And in reality, although parenting is full-on and full time with limited spare time, and the majority of the day (and night) is spent mothering my children, I wouldn’t say I’m constantly busy. Yesterday we spent an afternoon doing a Toy Story jigsaw again and again. I’ve just tickled the baby for twenty minutes to make her laugh. I spend a lot of time moving socks from room to room. Does that make me busy? I don’t know. Technically I was more busy when I worked full-time with a commute, days of meetings and deadlines, spent my lunch time running to Topshop and my evenings dashing to the bar before last orders. I know lots of mums are constantly busy, especially ones that do work full-time. But then so is The Queen. It’s just lazy talk.

Me time: I think the definition of this is definitely up for an update. Just because you’ve had a baby, me time does not suddenly mean a trip to the supermarket minus children, having a smear test or going to the loo by yourself (although that is a luxury I’m optimistically hoping to achieve this week). Advertisers, stop trying to make it happen.

Date nights in: I like the concept of date night out, but with no childcare ours are rarer than rubies. But, people suggest, why not make a date night out of staying in? I’m…not so sure. There’s not much that’s romantic about eating your food one-handed while clutching the baby alarm to your bosom, waiting for the next wake-up and trying to not to fall asleep on my husband. It’s cosy, yes, and it’s great to binge-watch Mad Men in an evening, albeit in a stop-start fashion, but it’s not really romantic, is it?

You’ll have your hands full! A constant refrain throughout my second pregnancy. Why must we be so negative to future second-time mums (and mums in general?) ‘It’s only woooords’ sang Boyzone, sometime in the last century. But they’re the last ones you want to hear when you’re pregnant and already knackered.

See also: bad habits, rod for your own back and ‘they must be hungry’

What words would you strike from the parenting dictionary?


  • Jodie

    May 21, 2015 at 8:20 pm

    The word sleep should definitely be updated. Who the heck invented children who don’t sleep anyway?

    1. gillian

      May 21, 2015 at 9:48 pm

      Sleep is definitely a word that’s in neither of my children’s vocabulary! Florence was up for most of last night, wide awake and wanting to crawl around our bed. Exhausting…

  • Carie

    May 21, 2015 at 10:22 pm

    Convenient could be another candidate for an upgrade, as in Calpol comes in convenient sachets that are hard to open one handed and will almost certainly dribble down your baby’s chin and leave a sticky splodge on his shirt!!

  • Alison Perry

    May 22, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    Yes! Totally agree. Anyway, I’m far too busy being a mum to have any me time 😉

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