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Your Guide To the Best Momisms All Moms Use

To the Mom Who Feels Like It Never Ends

“When you’re a parent, you’ll understand.”

How many of us heard these words from our mothers on one or more occasions growing up? If you’re anything like me, you heard these words quite frequently. And if you’re also anything like me, you swore you’d never say anything that ridiculous to your children because, quite frankly, it was never clear exactly what you were supposed to understand.

Moms have their own special language, passed down from their mothers and their grandmothers before them. It’s like a secret code, and you can only decipher it once you become a mom yourself.

I know this, because I am now a parent, and all of a sudden, I magically understand.

As I uttered those very same words to my oldest daughter the other day (you know, the words I swore I would never use), it got me thinking about all of the other phrases my mom always used to say that I now regularly recite as a parent.

And let me tell you, I have all of these phrases in a handy-dandy Rolodex for easy access. They are frequently on repeat, which has made me realize I have officially mastered the language of “Mom-ese” (trust me, it’s a thing), and I want to help you master it, too.

So, I’ve put together this list of 10 common momisms, good for confusing the heck out of your children (and also for the occasional game of Charades!).

1. I brought you into this world, I can take you out!

As a child, I always wondered what “take you out” meant. Was my mom (a.) inviting me on a mother/daughter date? Were we going for (b.) a drive in the country? Was she (c.) a hit-woman for the mob? Now that I’m the mom, I can say for certain it’s D – my children better be prepared for a firestorm.

2. Shut the door! You weren’t born in a barn!

This is a reference to the wild animals children can sometimes (a lot of times) be. It is a directive to be more civilized, and also, to shut a door that has been left wide open.

3. If I have to come in there, heads will roll!

A close cousin to, “you’re cruisin’ for a bruisin’,” this phrase is commonly used when children are going at each other and a mother is at the point where she would rather call in the Jets and the Sharks to take care of business rather than break up one more fight.

4. Hold your horses!

Simply put, be patient. Also, grab on to the closest stationary object, as I’m about to take this turn at 50MPH!

5. If everyone jumped off a bridge/cliff, would you do it, too?

This is the quintessential mom response when a child insists that “everyone” is doing “something,” and said child also wants to participate, much to your chagrin. It can also be used on a spouse.

6. What in tarnation is going on?

When 21st century “momming” doesn’t do, sometimes you have to resort to a Yosemite Sam approach. “Tarnation” is a flexible word that can be a noun or exclamation, and absolutely must be uttered in a Southern drawl (a 10-gallon hat and cowboy boots are optional but make nice additions if you’re going for the embarrassment factor).

7. Don’t make me pull this car over!

This veiled threat can mean any number of punishments, but is most effectively used when you’re driving. It is often used in conjunction with, “don’t make me get your father,” which has never solved anything, ever, because fathers always seem to throw it right back at us with, “do what your mom says.”

8. Don’t do anything stupid.

Commonly used when your children are teenagers, this phrase leaves the door wide open for those teenagers to interpret the word “stupid” at will. You will inevitably hear them say, “I didn’t think it was stupid,” when you have to take them to the pastor’s house to clean up toilet paper yard art, to which you will reply, “That’s just it: you weren’t thinking.”

9. You make a better door than a window.

This phrase must be used anytime your children are hindering your view of the television/computer screen/dance recital/school play/insert anything else here that you always want to watch unobstructed but never can, because, let’s face it, moms never get to watch anything in its entirety. I’ve also heard this phrase occasionally mentioned by construction foremen when dealing with inept contractors.

10. Because I said so.

The motherload of mom phrases. Use these words when (a.) you don’t know what else to say; (b.) you don’t have an actual answer to something your child has asked; (c.) your child insists on being right; and/or (d.) you have already explained something a million times and are ready to go full Van Gogh on your ears. Then, pour yourself your beverage of choice and walk silently to your bedroom (careful not to make eye contact with your child), lock the door, take a big gulp, then say a silent prayer thanking God for your precious offspring while simultaneously questioning your decision to bring said offspring into the world.

Bonus phrase: I’m going to count to three…

OK, we all know moms are going to count every single eighth of a second, saying “Mississippi” extremely slowly in between each number, until we eventually give up and again move on to, “Don’t make me get your father.”

I hope you find these definitions of common momisms helpful as you walk the journey of motherhood. It can be overwhelming when faced with a parenting situation and you don’t know which mom phrase to use that would have the most effect.

If you find yourself already saying several of these phrases, then congratulations! You are well on your way to becoming an expert in Mom-ese. If you find yourself questioning motherhood entirely because you cannot imagine ever uttering any of these phrases to other human beings, don’t worry. It’s perfectly normal. One day, when you’re a parent, you’ll understand.

You’ll love this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: A Well Loved Grit and Grace Life With Heather Brown – 151


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Amber is currently a full-time wife and mom, whose past careers include journalism and bank management. When she isn't neck-deep in room-mom duties or laundry, she can be found in the driver's seat of her minivan chauffeuring her four girls to gymnastics and soccer. Grief warrior, football fanatic, collector of lip gloss, wannabe health nut, humor addict, completer of bucket lists, and drinker of coffee... music is her love language. Her three guinea pigs, two cats, and one dog think she walks on water.

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