I’m a baffled wife, a bemused mother and a bewitched immigrant to Austin, Texas. I grew up in Zimbabwe, studied in South Africa, moved to London, and was then tricked into moving to Texas. I make fun of my family and myself on my blog, Spoiled Fruits Of Empire.
I moved to the US from England three years ago. Shortly after, I became somebody’s mother. I tell you, becoming a mom is challenging enough, but becoming a mom in a foreign land is Confusion ².
It’s like that lucid dream state just before you wake up, where strange things happen but you’re too asleep to figure them out.
Most mystifying in this dreamscape of immigrant mom-ness are the euphemisms surrounding parenthood. I know we’re supposed to lie a little about motherhood, but these ones just make me feel queasy:
1. We’re trying
When Americans announce, “We’re trying!”, they’ve just invited me to imagine them in the sack. Not in a Hollywood way, but in a sweaty, earnest way, as when you try to twist the lid off a jar of jelly and you grimace like something hurts. The phrase implies that they’re ready for a family, but in reality, they’ve conjured a grimy image of them having sex. Um, thanks.
2. We’re pregnant
Eventually, their efforts pay off and one day, the man announces, “We’re pregnant!”. “No, you are not!” I want to bark, “She’s pregnant and you feel smug as a stag.” I’d like to add: “As for you, my fine fertile friend, you may think that pregnancy can be shared like pizza, but I assure you: during the next nine months, you will be doing all the work on your own.”
Just before the birth, the couple take a babymoon. I’m sure this word was invented by pregnancy websites to fill space in the last trimester where nothing happens except that you grow large. The word suggests the soft-focused joy of young lovers on honeymoon, but the implication is that, after the birth, you’ll never have fun again. Ever.
Which leads to the next unpleasant word in the American mother’s lexicon: staycation. As in: “We decided to skip the Bahamas this year and to have a staycation instead.” The word suggest the righteous satisfaction of painting your gutters all summer, but the implication is that, once you’re a parent, traveling further than the Home Depot is no longer pleasurable. This is, in fact, true.
Soon, your friend realizes the mutual benefits of toddlers fighting over a dump truck. She invites you over for a playdate. You arduously compare calendars till you find 60 minutes that don’t clash with nap times, doctor’s appointments, and story time at the library. Then the date is set, in concrete. The word ‘playdate’ suggests the joyful union of adults and kids having fun, yet the implication is that, in order to socialize your child, you must gridlock your calendar for the rest of your mothering days.
6. Date night
Speaking of contrived, the term ‘date night’ also creeps into the domestic sphere the instant you have a child. You set a date in concrete to go out with your spouse and laugh and be in love, blah blah. This term suggests the healthy, mindful marriage where you make time for one another. Yet the implication is that, like the hollowness of International Women’s Day, anything not a ‘date night’ is the business-as-usual grind of the unloved, unshowered workhorse that you are.
Reader, I understand that the function of a euphemism is to so garnish an unpalatable truth so that you might devour it without being sick. Yet it’s not the truths about pregnancy and motherhood that make me queasy, but the delicate lies used to disguise them.
Is that just me? What euphemisms about motherhood make you feel a little bit dead inside?