My kid's been down the slide 312 times this morning. So much energy! #boymom
A photo of dinner on the floor. #boymom #pizzadelivery
A photo of a kid suspended from the stair railing. #turnedmybackforonesecond #boymom
I get why parents tweet messages like these. I get why they need to tell people that their kids are climbing the fridge or picking up snakes or running down the street. They're exhausted. They're bewildered. They want to know they're not alone, that they're not bad moms. If I was remotely skilled at maintaining a social media presence, I'd be tweeting about these things too.
But I hate #boymom.
I'll concede that "your penis is not a lightsaber" and pictorial directions for peeing in the toilet are both hilarious and perfectly suited to a #boymom. But I fail to see how sliding at a playground, dropping food on the floor, or climbing to dangerous heights are limited to boys. I hate the expectation that boys are more energetic, careless, and adventurous than girls. I hate that "boy" is synonymous with blue, trucks, dinosaurs, and outer space. I hate that boys dressed in pink playing in pretend kitchens are considered subversive, because to honor those boys for doing a "girly" thing is really just as reductive as limiting them to trucks. In either case, we're just reinforcing the pink and blue boundaries we've set for our children.
But that's not even the biggest problem of #boymom. The biggest problem is that it's thoroughly average. The boys these moms describe are picture frame fillers. They're generic kids doing generic kid things, like:
Playing a sport
Enjoying a sunny day
Riding a roller coaster
Climbing a tree
Refusing to wash dishes
Refusing to wear clothes
Refusing to refill the toilet paper
Refusing to eat that
Exclaiming about bodily functions
Finishing a school year
Bleeding and fascinated
Begging for a pet
Stalling before bedtime
When I first looked at these tweets, I was sad, bordering on angry, on behalf of girls. The hashtag seems a weirdly aggressive way of marking energetic, curious, childhood exploration as the territory of boys. Why on earth is playing outside unique to boys? Are girls not allowed to paint? Do girls not also finish the school year? Girls can be jerks and make messes too, right? None of these things are unique to being either a boy or a #boymom.
I'm also sad, bordering on angry, on behalf of boys. In "How to Raise a Feminist Son," Claire Cain Miller argues that "We’re now more likely to tell our daughters they can be anything they want to be — an astronaut and a mother, a tomboy and a girlie girl. But we don’t do the same for our sons." Aside from the very rare tweet about male cheerleading or an instagram of a pink-shirted boy, #boymom offers a fairly gender-limited view of boyhood.
I'm most sad and most angry on behalf of moms. Here's a sampling of how #boymoms are describing themselves:
A mom lamenting that her kid is growing
A mom disgusted by poop in the bath
A mom happy watching her kids holding each other
A mom being followed into the bathroom
A mom sad to leave her kids at daycare for the first time
A mom frustrated to be woken up early on the weekend
A mom drinking while pushing a stroller
A mom struggling to squeeze in workouts
A mom scared about a sick child
A mom drinking coffee because her kids tired her out
A mom unable to take a normal family photo
These examples don't seem limited to mothers of boys. What mom hasn't paced the floors with a sick child? What mom hasn't had to clean poop off of a bathtub or floor? What mom hasn't been interrupted while using the bathroom? What mom hasn't longed for a stroller cupholder after being woken up early on the weekend? What parent hasn't done these things?
I understand that not all parents view sex and gender as separate constructs, and that's fine. There are plenty of places for reasonable people to disagree about our biological and cultural differences. But why on earth do we need to use gender as wedge between parents? Instead of identifying ourselves as #boymoms or #girlmoms, why not just moms? For that matter, why not just parents?