At a company where I once worked, I relied on a signature emoji: 🌹. I’d pepper it throughout Slack channels and text messages to coworkers, often substituting it for a formal approval on an article or caption. (The rose, of course, was a reference to my now-extinct love for The Bachelor franchise.) For a time, I used the bunny emoji 🐰 every day, as a reference to my daughter’s nickname. In good times, the sunshine emoji ☀️ dots my text messages. These days, I find myself relying most often on the eye-roll emoji 🙄, because that’s how far my psychic state has sunk in the pandemic. Gen Z makes fun of Millennials like me for the ubiquity of our laughing-crying emoji 😂, but I think it’s being steadily replaced with a creative and varied selection.
I recently asked my parent-friends what their most frequently used emojis were, and they answered quickly and with great gusto. One friend said she uses the cold sweat emoji 😅 most. Emojipedia says it’s frequently used to connote a “close call,” which makes sense, given all the ways we’re likely to screw up in one day. Another friend said she uses the clenched-teeth emoji 😬, followed by the nauseated emoji 🤢 because, “My family has kind of a sick sense of humor.” A nurse I know uses the sleeping zzz’s 💤 often, but it’s likely just as prevalent among new parents, expressing their longing for the much-alluded sleep. About her love of the skull emoji 💀, one friend demanded, “What does this say about me??”
There may be some who’ll say, “It’s not that deep.” But I say that if emojis can be a substitute for language, at least in texting, why should we not investigate what they mean for the individual’s personality and state of being? There are days when I have no words left, and an upside-down smiley 🙃 is all you’ll get from me. And that means something too. Language without words. So forget Myers-Briggs tests and Enneagrams. Definitely forget about horoscopes. Emoji personality testing is where it’s at.
Below, a totally serious and science-backed study of what your most common emoji says about you as a parent.
😂: The Self-Deprecating Millennial
This side-part-sporting parent is the good-natured, self-proclaimed “hot mess” who may forget their kid’s lunch but will always be there with a “I hear ya, girl” when the shit hits the fan. The laughing-crying emoji isn’t really indicative of their humor, which aged out in the ’90s, but serves as a symbol of their harmlessness. They don’t want to offend. “Haha! I’m good-natured!” they insist. And at the end of the day, they may be basic, but they are the friends who will have your back.
🤣: The Marginally Cooler Millennial
This emoji is the laughing-crying emoji’s edgier younger sister. It’s not just crying with laughter, it’s crying and rolling on the floor in laughter. Expect this parent to be very satisfied with their own jokes.
💩: The Potty-Humor Parent
This parent likely has a big family, or some pets running around, and is used to frequent references to feces. Their disgust tolerance is off the charts, and they do not bat an eye when icky-squicky things happen. For all their comfort with bodily functions, this parent is more likely to hand you a lukewarm PBR than ask you about your recent promotion. Theirs is the party house, where anything goes. And if you commit a low-level petty crime and need an accomplice? They’ll be right there, with their wild-eyed kids in tow.
🥰: The Suzy Sunshine
This parent is literally haloed in love. They’re the first in line with handmade teacher appreciation gifts and heartfelt birthday cards. They not only bring snacks for their progeny, they bring extras for anyone who may have forgot (looking at you, 💩 parent). Suzy Sunshine is happy-go-lucky and full of energy on the surface, but make no mistake, if you treat her badly, she can flip on a dime to a mopey martyr. Which brings us to:
🥲: The Sacrificial Parent
This parent is trying really, really hard to see the glass as half-full, but life can sometimes be a drag. Imagine them blinking bravely through tears as their kid tells them that, no, you cannot come with me to my first high school class. They like scrapbooking and will sometimes weep while scrolling their phone for baby pictures. Though morose in spirit, this parent ultimately enjoys being around others, as the Eeyores need the Tiggers of the world.
😘: The Lovebug Parent with Questionable Boundaries
This parent calls everyone “honey” and “sweetie” and spends most of their time chasing their partner and kids around for just one more hug. An effusive citizen of the world, the Lovebug will often be the first to coo over a child with a scraped knee, or a friend whose divorce has turned messy. But like real lovebugs, they will flit around, never landing in one place for long. Scattered and enthusiastic, the Lovebugs are a light in the world, even if they do tend to hug too tightly and often.
💅: The Relentlessly Put Together Parent
They carry Louis Vuitton and wear shiny white sneakers, even on a field trip to the damn farm. They drive detailed cars, and have schedules tighter than their Pilates-given buttcheeks. But this is the parent you can count on. PTA event falling apart? This parent will whip everyone into shape, barking out orders with a perfectly lipsticked mouth. Partner cheating on you with their secretary? This parent has a revenge plan that leaves you scot-free. Formidable and polished, the RPTP is someone you really need to keep on your good side.
👀: The Parent Who Loves Gossip
If you’re ever bored at a party, you need to find this parent. They’ll likely be huddled in a corner, whispering frantically about some hot tea they’ve just discovered. They’re the ones who have an eyebrow permanently raised, knowing exactly the ins and outs of all the movers and shakers in the neighborhood. If you share something with them, they promise resolutely not to tell a soul … but somehow, the information leaks, because PWLG can’t help themselves. Some gossip is too tasty to be enjoyed alone.
🙄: The Judgy One
Hey, that’s me! This person is likely a writer with a chip on her shoulder and a keen if unrealistic standard for how others should behave. She embodies snark, and though often astute, can also quickly veer into the annoying-and-paranoid territory. You never know what this one may be thinking; behind that careful expression may rest a whole host of observations that you are not prepared to hear.
😵💫: The Too-Busy Parent
These parents, often of multiples, are juggling many things in their lives. They may not have taken out the trash in a week, and their hair may not have been cut since the pandemic began, but they are the biggest hustlers you’ll ever meet. From carpooling their kids (and their kids’ friends) all over the place, to managing their work deadlines and sneaking in a quickie with their partner during naptime, the TBP is somehow always breathless, yet they exude power and possibility. But sometimes, you want to gently lead them to a fainting couch and force them to kick up their feet, because if anyone deserves a rest, it’s them.
👍: The Brusque and Slightly Terrifying Parent
This parent has no time for your nonsense. Long-winded proclamations of friendship, deathless confessions, a spiraling and funny story — they’re all met with the same response: 👍. It doesn’t mean that this parent is unkind, necessarily, only that they are inscrutable and efficient. They are the ones who usher their children in a row, like Captain von Trapp with his infuriating little whistle, inspiring a faint yet healthy sense of fear in everyone they meet. They wear pantsuits with sneakers underneath and carry a taser in their purse. If you’re communicating with them, keep it quick and to-the-point.
💀: The Parent Who Has Had It
This parent needs a vacation. Their most frequently used emoji is a peek into a grim landscape that is full of too many pressures and juice boxes. They may struggle with road rage, or the urge to throw a hacky sack at their unhelpful spouse’s retreating back. Their anger has transcended the rage emoji 😡 and even the profane rage emoji 🤬, which means that it is crucial to step in. What you need to do is convince them to drop the kids off with a partner or parent, and hightail it to the nearest Holiday Inn for a good night’s (week’s?) sleep. The world will thank you for it.
🍆: The Dad
That’s it. If this is your most frequently used emoji, you’re a dad.
Thao Thai is a writer and editor based out of Ohio, where she lives with her husband and daughter. Her work has been published in Kitchn, Eater, Cubby, The Everymom, cupcakes and cashmere, and other publications. Her debut novel, Banyan Moon, comes out in 2023 from HarperCollins.