no word yet exists

We Need A New Word To Describe New Mothers

This woman, this state of parenting… Well, there is no word for it. That’s why I’m making it up.

by Melissa Sher
Originally Published: 
New mother playing with her crying baby

An Open Letter to the Editors of the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary: I read that you recently added a bunch of new words — 150 of them! — to your dictionary. 150 words! That’s a lot of words. That’s a crapload of words. That’s more words than some teenage boys use in an entire day. And two of the 150 words that you added were “selfie” and “tweep.”

Selfie? Tweep?

I thought, perhaps, you misspelled “twerp.” But, you had not. You’re the dictionary people and, evidently, you’re excellent spellers.

And “selfie?” Really? You added a word that – I assume – originated with Kim Kardashian or one of her sisters? Do we really need the words “selfie” and “tweep” in the dictionary? Those don’t even sound like words. Tweep sounds like the sound a Kardashian makes when she sneezes.

You know what word you do need? Do you know what word I am begging you to include? You need a new word for a new mom. Please! It’s time! New mothers have been around way longer than “tweep,” “selfie,” and even the Kardashians.

New mothers have been around almost forever. We need a word of our own. And I’m calling that word “neomama.”

A “neomama” is my word for a new mom. It’s a word to describe being a first-time, clueless new parent who doesn’t know what she’s doing and doesn’t yet have maternal instinct (but thinks she’s supposed to). She is scared of making a mistake. She is terrified of it. And she is tired. She is horribly, disgustingly, jaw-droppingly tired.

This woman, this state of parenting… Well, there is no word for it. That’s why I’m making it up. And I’d really love it if you could add it to your big book.

Because I believe a new mother needs a word that differentiates her from the mother of a toddler, a preschooler, or a teenager. There is also a world of difference between a first-time mother and a seasoned mom who just had baby number two or baby number three or — depending on what reality shows you watch — baby number 23.

If you’re going to try to defend yourselves and tell me that the dictionary has an entire “mother” category in it, don’t bother. I’ve seen it. “Den mother.” “Earth mother.” “Motherland.” Motherboard.” “Motherf#$er.”

I couldn’t believe that one. You have “motherf#$%er” in the motherf#$%ing dictionary! That one shocked me! But that’s what you have. And no, those don’t cover it. You have no word for a new mother.

If you need more evidence, I would like to tell you a little bit about the first morning I spent at home alone with my first baby. He was probably about six days old. My parents were gone. My in-laws were gone. My husband was gone. There was no one around to ask about potentially infected umbilical cords, weird-looking poops or strange soft spots.

The big event on my first real day on the job was what should have been a nice, relaxing walk around the block. I had bought a sling that came with its own instructional DVD. But not long after I left the apartment, I decided that the fabric from the sling was smothering my son’s face and that he probably couldn’t breathe. So I took him out and just started carrying him in my arms. Of course, a woman walking down the street holding a newborn, wearing an empty sling is going to attract attention. An older lady stopped me. “Oh. How adorable! What’s his name?”

“What’s his name?”

His name.

What was his name?

I blanked.

Now in my defense, the kid and I had only met earlier that week. My husband and I had just named him. The name was still so new!

After a couple of seconds — one second, two seconds — the name came to me. But do you know what a “neomama” I felt like? (See, how nicely the word works there?)

It took a long time. Weeks. Months. I honestly don’t remember how long or when or even how. But, over time, I became more and more comfortable with my new role. Until one magical, yet unremarkable day, I shed my “neomama” status and became, simply, a mom.

And “mom?” I’m happy to say that one’s already in the dictionary.

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