Sweary Mommy (#369)

It might shock some of you long-time readers to know that I did not actually swear in my youth. (Yes, I have been making up for lost time. Also, smart people are the sweariest.)

Pretentious white Anglo Saxon protestant families like my own don’t do anything that draws attention in public (très gauche!). And while my mom thought of herself as a liberated woman, she was also a recovering debutante. Losing your temper in public was unacceptable, especially if you were a girl. Swearing? Beyond the pale.

I also always had a bunch of baby siblings around. My father—master of emotional deregulation—averaged at least one profane eruption at the washing machine or vacuum cleaner a week. But if the elevator in Barbie’s Dreamhouse malfunctioned and a squeaky little soprano sang out, “Get your shit together, you goddamned sonuvabitch!” it was us tweens and teens who got smacked.

In college, my roommate was a Southern Baptist, which meant I self-censored for several more years.

Once I was in grad school and then working in the entertainment industry, I was free to indulge in all the swears. And I did. And it was fucking glorious.

And then I had a kid.

Damn it.

I mean, darn it. Or drat. Or some other very unsatisfying word.

Even though I don’t have a problem with cussing, plenty of other moms do.

Child scowling, but at least not swearing

Plus, I had a kid with the Ashbough temper who talked early. Baby D might be super popular with other kids if he shot out swear words like Nerf bullets, but he definitely wouldn’t be deemed playmate material by the moms. And my exhausting, super social child needed All The Playdates.

So I dug out phrases from my years as an English major. I borrowed words from or Baby D’s show “Thomas the Tank Engine.” I went from being “pissed” to being “cross.” When a pet misbehaved, they were dubbed a “foul beast” or a “wretched creature.” (My husband had it easier. He’d learned very bad Cantonese words when he was younger and muttered a lot of those. No one else in our house could replicate the tones.)

I don’t think I realized how much Shakespeare had permeated my son’s vocabulary until the day Baby D waved his hand imperiously and said, “Let’s away, Mother.”

There was still some swearing, but I thought I’d kept it to a minimum, either under my breath or only letting loose when the kid wasn’t around. I was proud of my sweary self.

Until the day when we were starting a long road trip and the DVR in the car stopped working. I wanted to swear, of course, as I pulled the car over. I did not.

And neither did my husband.

But as I dashed around the car and climbed into the back seat, three-year-old Baby D shook his head and said,

“Jesus fucking Christ.”


(Author’s Note: Just saw the post below on social media and am wondering why the hell I moderated my language for so many years.)


Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

28 thoughts on “Sweary Mommy (#369)”

  1. I grew up like you did. No swearing, no displays of anger, no inclination to swear because no women around me did. I also had a few college roommates who never uttered unkind words, except “bless your heart.” I don’t know exactly when I started swearing. I just do now.

    One of my favorite IG accounts is pagesbyleanne and from her I learned that: “studies have shown that intelligent people swear more than stupid motherfuckers.”

    1. There was a lot of swearing in the entertainment industry, especially by the white male bosses. And when I worked in international sales and acquisitions, I learned a lot of British and Australian swear words, too (though I don’t use them). I think the ones I use most are the ones I got from my dad. Even if I didn’t use them for decades. (Baby D is clearly doomed to a potty mouth.)

  2. I haven’t been able to stop swearing in front of my kids – I’m only human, after all, and never said I was perfect! (Though vwry close!) And so it finally happened, last week a preschool teacher remarked that my son was swearing. I acted of course completely innocent!

    1. LOL, undoubtedly your children learned those words form someone else. Like their dad! Or a classmate. Certainly my kid picked up my favorite string of curse words from someone besides me!

  3. I can’t remember when I started swearing but being an expat Brit I tried to limit myself to Brit words when the kids were younger — like shouting “sod it!” or calling idiot drivers pillocks, wazzocks, and sodding plonkers. Which was fine until the kids cottoned on to the idea they could use such words with their teachers and “get away with it” — I had to point out that if the teachers read a lot of Brit fic or watched Brit TV, they’d get detention just the same. Great relief when they became teenagers and I didn’t have to bite my tongue anymore — but now there’s a seven-year old granddaughter around and I have to be careful all over again. Sigh.

    1. I have been known to say “bloody hell” (and a worse “b” word that I am attempting to remove from my vocabulary) which generally doesn’t upset Americans–unless they think you are being pretentious. My son and husband both started saying “Oi!” after watching Catherine Tate in “Dr. Who.” As my son is getting older, I’m watching my mouth less and am not entirely sure that’s a good thing. But he hasn’t been tossed from a soccer game yet?

  4. My upbringing was a lot like yours. My grandmother got the vapors if I dared hang underwear on the front of the clothesline where (gasp!) someone might see them. Swearing would have caused a coronary. My mother actually cried the first time she heard me say, “Damn.”

    I still don’t swear much.

  5. My parents were very ambivalent over swearing. They didn’t encourage it, of course, but if seven-year-old Mark let a “shit” or two fly, they never even flinched.

    Whole other story with the word “fuck.” To this day, my mom still cringes whenever she hears it.

    Your dad kinda sounds like The Old Man in “A Christmas Story.”

  6. My parents swore, but back in those days, swearing was pretty mild. The one word my dad didn’t like was “shit.” He took its actual meaning too seriously. For most of my life, I didn’t have the inclination to swear. I think it wasn’t too common around the people I knew. I swear more now. The Ukrainians I follow on X are a good example. They have a lot to swear about.

    1. The Ukrainians definitely have plenty to swear about. It’s interesting how people really hate certain swear words. My old roommate hate the “f” word most of all, even though she was super religious and it had nothing to do with taking the Lord’s name in vain.

  7. My mother didn’t swear except at the sewing machine where she could talk like a sailor. I didn’t swear around her for most of my life. I called someone a “twit” and got a hairy eyeball for that. However…when I was the VP-Human Resources, I could swear like the rest of them. Our exec team couldn’t complete a sentence without a swear word in it. We didn’t do that in front of employees but call a meeting of execs and you’d hear some interesting language. Now I’m retired. I don’t swear in front of my cats but my mahjongg group could be a bunch of sailors.

  8. I tried commenting a second ago and I’m not sure if the comment went through or not and now I can’t decide if I should repeat what I’ve already said. Fucking WordPress!

    1. I hate it when that happens! I tried to find your previous comment in spam or under “pending,” but no luck. WP really does suck.

      Probably it was the most insightful comment in the history of blogdom. WP has much to answer for.

  9. I don’t think the previous comment got submitted – I received a mysterious error message. It wasn’t very interesting anyway.

  10. Wow! Where did Baby D learn it from if you two were being so careful? I guess he heard anyway? Haha.

    I swear so much in front of my daughter. I guess I just assume she won’t pick it up until she’s 2+, but maybe she’ll mutter this phrase as a first word and give me a nice surprise.

    I grew up Irish-Catholic and my dad didn’t even like it when I said “crap.” In college I rebelled by becoming an absolute foul mouthed college student. By the mid-twenties, me and my dad were swearing together.

    1. Oh, he totally heard me. That is my go to phrase when something goes very wrong and I know it’s going to take time and effort to fix. And, like you, I swore more when he was younger, but then I guess he retained it! So let that serve as a warning, LOL. Yeah, I probably swear more than my dad now when we talk on the phone!

  11. I have become that foul-mouthed old woman – and my mother complains. Himself commented recently that since I’ve been cutting back on contact with her, I’ve been swearing way less.

    I am having to moderate my language around the grandbugs, as unfortunately one of my favourite adjectives is deeply inappropriate for small people. I am a work in progress, and my daughter is a saint – both because she puts up with me, and because not a swear word passes her lips.

  12. We tried to imitate mother’s Chinese curse words. She told us to stop. So she gets to curse when we don’t understand the meaning at times. It’s not that often. But the sheot, MF stuff.

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