SURVEY SAYS: What’s Your Favorite Mommy-ism?

May 5, 2011 ( - This Sunday is Mother’s Day – and Mom, by whatever name you call her, enjoys a well-deserved and very special place in most of our lives. 


“Mom” is, generally speaking, our first friend, the one who loves and takes care of us no matter what – and she’s frequently our first teacher.  Having said that, I have long been persuaded that mothers play a critical role in maintaining the continuity of the human experience – by reminding us, at often critical junctures in our lives, of the accumulated wisdom of the ages. 

This week I asked readers to share and/or vote for their favorite “Mommy-ism”. 

There were, as you might imagine some great observations:

Since my mother is smiling up in heaven, because I put her there, it’s comforting to know that I am like her – at least in the phrases I use!

What I remember to be my mother’s most frequent “mom-ism” is was “you don’t listen to the words coming out of my mouth!”.  And after raising 8 children, it could have been a lot worse!

My Mother taught me that reading is fun.  Everything else ran from there.

I can’t tell you how many times a week I have the conversation, “Mom, I left my …. right here and now I can’t find it.”  To which I say, “If you left it right there, it would still be there.”  And after a search of the usual places they leave things when they walk in the door after school, I state “I found it right where you left it.”

Growing up – my Mom totally amazed me with how she managed 4 kids & kept track of everything, worked full time , kept the house immaculate , cooked from scratch.  Now as a Mom with only 2 of my own, I’m in awe.   I work full time, my house work – no where close to hers,  cooking..  my kids favorite Mom expression would have to be what I say:  Nothing said Loving like something from my Microwave Oven..  One thing to remember they won’t be here forever – so show them love now while you can.

Just about all of these were used on me as a child, and I told myself I would never use them on my kids. But when i do correct them, then the kids say to me you sound just like grandma.  Scary isn’t it.

I never appreciated my mother so much until I became a mother myself. 

Unfortunately, mom passed away early on me and I would give anything to hear her say any of the above.  Please remember how valuable life is and tell your mom you love her and hug her for those of us who can't.

I have never heard some of these (but will be adding to my repertoire)!

As much as I hated hearing them then, most of the Mommyisms are true!  And, to top it off, I find myself using them myself!  Here's another one that confronts me every day:  "Never put off til tomorrow what you can do today."  It's an amazing driver of productivity 🙂

You never outgrow your need for Mom - I wish my Mom was still here so I could talk to her.

Still deeply missed after 20 years!

Mom didn't have many "Mommyisms" but she had one heck of an Evil Eye that spoke far louder than mere words could have.  Thankfully she is still around and I don't get the Evil Eye as much as when I was 10.

My mother has always created new names for TV shows or stores, and you just had to figure it out.  "Let's Make A Deal" was known in our house as "What's the Name of That Bet?"; and the store Bed Bath and Beyond is known as Bed and Breakfast.  She also could never remember the names of her two children:  "Henry, Gertrude, Jon, April, whatever the hell your name is, get over here!" For some reason, she always called for Henry and Gertrude first, although there were no Henrys or Gertrudes in the family or neighborhood.  But at 85 she is still going strong, and writing a book on the women's suffrage movement.  She believes it's better to laugh at things than to get upset, and that it's not worth fretting about things over which you have no control.  I always hope that I am as smart and as healthy and as busy as she is when I am that age.....

After I said that to my 7 year old, she turned to me and said, " The N and the O parts!"  She did actually survive (I have amazing self control) and we laugh about it now that she's a mom herself.

WOW, that was a trip down memory lane, I'm pretty sure my mom said ALL of those things to me, although I'm pretty sure that's less a reflection on her, because I DID end up with a son who is just like I was (so I'm told), and I have an awful lot more respect for her now!

Totally guilty of using the line about giving my son something to cry about. Whoops! Thankfully I think he hears things like "I love you big whole bunches!" a loooooooot more.

My mother always made the comment I checked above, of course, when she was made at me about something - usually a war of wills.  So, I fixed her ...I didn't have children.  She never complained, not once that she wasn't a grandmother until I was 59 years old.  At that point, I told her it was a little late to be worrying about that now!  Mother daughter relationships are so complex.  Now there's an understatement for you.

If we ever said "I don't care", she would say she didn't care either and walk away.  It really taught you to speak up and answer questions directly.  One I've told my son is "Don't burn your bridges".  She didn't say "Wherever you left it", it was always "Who wore it last?"

I was a (male) single parent. The tougher of the two jobs was being the mom part. Not the traditional (at least as I saw my parents) role but the softer-thoughtful-heartful role. Then again, I couldn't say "wait until your dad gets home." Today, I still enjoy the mather & fother day cards.


Now, I gave readers a choice of Mommy-isms, but there were some that weren’t on that list that probably should have been:

"No matter what you do, I will always love you"

"The phrases that I most often heard from my Mom were: 1) A spider will not crawl in your mouth while you are sleeping.  (Years later I was watching a National Geographic Show and found out that in fact spiders sometimes do crawl into our mouths.) 2) If you go outside with wet hair in the winter you will get pneumonia. 3) Don't meditate in front of the refrigerator.  (My brother and I even my father would stand in front of the frig with the door wide open trying to decide what looks good to eat/drink.)"

I am guessing that my own children's most-remembered "Mommyism" (from me) will be, in the immortal words of Mick Jagger, "You can't...always get...what you wa-a-a-nt".

Whenever we would really mess something up, mom would say, "well, just sh** and fall back in it."

I would add "You won't know if you don't try it" to the list of Mommyisms.  It refers to everything from broccoli to going away for college.

We were told at the dinner table that if you can keep your elbows off the table, then sit on them.  Have you ever tried to sit on your elbows?

The best advice my mom gave me:  "If you can't say anything nice, don't say it at all."  I use this everyday - I wish more people would.

You get what you pay for.

They'll never see it on a galloping horse (referring to some small flaw in the child's appearance that drives the child quite wild).

Show me who your friends are and I'll show you who you are, so true.  Who knew mom was so smart?

My oft used Mommyism, which isn't on your list, is, "Well, I'm not [his] mother, but I am yours!"

"I picked one of your choices but you missed MY favorite:  ""Wait till your father gets home!""

And then, there's always: ""I don't care WHAT <insert name>'s parents let him do.  The answer is still no."""

I also grew up with a favorite  "Grandmommyism", "the hurrier you go, the behinder you get".

It's all fun and games until somebody loses an eye. 

Better to owe you then to cheat you.

And...You'd complain if you were hung with a new rope!

mind your manners or I will knock you into next week.

Fortunately I was blessed with a great one who was understanding.  The mommyism that is not listed that she used the most was something to the effect of "just try your best and we will be proud of you" and the classic "make sure that you are wearing clean underwear in case you get in an accident".

You missed "There are starving people in Africa who would be happy to have that to eat!" to which we generally replied "Fine, get me a stamp and I'll mail it to them." Very respectful household we had.

MY favorite saying to my son is "if you'd quit complaining about it and just do it - you'd be done by now!"  He hates it....but I LOVE it!!

You did not list "always wear clean underwear -- you never know when you will be in an accident", my favorite.

My Mom's favorite saying was that "When God closes a door, he opens a window." When doors have been slammed in my face in life, I can hear my Mom saying that.  It's helped me through some bad times in life, and looking back, it's been a fairly accurate forecast for what was to come.

My grandmothers:  Never pass up a chance to pee.

"When you grow up, I'm coming to your house and messing your stuff up"

Another one that was missing from above... ""When I was your age...."" (complete it with.."" I walked 6 miles to school... we didn't have ice cream...I only got one Christmas present....I had to share my clothes with my sister...I never got new shoes...etc. etc."""

Mom's favorite "Mommyism" had to be, "Maybe you'd like to spend an hour or so alone in your room to think about the wisdom of what you said (or did)."  Low key but very effective.

"Ask your father." (That was usually a delay tactic, which all of us worked to our advantage......) 

You left out, "Because I said so, that's why."

Where was "Wait until your Father comes home" and my favorite "I wish you were more like your brother".

You missed the most famous one of all time - "wait til your father gets home"

As for my favorite comments:

My favorite: "Familiarity breeds contempt." Usually said with reference to a girlfriend if she thought we were getting too close. Problem was, I never really understood at the time the point she was trying to make. In my view, the "familiarity" was breeding anything but contempt.

My Mum used to say "If you do not behave, I am going to press my belly button and send you back where you came from"!  I was terrified of her belly button until I was about 9 years old!  Of course, I then went right ahead and used it on my children....

Mom rocks and is a rock!

"Regarding the ""close the door, were you born in a barn"" comment, I recall when my mom used to get mad at us for looking in the fridge for stuff and ask, ""Are you trying to cool the whole house???""  When I took physics and learned that heat flows from warm to cold, I realized we weren't trying to cool the house but actually HEAT the refrigerator!  I thought I would be mister smarty pants and tell that to mom one day.  Needless to say she was not amused, and I learned that even when they are wrong, moms are still right.

Mom had a great sense of humor... My favorite line from my mom was "It's better to be a smart ass than a dumb ass."

But this week’s Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said; “In reference to my curfew, mom always said “nothing good ever happens after midnight’!  Looking back, I think she was right…again!”

Now, as for reader rankings....



On “my” list – but failing to garner much “popular” support were:

“He won't buy the cow if he can get the milk for free!”

“You'd complain if our ice cream was cold.”         

"I've forgotten more than you'll ever know."



The next tier got a modest amount of support, but failed to crack the “top 10”:

"If it was a snake, it would've bit ya."       

“Don't look at me in that tone of voice!”

“You'll get nothing and like it!”      

"You're not the only turtle in this tank."

"If you make your bed the whole room looks cleaner".     



Then there were those that were in the top 10, but the bottom 5 of same (allowing for a three-way tie):

6.9% - “If everybody jumped off a bridge, I suppose you would too?”         

6.0% - “Close that door; were you born in a barn?”          

5.2% -  “What is it about the word ‘no’ that you don't understand?”

4.3% - “I brought you into this world, and I can take you out of it.” 

4.3% - "Quit making faces or your face will freeze like that permanently."  

4.3% - "Two wrongs don't make a right."  

As for "our" top five...




#5:  "Who ever told you life was fair?” (7.8%)





#4:  “Wherever you left it" (as the response to the question where's my ?????) (9.5%) 






#3: “I'll give you something to cry about!” (10.3%)  





#2: “When you grow up I hope you have a child just like you!” (11.2%)  


 ...and the most popular "Mommy-ism" was...         




 #1:  "Because I said so, that's why." (21.6%)   

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey – and all the mothers out there who have, over the years, in a VERY special way, “contributed” to our lives – and to this particular survey!