Dear Friends, Stop Calling Me Your Jewish Mom

Dear friends,

You know how much I love you all. I really do. And I know that you try to return that love by calling me what you consider an endearing nickname: your Jewish mom.

Now, I get it. I do. Every friend group has the “mom,” the protective mama bear who looks out for the squad. Inevitably, there’s going to be at least one responsible woman to keep an eye on the rest.

But I’ve got to be honest: There’s something about being your Jewish mother that rubs me the wrong way, especially if you aren’t Jewish or don’t have a Jewish mom yourself.

Because we all know the stereotypes about the overbearing Jewish mother. She’s loud and asks too many intrusive questions. She’s bossy and demanding. She’s the master of the guilt trip. She will cook for you, make you eat seconds and thirds, then comment on your weight, even though she’s perhaps a little frumpy herself. And she’s a nervous wreck.

As a 21-year-old who very much is not ready for motherhood, and isn’t too keen on this portrayal, I don’t love this.

While the nickname may be meant as a sincere compliment, I can’t help but feel that it’s more than a little backhanded. It sets up a dynamic between us where I am now responsible for you and must keep track of you when we go out. I now must keep track of your emotional well-being.

And these are things I am happy to do as your friend who loves you.

But “mother” implies that it’s a one-way street. By labeling me as mature and responsible (and all the other stereotypes), you’ve subtly solidified your role as a helpless child. But, friend, we’re the same age. We are dealing with the same dramas and the same heartbreaks.

So yes, I may be a little more mature, or have a little more forethought about the consequences of my actions. Maybe I held your hair after a night out. Maybe I carried an umbrella when it rained. Maybe I give good advice. But that’s called being a good friend and (my attempt at) being an adult.

This stereotype is insulting for Jewish women who are mothers and insulting for any woman you think fits this stereotype. Might I remind you that Jewish women are strong as hell and put up with both anti-Semitism and sexism on the regular. We also are not a homogenous group, and if there’s anything to learn from the many issues in our society today, it’s that these harmful generalizations really need to end.

And let me tell you something about my Jewish mom: She is one of the strongest, hardest working women I’ve met. Does she worry about me? Yep. Does she kvell and kvetch like a champ? You betcha. Doesn’t every mother do that in her own way? You got it.

I’ll also add that being called a “Jewish mother” by you male friends is even worse, as it adds an additional dynamic that as a mother, you have desexualized me and made me essentially your servant who must be ready at your beck and call. It also enforces an ugly stereotype about Jewish men being “mama’s boys,” incapable of taking care of themselves. As a woman, this doesn’t fly with me.

So, friends, if you love me, please stop calling me your Jewish mother.

Sincerely,

Your Jewish friend

Steph Black

Steph Black (she/her) is a feminist, activist, and writer based in Washington, D.C. She writes about abortion access, Judaism, and for her newsletter The Repro Queen of DC. Any typos in her writing can be attributed to her cat, Goose, walking across her keyboard.

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