Why This Mom Says It’s OK to Swear In Front of Your Kids

Perhaps the question shouldn't be how not to swear in front of children, but what to do when it inevitably happens.

Is-It-Okay-To-Swear-in-Front-of-Your-Kids--One-Mom-Says,-'!@#$-Yes!-668678758-Irina-LevitskayaIrina Levitskaya/shutterstockMid-day calls from my kids’ teachers are pretty much never a good thing. In all my years of being a mom to four kids, I’ve had a teacher call me exactly once to tell me my child did something awesome—every other time it’s because someone puked, wet their pants, or lied about doing their homework. Then there was the one memorable morning I got a call from my son’s preschool teacher that my sweet, innocent four-year-old was running around the room dropping F- bombs like his early reader book was Urban Dictionary.

Of course, I knew exactly where he’d gotten his colorful language from: Me.

That morning I’d been bent over, tying his shoelaces, when his older brother threw open the door to the garage, nailing me right between the eyes with the metal doorknob. I saw stars (yes, like actual sparkly stars) and, in a fit of blinding pain, yelled some choice words. “Oh g*dd*mnmotherf*ckingsh*tonacracker!” At least I’m… creative? I knew as soon as I saw my boys’ little faces that they had discovered a new favorite word. And sure enough, my preschooler started chanting the worst part of it, over and over, as I drove him to school, bruise blossoming across my nose. I begged him not to say it at school but he’d realized that word had power and sweetly chirped “motherf*cker” as he hopped out of the car. I shouldn’t have been surprised when his teacher called. (By the way, this is what parents of young children desperately want you to know.)

Like most moms I try not to swear in front of my kids and, like most moms, I fail on occasion. Obviously. So it was a relief to read a Facebook post from mom blogger Constance Hall about her potty mouth around her kids. She freely admits to cursing around her little ones although she does admit to some mixed feelings about the whole thing. For starters, she has ground rules—no swearing at someone or calling names. Rather, she says she uses it “only for emphasis,” like a “holy sh*t!!” when a breastfeeding baby clamps down painfully on her nipple. (Same, Constance, same.)

Yet that doesn’t mean she necessarily wants her kids to follow suit. She knows that by swearing around them they will in turn use the same words eventually but she says that they also know that for now “they know, mum can. We can’t.” But instead of beating herself up for not having the perfect Mary Poppins vocabulary, she says she uses it as a teaching moment to help her kids learn when it’s OK to use curse words and when it isn’t.

And the outpouring of support has been amazing. Clearly I’m not the only mom who’s found herself in this embarrassing situation and takes solace in Hall’s story. The post has been shared nearly 2,000 times and got 28,000 likes. That’s a lot of motherf*cking mamas! In the comments, moms are sharing their strategies for managing cursing along with funny stories of getting caught out in public. It’s like a giant, profane support group. And I love it. In addition to being a miraculously beautiful experience, being a mom of littles can also be frustrating, stifling, and lonely—especially when all we see on social media are perfect pictures of perfectly behaved kids held by perfectly coiffed moms. Deep down we know it’s not reality but it’s so refreshing to get confirmation.

Personally, I still don’t want my kids to curse and do my best to set a good example of how to speak kindly and appropriately. But it’s awesome to know that when I do slip up, I’m in d*mn good company!

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Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen, BS, MS, has been covering health, fitness, parenting, and culture for many major outlets, both in print and online, for 15 years. She's the author of two books, co-host of the Self Help Obsession podcast, and also does freelance editing and ghostwriting. She has appeared in television news segments for CBS, FOX, and NBC.