Mother’s Day, as you surely know, is Sunday, May 11. Let’s celebrate in our own special way: with a roundup of “Mom” and “Mother” brands. (Skip to the end if you’d rather read about the semantic shadings of “mom” vs. “mother.”)
Smile Mom is an Android and iOS app that’s “a mobile social community for moms” as well as a “social baby book” that “guides you through important milestones of your child while organizing family videos and photos.” It was launched in 2013 by the Korean software company Smile Family.
Coincidentally (or not?), “Smile, Mom” was also the name of a TV drama that aired in Korea in 2010.
Mom Meet Mom “is a Match.com for the stroller crowd,” TechCrunch reported in January 2014. As the company itself puts it: “We have created a sophisticated matching algorithm designed exclusively for Mom Meet Mom to help you find local moms with similar interests, schedules, families, and personalities.”
Momdoms—a mashup of “mom” and “condoms”—was conceived (sorry) to give parents “a clever, yet funny tool to start the sex conversation with their kids.” Fast Company reported last December that Momdoms condoms “come in tins featuring 1940s and ’50s-style women—i.e., the moms—and classic bits of mom wisdom: ‘Don't Make Me Come In There!’” Also available personalized with your own (or your mom’s picture).
You’ve heard the old advice about never eating at a place called Mom’s. (It’s not really all that old: Barry Popik tracks it back to Nelson Algren’s 1956 novel A Walk on the Wild Side.) Plenty of restaurants blithely ignore the warning. One of the newer ones: Dear Mom, a hipster-ish joint (kale tacos; a dessert called The Dude) in San Francisco’s Noe Valley.
Café Mom doesn’t serve food: it’s a virtual watering hole, established in 2006, “where moms come for conversation, advice, friendship, and entertainment.” No mom-and-pop outfit this: “We are the premier strategic marketing partner to the best brands, offering innovative custom solutions, contextually relevant media, and performance-driven targeting in order to help advertisers win with our audience.”
Save the Mom sounds like an earnest nonprofit, but—hello!—it’s another “social” website and app. Founded in 2012 and based in San Francisco, Save the Mom “was born to help modern families in their daily communication needs, trying to aggregate in one place all the information shared within a family that now are scattered among sms, phone calls, emails, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and the likes [sic].”
MomCorp owns Mom’s Friendly Robot Company, Mom’s Friendly Delivery Company, and Mombil, which collects and sells dark matter. MomCorp also manufactures the LPad. (Should that be a lower-case L?)
MomCorp is not to be confused with Mom Corps, “a professional staffing and career development firm” founded in 2005.
Here’s a tip: whenever you see a brand called Mother rather than Mom, furnish your own air quotes.
To be sure, there’s still a sweetly single-entendre Mother’s Cookies. Founded in Oakland in 1914—and named to honor the new holiday of Mother’s Day—it went bankrupt in 2008 (corporate bonds scandal), and was relaunched as a Kellogg’s brand.
But the newest incarnations of Mother take maternity a bit less literally.
Mother, from Sen.se (“Sense”), is a device that “imbues everyday objects with the gentle nagging power of our awesome moms” (according to TechCrunch). The gizmo stands about 6 inches tall, weighs 1 pound (450 grams), and bears a striking resemblance to the Shmoo from Al Capp’s “Li’l Abner” comic strip. (Like Mother, self-sacrificing Shmoos live to please.) In exchange for $222 you receive one Mother and four Motion Cookies—tiny sensors that can be affixed to toothbrushes, flowerpots, espresso makers, and other objects (or people) to check whether they’re being used properly.
The more I read about Mother, the more familiar its story sounded. Here are the opening paragraphs from the “Meaning of Life” page:
In 2003, we founded Violet based on this vision: all things will be connected. Violet led the way creating a Wi-Fi rabbit with an unpronounceable name. Its statement: from now on, anything can be connected to the Internet, anything, even rabbits.
Ten years have passed. Day after day, our 2003 dream is becoming more of a reality. Ten years have passed, but our vision has changed. This why we have created Sen.se. Back then, we thought the key words were things and connection. Today, we are convinced that the real issues are called life and meaning.
Aha! I wrote about that “Wi-Fi rabbit with an unpronounceable name”—Nabaztag—back in 2007.
Other Mother brands are even more arch. Take the related ad agencies Mother New York and Mother London. Here’s how the former’s website describes its offerings (capitalization and punctuation verbatim):
Misc. festivities, Short films, Longer films, Puppetry, Fine spirits, Internet things, Video games, High quality still photography, Business cards, Sausage making, General Knowledge.
The denim brand called MOTHER—all caps—is based in Los Angeles and sells $200 jeans (but not, you know, mom jeans) at Nordstrom, Piperlime, ShopBop, and Revolve. The styles have names like The Looker and The Cruiser.
Finally, some observations about mother, mom, and mama:
“Gradually, over the past couple of decades, mom has become an acceptable synonym for mother in journalism — no longer thought to be too casual, informal or personal.” – John McIntyre, The Baltimore Sun, July 29, 2010
“This week Pew Research Center announced that, after decades of decline, an increasing amount of American women are “stay-at-home mothers. … Pew avoids ‘mom’ throughout their study, instead opting for the more venerating mother. (While moms make beef stroganoff, mothers are busy being matriarchs.)” – Katy Steinmetz, Time, April 11, 2014
“People hearing tot mom for the first time sometimes ask if it’s connected to another parenting-related compound word that has gained prominence in recent years: baby mama. Like tot mom, it means more than just a mother whose child is still a baby. A baby mama is an unwed mother, often one who makes trouble for her ‘baby daddy’ with her ‘baby mama drama.’ Where did these extra meanings come from?” – Neal Whitman, “Tot Moms and Baby Mamas,” in the Visual Thesaurus, July 11, 2011. (Neal goes on to answer the question.)
“Mom is everywhere and everything and damned near everybody, and from her depends all the rest of the U. S. Disguised as good old mom, dear old mom, sweet old mom, your loving mom, and so on, she is the bride at every funeral and the corpse at every wedding. Men live for her and die for her, dote upon her and whisper her name as they pass away, and I believe she has now achieved, in the hierarchy of miscellaneous articles, a spot next to the Bible and the Flag, being reckoned part of both in a way.” – Philip Wylie on “Momism” in A Generation of Vipers (1942)