The Kids

I Totally Swear in Front of My Kids and I Don't Give a Sh*t Who Knows It

by Carla Wiking

Photograph by Twenty20

I swear in front of my kids. There, I admitted it.

But before you light your torches, let me be clear: I’m talking about garden-variety curse words, namely "shit" and "dammit" with the occasional "fuck," usually uttered as "fuck me" under my breath. I might swear in front of my kids but I don’t swear at them. I would never call my child a rude name, profane or not. Although, in the spirit of honesty, I have thought of them as assholes, they don’t know that. And, furthermore, slurs are not and never have been a part of my vocabulary.

Here’s the thing: Society decided that children are delicate flowers that will somehow be hurt by hearing these adult forms of expression. There is no cursing allowed on TV or radio during hours when children might be listening, and nobody thinks having a foul mouth is a strong parenting choice. But, the truth is, there is no evidence that hearing curse words hurts kids.

I can be a good mom and a fantastic "lady" and still speak however I damn well please.

In fact, I would argue that the occasional swear helps me avoid bigger parenting fails. Cursing can act as an emotional release valve. Better to call the guy who just cut me off an ass than to scream at my kids because I’m having a shit day.

My kids have been taught that it's not appropriate to use swear words in public or at school. They understand that in the wrong context, words can hurt people’s feelings. And that, ultimately, cursing is an adult thing, just like any other vice. I don’t let them have a sip of my wine and I don’t let them run around blurting obscenities.

We give up so much of our identity when we become parents that we shouldn’t have to give up how we express ourselves, too. I want to be myself around my kids and I’m simply not the kind of person who says "shucks" or "dang." Mothers are under enough pressure as it is. Why censor ourselves on top of it?

For some reason unclear to me, mothers are supposed to be saintly. I’ve heard people describe cursing as "unladylike," but I bet you can guess the choice words I have for the those people. I can be a good mom and a fantastic "lady" and still speak however I damn well please. Hell, if the pope can say "fuck," why can’t we?

I am not alone. We may not all openly admit it, but most of us have, at the very least, let a few choice words slip in front of our kids. Kraft asked 1,000 moms about it and 74 percent admitted to swearing in front of their kids. The company even used that info to create an ad with Melissa Mohr, author of "Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing," that was wildly popular. My guess is that the commercial was such a hit because it’s ridiculous to feel shame over how you communicate. We are taught that once we have kids, our language must be perfectly clean at all times. The truth is, life is messy and it’s OK if your language is too.

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