Related with my question about the currency of “sheconomy,” ”there was the following sentence in the Time magazine’s article – “Woman power: The rise of the sheconomy”:

“Johnson & Johnson found out the painful way, with a 2008 Motrin campaign that followed the inner monologue of a mom toting her infant around in a baby carrier. It 'totally makes me look like an official mom,' she notes in a Web video before agonizing over the backaches it gives her. Some mothers felt belittled. Overnight they formed a group and gave J&J a Twitter headache as emotions escalated. The company apologized and canceled the ad.” http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2030913-3,00.html

What does “official mom” mean? Does it mean legally wedded mother of child? Why did the word infuriate a group of mothers?

Is there ‘unofficial mom’ as the legitimate word?

Is this expression current, apart from the issues of women’s rights or political correctness?

  • For context, here's the original ad that featured the phrase: youtube.com/watch?v=BmykFKjNpdY
    – apsillers
    Sep 6, 2013 at 12:19
  • It's also featured in the first link in my answer
    – mplungjan
    Sep 6, 2013 at 12:32
  • @apsillers. Thanks. It (youtube video) helped me greatly to wrap my head around the context and feeling of 'official mom' message. Sep 6, 2013 at 18:45

5 Answers 5


First of all, "official mom" was a figure of speech in the ad. It does not exist in mainstream English.

But the offensive part was that the backaches shown in the ad were a "badge" of motherhood. The implication was that you needed to have them (and take Motrin) to be an "official mom," or, in plain English, "a real mother."

Not exactly a cool message.

  • IS that not almost exactly what I said?
    – mplungjan
    Sep 9, 2013 at 5:39
  • @mplungjan: "Succinctness counts." So does commentary "not exactly a cool message."
    – Tom Au
    Sep 10, 2013 at 23:01
  • @mplungjan - It was almost exactly what I said too, but I have to admit Tom put it better (and more succinctly, as he says). The OP certianly appears to think so.
    – T.E.D.
    Sep 12, 2013 at 13:51
  • @TomAu Did you see the 2 links I gave that gives the actual comments from them moms themselves?
    – mplungjan
    Sep 12, 2013 at 14:31

The slang use of totally here is a hint that the speaker has an informal tone. The use of official here is simply an informal intensifier; it is not used in any kind of strict legal context.

Other related examples might be:

"That captain's hat totally makes you look like an official pirate."

"Well, I've stayed at home every night for the last three weeks -- I'm an official loser." (Or: "It's official: I'm a loser.")

In slang terms, saying you are an official [something] usually means that you have done something or have some component of your appearance that strongly suggests you are (or appear to be) a member of some group (moms, pirates, losers, etc.).

One possible reason that the commercial caused offence was its suggestion that mothers obsess over looking "motherly" and that they use children as fashion objects in their quest to be perceived as "official moms".

  • I pointed out totally as an indication of the speaker's tone, which suggests that official is not used in a traditional sense. The Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions indicates that totally "[a]chieves slang status through overuse".
    – apsillers
    Sep 6, 2013 at 12:37
  • This is the only answer that addresses the very common "official X" construction, which seems to be at the heart of the OP's question.
    – horatio
    Sep 6, 2013 at 21:24

When you ask yourself that question, you are taking the first step down the path that mothers looking at it walked before they got incensed and started going after Johnson & Johnson.

The fact is that this isn't a common phrase with an accepted meaning in English. That was a large part of the problem. So the reader is forced to figure that out for themselves. I suppose the folks writing the ad were hoping the conclusion you would draw is "all real moms buy Motrin".

However, our culture has a nasty feature where people are constantly passing judgement on women's performance as mothers (as someone who cares deeply about a mom or two himself, this is something that continually pisses me off). So implying that someone might not be a real mom if she isn't like someone in an ad in some ill-defined way is really strolling into a minefield.

  • I think I've seen you on another site. But an upvote to you for your answer on this one.
    – Tom Au
    Sep 7, 2013 at 16:00

I don't think it's the word official or even official mom that, in itself, is offensive. If an ad had the message "you've given birth to a child, and now you're raising it the best you can—you're an official mom", I doubt it would be taken as offensive at all.

The Johnson & Johnson ad could offend in at least a few ways. It could be interpreted as saying mothers are chasing after a "look" that makes them appear to be official moms. So it's a quest for either fashion or legitimacy/recognizability, depending on your angle. (This is the gist of suggestions from apsillers and mplungjan.)

Another interpretation, which I find more likely and more offensive, is that the person speaking in the ad is implying that real moms look tired and crazy (see the very end of the video). Yet another possible implication of the ad is that moms can't handle the burden of carrying their child without being medicated.

So, there are unflattering messages abound in this commercial, none of which hinge so much on official mom as the other stuff surrounding it.


They were obviously complaining that according to J&J, carrying an infant in a baby carrier was cool/fashionable and makes a woman look like "an official mom" - so J&J comes across as saying having a baby and carrying it in a sling is a fashion statement and using Motrin to battle the pain was a little like using Compeed to handle sores from high heels. If you are not carrying the baby in a sling, you look less of an official mom, perhaps amateur mom


comments from moms: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhR-y1N6R8Q

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