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How do other people manage to have conversations without swearing?

Jen Hogan: It’s perfectly normal, though not necessarily laudable, for mums to use expletives while ordering their children not to

I’m getting a swear jar.

It’s just one of the many new year’s resolutions I’m slowly putting in place. Or at least one of the many I’m planning to put in place before January, the dreariest, longest month of the year, saps every last bit of energy and enthusiasm out of me. It’s not that I subscribe to that whole ‘new year, new you’ malarkey, but now just happens to be as good a time as any to start.

Nor is that I’m particularly bothered by swearing.

People who swear a lot are my people. To be honest, I’m suspicious of those who don’t swear. How do they remain so refrained and composed? Where does all that pent-up frustration go? How do they have normal conversations? Sure swearing is practically a cultural thing in Ireland.


Or so I told my Spanish friend who was surprised during her first visit to Ireland at the conversations she witnessed while out and about. She was even more surprised that nobody seemed offended by the language and swear insults that were flung around in good-humoured chat. I assured her she’d get used to it.

My mam swore a lot when I was growing up. She doesn’t really swear at all now, though when she sees I’ve written about it in the paper that may change. And yet, surprisingly, my siblings and I never swore growing up. Or maybe it’s not surprising at all – because she’d have killed us if we did!

Funnily enough, I think I started swearing more when the blessings of motherhood were bestowed upon me.

Turns out, the complete contentment and utter fulfilment of motherhood – as promised by social media – isn’t the only thing you feel when your darling sons overshoot the toilet again and drench the mat while having an absent-minded wee. Crossing streams, Ghostbusters-style, with a sibling brings similar results – in case you were wondering.

Thing is, I’m not sure us mums are supposed to swear. I don’t think society approves of it. Mums are supposed to be sweet and wholesome. So wholesome that this particular one hesitated about even writing a column about swearing and admitting the folly of her ways. Yes, I’m afraid, in a certain light, I am more Agnes Brown and less Maria Von Trapp.

I think back to the 1990s, the time of the ladette and how liberating it almost appeared to be for the women of that era. They could stop pretending to always behave and act in a certain expected-of-ladies fashion. Maybe a mum-ette equivalent is needed now so we can shirk off expectations of what and who a mum should be, and be who we actually are instead.

So many ideas, so little time. I don’t lack motivation, I lack minutes

We get more relaxed, privately at least, as we get comfortable with our roles in life. More chilled in how we approach things. And more confident in that approach. Thing is, getting more relaxed means that approach is unlikely to be identical. And if your approach is not identical, expect it be called out by your offspring. Conversations around the dinner table have seen those who were the guinea pigs of my early parenting days suggest that standards may have slipped.

“Could you imagine if we’d done that when we were that age?” asks one older child of another older child, with exaggerated horror at some minor infringement committed by a younger sibling. I prefer to see it less as standards slipping, and more as a better understanding of the things that are important. That’s my argument and I’m sticking to it, mostly because I’m too exhausted and defeated by the sheer number of them to do things the way I used to.

Perhaps I’ll take up a hobby while I’m on the road of good intentions. A distraction from the intensity of a home and work life with blurred boundaries. It might even help with the swearing. Unless, of course, culture trumps frustration. Maybe this is the year I’ll make it on to the stage, or find an activity I don’t hate that gets me fit. Maybe I’ll learn to swim, or join a choir again. So many ideas, so little time. I don’t lack motivation, I lack minutes.

And swear less, yes that one too. I shall set a good example, I figure. After all I’ve managed to write a column about swearing, without swearing.

Or so I thought until a typically non-swearing child burst into the kitchen, as I was finishing off, wailing and grasping his leg. “I’ve hurt my f**king knee,” he tearfully roared, much to my surprise.

“You mean you’ve hurt your knee,” I replied. “There’s no need for the f word”.

“There is,” he sobbed. “Otherwise you won’t take me seriously.”

Yeah, that swear jar is a priority for me.