I was recently involved in a discussion that posed an interesting question. What should children call their omega parent in omegaverse stories? There were quite a few different answers, ranging from modeling off manga to avoiding any kind of “gender stuff,” to simply making it all up.
It got me thinking though: what is the right way to handle it in omegaverse and even in mpreg?
There Are Many Answers to the Question
As I indicated above, there are many answers to the question above. One participant pointed out that most Japanese omegaverse manga simply use “mom” for the omega parent. In Sienna Sway’s The Alien’s Kidnapped Omega, the nassa aliens use the terms al-father and om-father to refer to an alpha male parent and an omega male parent. In the next book in the series, The Alien’s Stolen Omega, we see the term om-mother. Presumably, there’s also al-mother, for an alpha female parent.
Leta Blake does something similar in the Heat of Love series. Since all the characters are male, there are “Fathers” (alpha male parents) and “Papas” (omega male parents).
I Have a Mixed Approach to the Topic
I can look to my own omegaverse work and see a wide range of answers to the question as well. In Boardroom Omega, for example, it comes down to the character’s own preference. Thus, we get Perce’s omega parent, Merl, because called “Papa.” Alpha parents also choose: Perce’s alpha parent is Daddy, while Jake, Perce’s partner, chooses “Tati” for himself.
Move to the second book and we see an entirely different answer to the question: Rupert chooses “Mama” for himself. The universe has women—both alpha and omega women—so maternal names like Mom, Mother, and Mama are all still in use. That Rupert chooses a “feminine” one for himself points to a differential construction of what a “mother” is.
If I look to some unpublished omegaverse works, though, I can also show you a story where Mother and Father corresponds strictly to the gender of a parent. In one story, the alpha parent is female, so uses mother, and the omega parent is male, and so uses father. Conversely, in a story where all the characters are male by default, father refers to the alpha parent and mother refers to the omega parent.
Why People Avoid “Mr. Mom” in Omegaverse and Mpreg
Some people likely avoid attaching “mom” to the men who give birth in mpreg and omegaverse for good reason. As one reader said, using “mom” can open up a can of “gender worms,” so to speak.
If we use mom, which is stereotypically feminine, are we just falling back on binary understandings? Does carrying and giving birth to offspring necessarily make one feminine, and therefore you should use the feminine parental name? If so, does that mean that trans men aren’t men—by virtue of their biology? Does it mean that “the omega male” of omegaverse is actually “just female”?
This is clearly very sticky, and a lot of readers don’t necessarily want to engage with it. They just want to read.
Using “Masculine” Markers Even Outside the Binary
Using the “masculine” pronouns can help cement the idea that our “male omegas” are indeed male. They can help cement the idea that nonbinary characters or trans men are outside of the binary. We can move away from the bioessentialist idea that one’s reproductive function is the be-all, end-all of identity. If you identify as masc or outside the binary, you’re not going to be mom-by-default.
It also helps us break up heterosexist expectations of queer couples—that one is the man and one is the woman. This is especially important in omegaverse and mpreg, where one man is very much taking on stereotypically feminine roles—the maternal role.
So, sticking to words that explicitly play up the omega male’s masculinity makes sense, to some degree. It helps us avoid the stickier questions that tend to crop up when we’re working in this space. Are omega males really male? If a man can get pregnant and give birth, is he really “a man”? How would we have to play with fundamental beliefs underlying what “XY” and “XX” phenotypes do in a reproductive sense to get to “male who can also give birth”?
Simply calling the birthing male “papa” or “daddy” allows the reader to sweep those questions under the rug.
Omegaverse and Mpreg Suggest Anyone Can Be a Mother
I’ll circle back to the Japanese example and my own in Glitterati Omega: why wouldn’t omega males call themselves “mom”?
We associate the word “mom” or “mother” with femininity. One of the things that motherism stresses is that anyone can be a mother. Mothering is not necessarily a biological act of reproduction. Rather, it’s a social role that people take on as needed.
Westerners can understand this, to some degree. We often hear about how it takes more to “be a father” than simply donating the genetic material. This is often said about stepparent situations or adoptive parent situations. The biological father has shirked his duty and abandoned the child. The stepfather or adoptive father “steps up” to the plate and provides emotional and financial support to the child.
We often say this man is the “real father,” in the sense that he has taken on the social role of fathering. The same can be true of mothering, although we acknowledge that less. That’s partly because we prefer to push myths about maternal instincts and biological mothers always loving their children.
In many cases, stepmothers and adoptive mothers fulfill the mothering role more than the biological mother.
Disconnecting Mothering from Femininity
Motherism takes this a step further to say that anyone can adopt the mothering role. Thus, an auntie or a grandmother or a cousin could easily step into the mothering role. One popular meme is about the “mom friend” of a group of friends.
Motherism posits that even men can be mothers, so long as they assume the mothering role. I wanted to stress this in Glitterati. Winston is an alpha male, but he is also a mother in the sense that he takes on a good deal of a “mothering role.” He looks out for people in his community, and he provides. One could even see him “mothering” Rupert to some extent. He provides emotional support and guidance that Rupert didn’t receive from his own upbringing.
Now, some people might argue that Winston takes on the role of a father more readily than the role of a mother. I think the point here is that he easily adopts a parental role to many around him. Whether we want to call that fathering or mothering, I think, lies in a different question.
It’s All Parenting
At the crux of it, it doesn’t necessarily matter if we term it mothering or fathering; it’s all good parenting. Whether we want to apply the masculine term father and resist the feminine term mother lies in paternalism, sexism, and misogyny.
Mothers, in Western society, are often envisioned as problems. We mock Mama’s boys. We encourage boys to reject and denigrate their moms. Dads are often portrayed as fun and funny, even if they’re deeply out of touch. Mothers, on the other hand, are usually nags. In modern sitcoms, Dads often demur to Mothers, who become authoritarian figures who rule over both their husbands and their children. In these set-ups, Mom is the only responsible adult. Dad is as much a kid as the rest of the children.
To be a Mom, then, is to be deeply uncool. We celebrate “Dad bods,” but we still expect women to snap back. Until the past two or three years, “Mom jeans” were deeply uncool and unfashionable. As noted, “Momma’s boys” are mocked and made fun of, encouraged to leave “the apron strings.”
Moms become embarrassing and stifling, even as they remain “the rocks” in the background of their children’s lives. We often see children fighting back against their mothers in deeply hurtful ways. When something goes wrong, though, Mom is still there for them. Mom is just expected to take the abuse and offer hugs at the end of it.
When in Doubt, Blame the Mother
This is indicative of the deeply fraught relationship Western society has with mothers. On the one hand, it recognizes that women need incentives to reproduce. Thus, maternal love is presented as a joyful and wonderful thing. At the same time, Western fears about masculinity lead to anxiety about how attached children might be to their mothers, particularly male children. At an early age, boys are encouraged to shake their mothers off, leaving the so-called apron strings. This was particularly rife during the Cold War, when it was feared that boys coddled by overly affectionate mothers wouldn’t be “brave enough” to go to war.
We can also see it in early studies of autism. Experts blamed “refrigerator mothers” for creating deficiencies in their children. Too warm, and your kid will be a sissy; too cold and uncaring, and your kid will be autistic.
Thus, Western culture vacillates between exalting mothers and slagging on moms. Mothers are very rarely rewarded for the unpaid labor they deliver in raising up the next generation—and they shoulder all the blame when the kids turn out “bad.”
Being a Mom Is Fraught
If you don’t believe me, simply look to any online mommy group. It’s very easy to find examples of people dogpiling moms for even basic decisions. If you look at these groups, everyone is doing mothering wrong, and the amount of guilt and shame heaped on moms is pretty astounding. It’s a wonder any kids survive to adulthood at all.
Fathers bear less of the brunt of this, unless we’re talking about absentee fathers. Absentee fathers are worrisome, in part because they leave women to head households. Plenty of talk goes on around how kids (especially boys) need a father figure in their life. Again, fears about masculinity rear their heads. How will boys learn to “be masculine” if their mother is raising them alone? The anxiety is that the boys will end up being “sissies,” cowards, “momma’s boys”—too feminine, in other words.
There’s Nothing Wrong with the Feminine
This is where we see the desire to label what Winston does as fathering rather than mothering. Mothering is feminine, and in Western patriarchal society, the feminine is bad. That’s why we discourage nurturing in male children. Boys who play with dolls raise “fears” about masculinity, because these boys are exhibiting femininity. What are they, a bunch of sissies? How will they go to war?
The Modern Reports about Death of Masculinity Are Vastly Overstated
You can see these fears exemplified in current anxieties around how men “aren’t men” any longer, and even in arguments about “bleeding hearts.” If we feel so much—and feeling, emotion, is feminine—then how will we maintain the brutal war machine, the violence, that upholds the current world order?
This is not to say that the feminine would end all wars or magically fix aggression. To believe that is naive. But the point stands that we denigrate mothering and motherism as part of the feminine, which in turns leads us to reject it.
That’s why we prefer fathering over mothering, and even the more gender-neutral “parenting” to explicit discussion of men mothering. That’s where terming omega males and trans men “mommies” can be problematic for our readers. Mothering is somehow antithetical to the state of masculinity, even more so than getting pregnant and giving birth is.
So, to this I say—let your male omegas be moms if it suits them. Don’t shy away from the idea that men can be mothers—for they can indeed. Mothering is a social role that we choose to take up the mantle of. Just because you’re a man doesn’t mean you have to father. It is entirely possible to mother.
Of course, omegaverse and mpreg tend to complicate gender and challenge norms, so if “Mr. Mom” isn’t the right fit for your story, don’t feel obligated to use that term. It’s fiction, after all. So if “papa” or “father” is right, then use it. If it makes sense to make it all up, then do that. But if “mom” feels right—then don’t shy away from it.