Do We Really Need a New Word for 'Stay-at-Home Mom'?

Mom Moment 52

The other day a Stir reader left me the following comment: "Linda, you are not truly a SAHM." Her point, I guess, was that because I have outside employment, I don't know what it's like to be an at-home mom. Even though I am, in fact, a mom who doesn't have an office job. I also don't have a nanny, I have one child who's not yet in school, and I take care of all the household tasks, from cleaning to laundry to meals to grocery shopping to doctors' appointments.

I'm not sure why the fact that I also work my ass off to earn a paycheck keeps me from being a "true SAHM," but I've felt this disconnect before. I work, but I'm not the sort of working mom I was when I went to an office full-time. I'm at home, but I don't quite feel like that description fits me perfectly either -- and clearly, there are others who don't believe I deserve the title.

The lack of good terms for our increasingly complicated world of balancing work and parenting is why this author proposes we need an entirely new word for "stay-at-home mom." She points out that while it's true that only women have the burden of being defined in such ways ("working dad"?), what we call each other has meaning. It reflects how we perceive what someone does, and maybe more importantly, it has the capability of altering that perception.

She lists some inherent problems with describing mothers and their relationship with the paid workforce:

Stay-at-home mother? “Makes me sound like a shut-in!”

Working mother? “Don’t ALL mothers work!”

Non-working mother? “Really? You think I’m eating bonbons?”

Full-time mother? “What, you think because I have a job I am only a mother part of the time?!”

The fact is, few of us fit neatly into the predefined categories. We may be working part-time, running a business from home, volunteering at our children's schools, and on and on it goes.

I don't love the term SAHM because to me it implies that I don't have non-mom responsibilities -- or that we're always home. But neither do I enjoy being told I don't know what it's like to be a SAHM, because dude, who do you think is doing all the at-home-momming around here? *looks around wildly for invisible team of housecleaners, nannies, chauffeurs, and personal assistants*

I suppose it would be nice if we had descriptive terms that reflected the value of ALL of our complicated, ever-changing roles. But if you ask me, it would be even better if we didn't need to rely on these sorts of divisive acronyms in the first place. If we have kids ... we're moms. Full stop. Leave the made-up title at the door, thank you very much, my house is messy enough.

What do you think about the idea that we need a new word for "stay-at-home moms"?


Image via Linda Sharps

work, working moms