Thursday, April 11, 2013

Something Grand

This morning I was made aware of yet another commonly-used term that has become a new no-no: Stay at Home Mom. For some reason it is now offensive to use this as a reference for a woman who opts to pass on the day job in order to care for her family and home. I did try to watch the interview explaining why, but the responsible party had a loud, obnoxious voice and weird white wires sprouting from her ears (those iPod things? Not sure), a combo that frankly I found a little unbearable at 7:00 am.

I was a stay at home mom for ten years, so I'm also a little perplexed. I never minded being called a housewife or homemaker, but when those terms became no-nos I was okay with the replacement (which happened to be stay at home mom). It's a tough, thankless job and really, no one else wants to do it; you don't see all that many new fathers marching into work and declaring "I'm quitting so I can stay home with my kids and take care of the house." I do have one guy friend whose circumstances led him to become a stay at home dad while his wife worked for the last year, and let me tell you, he has all kinds of new respect for his lady.

Sometimes -- probably more frequently than most gals -- I simply don't understand my gender. Having a job and generating income is great, especially in this economy, but it doesn't make you superior to someone who elects to be whatever we're now supposed to call a stay at home mother. Nor does the opposite. You do what you have to so you can take care of your family. If that means a day job, good for you. If that means no day job, good for you. Why do we have to call you anything? Whatever sex we are and wherever we choose to work, if we have kids or we don't have kids, we're all working people, yes?

Right now I do both: I work as a professional writer, and I work at the house in order to care for my family and home. Honestly, I'm tired of having to relearn a new term for my second job every couple of years. So if we're going to do away with stay at mom, I vote we come up with something so grand that it will forever shut up the nit-pickers. My personal favorite is Domestic Crises Manager; that's a one-size fits all unisex term that embraces all aspects of the job. Can never be called sexist, sounds important, and looks good on an application or resume when it's time to stop being a Domestic Crises Manager and work outside the home.

I'd also like to hear from those of you who are stay at home moms or dads: what do you want to be called? Let us know in comments.

22 comments:

  1. There's an awful lot of SAHMs that are darn proud to be, and one loudmouth - or even a group of them - isn't a threat. Just because some people choose to make having lots of money a higher priority than actually raising their kids themselves, doesn't mean that the rest of us should follow their poor example.

    Lean in? No, thank you. My first reaction on hearing about that book was Her poor kids. Wonder how messed up they'll be. Bet we hear about it in the media... and she'll be blaming someone else.

    If someone chooses to have children, their needs come first. It's impossible to successfully raise children by throwing money at their wants.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have to respectfully disagree with how you're categorizing women who work outside the home. I think many mothers with day jobs would love to quit so they could care for their kids and house 24/7; I have one friend who dreams of it. She has to work a day job because her ex dumped her and flatly refuses to provide any financial support for his kids. I have a guy in the family who is in the exact same position; he's raising his daughter alone and has to work to provide for her; the mother abandoned them both.

      In a perfect world the needs of children would come first, and either Mom or Dad could stay at home to be there for them. But we don't live in a perfect world.

      Delete
  2. Fran K3:47 AM

    I must confess to being old because I hate all that PC rubbish that seems to have taken over our world. That said, I firmly believe that if a man and a woman have the same qualifications for a job, and want to do it, they should be paid the same and that gender shouldn't be a reason to hold back promotion or demotion. I believe in equality, gender really doesn't matter. I've found 2 excellent "housewife" terms in my current reading. In J D Robb's Eve & Roarke world stay at home mums have "professional mother" status and are paid a wage for doing it. In Dying to Please, Linda Howard's heroine Sarah Stevens is a butler, but one of her employers refers to her as a "domestic organisation specialist" and I really like that term, because it covers a whole heap more than just being a mother. Thank you for steering me in her direction by the way Lynn, I'm really enjoying this book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That one is a great read, but then, all of Linda's work is terrific. Glad you're enjoying her, Fran.

      Delete
  3. Anyone who has the luxury of doing what they want rather than what must be done should be called "fortunate."

    And I will leave it at that because it is too early in the morning to be as squinty-eyed and clenchy-toothed as one of these comments has already made me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's definitely a polarizing issue, and I probably should have thought about that before I wrote this post. I apologize for not doing so.

      I'll also note as a reminder that while everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I want you to feel free to express yours, as per my comments policy (which can be read here in section E.) I don't tolerate flame wars or trolling here. If things escalate into ugliness I will shut down the thread. So if anyone else wants to comment, try to be civil and non-judgmental. Remember the deal about walking a mile in someone else's moccasins.

      Delete
  4. I was a stay at home mom for a long time. Since my daughter's on her own now, I guess I'm a stay at home wife. But then again, my husband retired last month, so is he a stay at home husband? Personally, I think people should be called whatever they want to be called and to heck with the PC crowd who can't stand letting people be who they are. I liked being a secretary - even if they wanted to call me an 'administrative assistant'. I like being a housewife - even if I'm also a writer - despite the fact that 'housewife' is a verboten term.

    And if I can pick a name for myself, I'm voting for 'Bon-Bon Eating Dilettante'. At least then, I wouldn't have to do anything but lay around eating treats. ;o)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Housewife was how I referred to myself for years, B. Still do when I'm talking to men because they don't seem to have a problem with the term. When being grilled by other women I say I'm self-employed and work out of the house; this so I don't piss off the feminists. Cowardly of me, probably.

      Delete
  5. As a working mom, with friends who are SAHMs I have nothing but respect for them. It is job I do not want to do. Please do not get me wrong, I love my son more than anything, but I know that what is best for him is being in daycare while my husband and I work. I say this because I am not capable of giving him the experiences and education that will make him the best he can be on my own. The saying "it takes a village to raise a child" is very true. I depend on the teachers at his daycare who are trained to educate small children to help me grow his brain and learn all the social skills that I sometimes lack. They are not raising my child, but they are helping to raise my child.

    As for the term and it's appropriateness, I do not think there will ever be one title that can encompass what all a SAHM does. Heck, in the professional world, job descriptions change very regularly and usually have the catch all phrase, "other duties as required". If we can't get it right for more easily contained jobs, how the heck can we get it right for the job that is all duties, no matter what.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If I had to pay someone to do all the work I'm currently responsible for at home I'd have to work two jobs; one to pay the bills and one to pay my replacement. If I could find one even willing to do all that I do.

      Delete
  6. I'm a "stay at home mom" and quite proud of it. I wasn't aware that it was offensive, it's certainly not to me! I mean, if folks would rather refer to me as "Domestic Goddess" that would be alright, too.

    I'm currently working on my first novel, while balancing the needs of a 4 year old boy and 19 month old girl, and I am struggling with it a bit. I'm guessing you were writing even when your kids were that little, huh? Any tips you have for me would be much appreciated!

    Labels are ridiculous any way you slice them. I'm me. I'm just me. That's it. The only thing I find offensive are the ignorant folks that think that since you don't collect a paycheck, you aren't doing anything. Call me what you will, but recognize that SAHMs work their hineys off.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Alli, I wrote my first ten published novels in conditions ranging from me having a day job while being high-risk pregnant (twice) to caring for a injury-disabled husband for almost a year and looking after two babies in diapers at the same time -- so I definitely do know what you're going through with the balancing act.

      Naptime was my hour to write every day, and the rest of the time I'd work on outlining, planning scenes, doing research etc. when I had a few minutes. Once my guy recovered from his injuries and went back to work he also began taking the kids off my hands for an hour or two every night so I could have some writing time. But the truth is that the kids trained me to write very fast, very uncomplicated first drafts and not to waste a second of my writing time.

      The other thing I did was swap kids with a very good friend who had two toddlers; I'd take her kids for the whole day Saturday so she could relax, shop, go out with girlfriends etc. The next Saturday she'd take my two for the day while I enjoyed eight solid hours of writing time.

      Delete
  7. I don't think this is so much about what to call people (i.e. the constantly changing labels) as it is avoiding admitting that all choices have a downside and every job is hard. Staying at home with kids is hard; leaving them in daycare is hard. Parenting is hard, period. And careers are also hard even when you have a dream job; it'll contain tasks you don't like and don't want to do. I dream of a world where we can all admit that everybody has difficulties even when we think from the outside that they live an enviable existence. And where we support each other in our choices or our lack of them, in which case we can cheer for each other's stamina and endurance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agreed. And I really do dream of a day when women could be more supportive of other women instead of attacking them all the time for having different opinions or making different choices. But there's that perfect world again.

      Delete
  8. Anonymous11:32 AM

    This happens with the disabled a lot, they will decide 'retarded' is perjorative, now they are 'developmentally disabled'...I think people change the names to stay ahead of the negative connotations. It isn't the best way to change perceptions of something but it does indicate that people feel badly, which I suppose can be respected.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I certainly don't want to offend someone if I can help it; that's why I'll likely never use stay at home mom as a term again. I just wish everyone would settle on one PC term that makes everyone happy and not make me have to keep relearning a new/better one every couple of years: that's beyond annoying to me.

      Delete
  9. Anonymous10:24 PM

    I have done both the full time working mother and the SAHM jobs. Honestly, I felt that the full time working mother was more difficult for me and my family BECAUSE (and only because)of the job I held at the time. I was active duty enlisted military member; and married to another active duty, enlisted military member. There were months we would have killed for any extra free time above work sleep eat, and maybe do a dish or three. There were even worse months where we did not even have the luxury of living in the same household because our responsibilities as military members had to come first. Frankly, that really truly sucked and I don't ever want to go back to that.

    However, I do not think that either choice is better than the other on a whole. But one choice may in fact be much better for a particular family than the other; and frankly what they choose is none of my business. As far as what to call me, long as it isn't a four letter word, I'm good regardless of which role I am filling. But I would definitely like to vote for Domestic Goddess if we are taking votes on new terms to take over for SAHM.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right because everyone's situation is different. I feel blessed that I was able to stay with my kids and work a job from home for the majority of the past fifteen years; it's given me a chance to be there for them pretty much 24/7. But if we had needed steady/more reliable income I wouldn't have hesitated to get a better-paying day job, either. I'm still thinking about doing that once my teens are off on their own so my guy can retire without worry.

      Delete
  10. In the past year I've gone from being a church secretary (I dislike the term 'administrative assistant', when the title changes but not the pay or respect I call BS!)to now being at home full time, I help my husband in his side job running an ebay store. I don't get the mommy wars, at all, the arguments are just used to feel superior or to try and tear others down. Each family needs to decide what they need to do, and anyone not in that family pretty much needs to kindly shut their trap. Everyone is different and I've seen good and bad mothers in any of the household configurations. I've also seen kids turn out both bad and good in any of the household configurations as well, go figure. As for what I prefer to be called, I'm just me. I'm contrary and will adapt just to escape from whatever box someone tries to put me in. Titles come and go, depending on what's going on. If it's like the secretary-to-admin deal, where it's pretty much lip service, I can do without it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I worked as a church secretary to three different ministers, Emily -- I bet we could trade some war stories. :)

      Delete
  11. Anne V.12:23 PM

    I like the term "domestic goddess" for the ladies who manage households and children. I can hardly manage just my hubby and cats, much less any small people! I just don't understand why people are offended by terms that aren't intended as pejoratives. I'm a secretary, I've been a teacher, a salesperson, the person who picks buds off plants in a greenhouse and some other stuff too. Calling me a secretary doesn't hurt my feelings, but Admin Assistant does sound stuffier on a resume!

    I think teachers should get a new title too-I think Educational Crises Manager, Professional Child Containment Specialist and Red Tape Wrangler would be appropriate.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the only people who do have it worse than the stay at homers are the teachers -- and with the way they're being treated by the school system a lot of the good ones are getting out of the field. Shame, too; my kids have benefited enormously from the great teachers they've had.

      Delete