You can shout, “Hey You!” Call me “Old girl.” “Lady.” “Middle-aged mother.” I would even answer to: “Hey woman with the stray black hair on her chin.” Because the names would all be true. Call me anything but a “stay”-at-home mother. This name is more than a tad inaccurate and in a world of fake news accusations and lies passed as truths; I prefer to come as close to honesty as I possibly can. Yes, I live in my home but I do a little more than just stay there. Don’t you?
As a service to the general population I have come up with a few acceptable alternatives. Feel free to add to your own list at home. Here we go. How about: clean the entire house while mediating sibling squabbles after taking children to designated activities-at-home mother. Do all the laundry and walk the dog and grocery shop and clean the children while attending to a toddler tantrum-at-home mother. Arrange playdates, birthday parties, school events while helping children learn about friendship, socially acceptable behavior and the mechanics of human functioning-at-home mother. Help with homework while cooking dinner and packing school lunches and doing the dishes-at-home mother. Or my personal favorite: Never get a solo bathroom break or social lunch break or paycheck while working from 5:00 am ’til 9:00 pm have to explain to people it’s actual work-at-home mother.
I made the mistake of labeling myself a stay-at-home mother when I left my career as a child and family therapist nearly five years ago to parent my children full-time. The decision was born from a recent move and a third pregnancy that led my husband and I to understand fiscally and logistically it made the most sense for me to remain home with the children. It was a role I never expected to fill; a role that utterly turned my understanding of mothering upside down.
Suddenly I found myself isolated at home struggling to find my worth in the mundane tasks of caring for three small children. On my worst days, soaked in a steady stream of tears, I would remind my sweet babies I had a Master’s degree as I scrubbed the toilets and cleaned food long ago stuck to the floor. As they looked back at me with blank stares, I realized my frustrations were lost on them (as they should be). So I moved on to wiping behinds and organizing toys reminding myself my brain did matter and caring for my children was the greatest gift I could give them.
I would be the one to feed them, bathe them, calm their fears and ease them through childhood. I wouldn’t have to delegate my role of mothering to anyone but me. It was and is a thrilling, amazing, overwhelming and challenging position. 24/7. Growing young creatures. As a result, I take it personally when I find individuals or culture or dare I say myself minimizing my role – a woman’s role – any woman’s role as a mother who mothers without pause.
A working mother’s position should not be diminished by the fact that she works away from the home. Equally, we should not denigrate a working mother’s place in the home with a label that implies she does nothing within her fortress but stay there. A case in point that semantics do, in fact, matter. So, please, call me anything but a “stay”-at-home mother. And if your friends or family are struggling to conjure up an alternative name or category for what it is you exactly do all day, please feel free to share the above mentioned list. It is from a reliable source.
Originally published for The Today Parenting Team.