Forget the Labels. They’re Not For You Anyway.


Let me begin by saying that I really dislike the term “working mom.”  I use it often enough, because colloquially everyone knows exactly who I’m referring to when I say it, but if I’m being thoughtful with my words I usually choose to say “moms in the workforce.”

I equally loathe the term “stay-at-home mom.”  It attempts to imply the polar opposite of the “working mom” – except that there is a whole swath of “working moms” who don’t actually leave the house to go to work, and a whole bunch of “stay-at-home moms” whose lives are on-the-go so much that “stay-at-home mom” is a pretty inaccurate description.

Further, I remember reading somewhere (I’d link if I could remember where, but I can’t) that the “stay-at-home mom” label is a recent construction, re-written to replaced the old-fashioned “homemaker” when managing a home went out of vogue and we wanted to invent a title more reflective of our increasingly child-centric society.  A “stay-at-home mom” became somehow more prestigious than a simple “homemaker.”

Silly if you ask me, but I digress.

This past week I listened to a broadcast about whether “simply being a mom” is a job or not.  In the past these discussions have raised my defenses.  I anxiously anticipated the moment when someone would condemn parents who worked outside the home or when a commenter raised homemaking up to a level of idol-worship.  I waited to cringe when a working mother would give us all a bad name and belittle women who chose to leave their careers for the sake of their children and called them “lazy” or implied that their lives were so much easier because they weren’t balancing both career and family.

But I left that discussion long ago, so when I listened to the broadcast this week my reaction was completely different.

I was confused.  I wondered what, exactly, is the point of this conversation anyway?

There’s no denying that motherhood involves work.  Sometimes the work is more enjoyable than others.  And every person has the specific parts that they find to be more tedious than others.  But it’s work nonetheless, and all of us do it.

Work doesn’t have to be miserable to be classified as work.  Work doesn’t have to be hard to be classified as work.  And don’t get me started on the whole is-motherhood-a-job thing.  If it’s not classified and accepted as a “job” then you don’t work, right?  Then your day-in-and-day-out is meaningless, apparently.

My point is, who caresThese labels we create, they’re for other people anyway.  They’re developed to describe what we do all day and hopefully convey some level of importance about the way we spend the vast majority of our time.  Why do we need to find validation and importance externally through a title?  Why can’t we all just be happy and confident in the way we’ve set up our families and the way we go about our everyday lives?

Why can’t we just be moms?  Moms who happen to be in the workforce, or moms who happen to spend the majority of their days caring for their homes and children.

I’m sorry, I mis-spoke.

We shouldn’t be just be moms.

We should simply be moms.

Or even better.  Women.

Who just happen to have children.


{Also, just a quick reminder that if you are interested in taking the survey about your motherhood experience (entering you to win a $25 gift card!), you can still do so.  Learn more here.}


3 thoughts on “Forget the Labels. They’re Not For You Anyway.

  1. We are certainly a label-obsessed culture. I guess people are always looking for the quick elevator picth. But I agree – those labels are misleading. I like your idea of just being recognized as women. Men certainly don’t have this crazy label madness. 🙂

  2. Labels can be limiting, and I agree that both SAHM and working mom don’t really describe or encompass either role adequately. “Moms in the workforce” is interesting – I haven’t heard it put that way before. Thanks for bringing up this thoughtful perspective on the limits of labels.

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