You want to stop conversation at a party? Tell someone you’re a stay-at-home mom (SAHM). Unless the person you’re speaking to is a SAHM herself, you’ll get one, maybe two weak questions back, such as, “How old are your kids?” Then, the person politely excuses him/herself to go grab another drink.
Why? Because a SAHM just sounds so darn boring!
First, there were "housewives," then "homemakers." And it was only in the early 1990s, when women rightly objected to both of those because they made raising children more about the home than the kids, did we start using the term “stay-at-home mom.” To me, all these terms feel like a kick in the pants.
Is there a way to describe mothers and their relationship with the paid workforce without insulting them?
Stay-at-home mother? “Most of them are never home. Spend hours as unpaid taxi drivers!”
Working mother? “Of course, we are working every minute of every day!”
Non-working mother? “Seriously? No sick days allowed!”
Full-time mother? “How can you clock your hours? Whether I am at home or work, I am always a mother!”
Here’s another thought. How about the fact that society never feels the need to “label” fathers with “working” terms?
I would suggest that a replacement term has to meet two criteria. First, that it apply to men as well as women. Second, that it include those who are parents and those who are not. Our social ideal should be a work/life model where everyone shapes a career that includes times where we work full-force and times when we kick back, and our words should be consistent with that. They should embrace the sense of ebb and flow, more and less that are the truth of most of our lives, rather than the stop and start, one or the other, that are unrealistically divisive.
Aren’t we, as a culture, free to come up with a new word to refer to stay-at-home parents? Here are some I've heard: “domestic goddess,” “primary caregiver,” and “domestic engineer.”
Maybe, we should simply change the term SAHM and make it the French, “C’est une mere chez soi.”
Whatever the term, it’s past time we find one. Any suggestions?