Thursday, July 17, 2014

I Don't Work...Oh Wait...Yes I Do.

It's an innocent enough question.  

Did Your Mom Work or Stay Home? Do you work or stay home?

We all know what is meant.  

However, as my own mother likes to point out...such a question puts up a false dichotomy. A dichotomy she has fought against her whole life. So, Mom..this blog post is for you.

Working versus Staying Home  

The opposite of work is not-working.

Not working involves things like playing, relaxing, sleeping, eating.

A better question would have been "Was Your Mother Employed?" (which could include self-employment). 

Because the things a stay-at-home mother does are certainly work. 

Even if a mother does NOTHING ELSE but keep her child(ren) alive and fed and safe and clean and clothed all day, she is performing the SAME duties as a childcare worker or a nanny or babysitter.  A job that many people get paid to do and that is considered work and gainful employment.

SOMEONE has to do those things, right?   

Those kids aren't going to feed and clothe and care for themselves. At least not the little ones. 

And most stay at home mothers do considerable more than that...they may do laundry, and cleaning and cooking and teaching and discipline and chauffeuring, and arranging and organizing and scheduling and budgeting and shopping and errand running and lawn care and bill-paying and gardening and pet care.

Of course a mother (or father) who is employed also does all or some of those things too, but they have less time to do them and they still need SOMEONE to care for the child(ren) while they are performing their employment duties. Frequently that SOMEONE is paid.

Doing MYSELF what I could PAY someone to do, qualifies as work. 

I can't pay someone to sleep for me.  I can't pay someone to relax for me.  I can't pay someone to watch TV for me.  I can't pay someone to play golf for me. Those things aren't work.

But, I can pay someone to come to my house and watch my kids and feed them, and clean them and keep them safe and read them stories and play games with them and take them to the park ......because those things are all work. 

I could pay someone to cook meals for me, or clean my house or do my laundry or drive us around or pay our bills or mow our lawn. Heck, I could even pay someone to do my shopping for me.  Well, I could pay someone to do all those things if I had enough money that is....which I don't. So, I'm stuck doing them myself

I KNOW that no one (hopefully no one) means to downplay the duties of a stay at home mother by asking the question. "Do you work or stay home?"  But the fact remains, that staying home involves work that if a mother (or father) didn't do, someone else would have to do it and that someone would likely get paid. 

Why do words matter?  Everyone knows what you mean...right?   Everyone knows that when people talk about "working moms" they aren't trying to insult stay-at-home least not outright.  But, language does subconsciously influences how we think and how we view things.  By calling employment, "work", we are implying that those who aren't employed, don't work.   

It matters, when the new mom with the constantly nursing baby, cries at the end of the day that she didn't get anything accomplished today so she feels depressed and worthless. It matters when the mom of the sick toddler who spends all day cleaning up vomit and holding a sick child feels as though the day was a waste because nothing was accomplished.  It matters when the mom of a preschooler who read the same book 50 times feels like it was a wasted day because nothing got done. 

It matter because as a society we have picked up the notion that "staying-home" is not work.  Even moms who stay home often feel a burning desire to do something else, something more meaningful.

That's why network marketing opportunities (like Mary Kay, Usborne, DoTerra, Melalecua, Pampered Chef, Thirty-One, Shaklee, Ava, Lila Rose etc., etc., etc.) are so wildly popular with moms.  It's not just the extra money, although the extra money can be helpful, but it's because so many moms are desperately looking for a way to say "See I DID accomplish something today.  I sold this book or that knife or this essential oil or that bag or this make-up or whatever." Don't  get me wrong, I'm not criticizing those opportunities..they can be great for certain people. (They are not for me, but that's the subject of a whole other blog post).  But part of the reason they are so popular is that a stay at home mom is made to feel like she isn't working, like she isn't accomplishing anything unless it brings in a paycheck.  Yet, she doesn't want to leave her kids or can't afford along come these opportunities and's a way for her to bring in money (IF she's successful at it) AND gain a sense of accomplishment.  And, I think for many moms, the sense of accomplishment, the sense of doing something, the sense of working is more important than the actual money. But, the thing is, even without the check or business, she is still working. Even as "just a stay at home mom" she is accomplishing something...she IS performing meaningful work.

Employed moms work hard.  Unemployed moms work hard.  Being a mom is hard no matter what you do. 

But, it's time to stop using the phrase "working mom". It's redundant.  ALL moms work.  ALL of them. The question is whether you are employed or not...not whether you work or not...because you DO work. 
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  1. This exhausted, nursing mom of an infant and toddler thanks you for acknowledging that I'm working my a** off over here!

  2. I love this post! Thank for you posting this. After working in ministry for 2 years and now being a stay at home wife/mommy I'm always getting that "so you are not working anymore?" from people. Even though my child is not born yet I'm still working getting everything ready for the baby. Did I mention that... I LOVE this post!

  3. I was at the bank today, with three boys in tow and 39 weeks pregnant. The guy behind the counter asked who my employer was. Un showered, in sweatpants and tshirt, I smiled and responded, "Francis, Louis, and Charlie." :-). TB


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