Apr 9, 2014

Stay at work mums, full time dads and others

I have stopped using the term "working mother" or at least I am trying to.

There are no perfect terms, because the term that each group of parents invents for itself annoys the others.

"Working mother" is annoying for mothers who are not in paid employment because they are home with their children: " 'Working mother'? What the hell do they think I'm doing all day?"

"Full-time mother" is hated by mothers who work in paid employment, including me. I am a full-time mother. I am a mother 24 hours a day as is every other mother. Motherhood (or parenthood) dictates how and where I work, as much as how I am at home. Also, what?: Anytime someone is away from her kids, she is not a mother? If you're a stay at home mother, when you leave your kids at kinder, or when you have a girls' night out, are you no longer a mother?

"Non-working parent" is wrong - for the same reason that "working mother" is.

"SAHM" (Stay At Home Mum) seems to be the preferred term by most, but what about the dads? They've started using SAHD. Is that a bit ironic, because it looks like SAD? I do wonder if "stay at home" is a bit annoying as it sounds a little patronising or limiting, like "housewife". Maybe just "At Home Parent" (AHP) is better?

"WAHM" (Work At Home Mum) is the one term that no one seems to grumble about. Or maybe that's just my misconception as a WOTHM (Work Outside The Home Mum - what, not going to catch on?)

Not one of these "lifestyles" is better or worse than the others, per se. Not one is a ticket to work-life balance - we're all as stretched and unappreciated as each other. There is of course just what works best for you and your family, or more accurately, what you have to work with and what you make of it.

But regardless of the terms we use to describe "mothering", one of the things driving change most is a critical mass of fathers being home with their kids.

There are so many of them now, and not all of them have blogs of course (pfft - what do those guys DO all day?) - but the ones I've noticed most as change agents are:

"World's Best Father" (Dave Engledow): this is the guy who created all the photos of himself with his baby daughter, she in various ignored or "helping" scenarios (sitting on an ironing board while he's ironing, etc) while he is usually looking away, reading thoughtfully and holding a coffee mug with "World's Best Father" on it.  The photos are genius, encapsulating at once all the best qualities of how we regard the stereotypical dad: involved with the kids but casually; making the kids fit around him instead of the other way around; funny; relaxed; borderline-neglectful-but-actually-good-for-the-kids.  Here are a couple of samples (these are all over the internet and they are a couple of years old now, so I've decided this is okay):

Reservoir Dad: RD is awesome, because he is very proudly a SAHD, and embraces the lot that goes with it, including actual, thorough housework. Not for him the superhero vacuum and willful blindness to dirty toilets and dusty windowsills - no, he happily and manfully tackles the lot.  I actually think this is BRILLIANT. He writes about being a primary carer and shows that when it's done by a man it looks pretty similar to when it's done by a woman; this post in particular is just wonderful and I love it.

Of course, dads bring their alpha guy privilege to stay-at-home parenting, and that's simultaneously irksome and fantastic. RD admits men get more support in some ways than women as parents, and he has a robotic vacuum cleaner which makes me completely jealous ... but at the same time why wouldn't you make things better for yourself wherever you can, and why don't women do this more?  - because we do it all properly!! and we're doing six million other things you can't see!!  ... Sorry, that just slipped out. Where was I?  Anyway, having more men take on the primary carer role (and more women the breadwinner role, and more men and women working part-time and doing a bit of everything), is a good, good thing, with great advances in mutual understanding and improvement for everyone all round.

I've kind of lost my thread with this post, but think I've said what was on my mind anyway, so I'll leave it here.

Meanwhile, if you want a bit of fun, take Buzzfeed's What Type of Parent Are You quiz.

I'm "overwhelmed" which I found a little disappointing. I'd thought I had moved beyond "overwhelmed" after eight years at this parenting gig, but I guess not. Buzzfeed knows best!


  1. Jackie, You can choose different lifestyles in every country but you can't be a perfect full time mother and a perfect worker. But in my opinion it is better to be a full -time worker and a mother because it relies on you how much time do you spent with your children. But to find a balance between work and motherhood is very difficult. I know it personally.

  2. Books could be written on this subject, ah, they have been. For what my opinion is worth, I like the idea of a parent being home until children are of school age and the unlucky person who draws the short straw has to go to paid work. We have to remember we give names to roles for sheer convenience. Sometimes they take on a greater meaning, which is a problem, bug they are only names without bad intent.

    1. Very good point about the names of the roles - you're quite correct.

  3. Parents are always 'overwhelmed' if they tell the truth......My daughter is pushing 39 and I'm still 'overwhelmed'. Parenting is hard on the nerves.

  4. I am a SAHGD and I love it.

    stay at home granddad.

  5. I think all the labelling and nit-picking is so unnecessary, I'd venture to say those who indulge are somewhat unhappy with themselves and what they are doing. Subconcious jealousy perhaps of the "other" lifestyle?

    I won't bother taking the Buzzfeed quiz.
    "borderline neglectful but actually good for the kids" as stated above is what I was. I read a lot and the kids fended for themselves as much as they were able. Of course I taught them how, but then I left them to it. They were all independent and self sufficient remarkably early. I helped when necessary.

    1. That sounds like a good way to parent to me. Very important for kids to learn to manage on their own. As my kids get older I'm going more that way too, though we still have a way to go ;-)



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