Hax: No apologies for stay-at-home moms

The Washington PostFebruary 25, 2014 

(Adapted from a recent online discussion.)

Carolyn: I’m thrilled to be able to stay home and raise my three children full time, but as a former Washingtonian, I still dread being asked “What do you do?” and having to label myself a stay-at-home mother. Any suggestions about rebranding this title so these encounters don’t feel so awkward? And yeah, I know my job is tougher and more important than many, and that I’m projecting my own feelings onto other people — it’s just a hang-up I’ve never been able to get past.

SAHM SHAME

Nope, rebranding would only expose your discomfort further, which presumably is the opposite of what you hope to accomplish.

Please think of stay-at-home parenting (or working full time, or working part time) as a modern retelling of “The Sneetches.” First it was the non-working crowd that was fancy, then it was the working crowd, then it was the I-can-afford-to-stay-home crowd, then it was the crowd of people in enough control of their careers to swing part-time deals. You’re a stay-at-home mom. You chose it. Now own it.

For SAHM: Why can’t she say, “I used to do XXX. Right now I’m fortunate to be able to take a break from the workforce to stay home with my children. Once they are in school, I hope to go back to (chosen field).” That way she can own both her SAHMness and her previous occupation/education. Also, can’t hurt in the networking department if/when she does eventually want to go back to work.

ANONYMOUS

If someone said that to me, I’d hear, “If I twist any more to justify myself, I might snap.”

It’s really OK to say one is home with kids. I think it would serve us all to see it neither as heroic nor shameful, but instead just “is.”

If someone wants to add the before and after career for networking purposes or just to stoke the conversation, then that’s fine — “I’m a teacher/lawyer/baker/shoe buyer, currently home with my kids.” But, really, stop focusing on other people’s opinions.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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