Is it Time to Stop Using the Term “Working Mom”?

Is it Time to Stop Using the Term “Working Mom”?

This post may contain affiliate links, which means that I may earn a small commission – at no cost to you – if you click through and make a purchase.

I recently came across a tweet that called for the rejection of the term “working mom”:

This got me thinking.  I am a working mom.  I blog about being a working mom.  In fact, I have an entire category on my blog that I’ve titled “Working Mom”.

But (there’s always a but!) I don’t completely disagree with her.  I wrestled with whether or not I wanted to use the term “working mom” on this blog.  Ultimately I decided to use it, primarily because it’s the best way for me to connect with moms in similar situations.  But there’s more to it than just being easily Google-able.

Is the term “working mom” outdated?  

Is it time for a new term?  Is it time to abandon the phrase altogether?  I don’t think so, and here’s why.

Argument #1: Every Mom Works

The first argument against the term “working mom” is that every mom works.  I couldn’t agree more.  There is absolutely no question, in my opinion, that the work a “stay-at-home” mom does is as difficult – if not more difficult – as paid work outside the home.

Does the term “working mom” suggest that stay-at-home moms don’t work?  Does it imply that paid work outside the home is more valued than the work of parenting and maintaining a household?  Possibly.

But I think this issue stems not from the terms we use themselves, but the fact that we still value paid work differently than we do work inside the home.  Changing the terminology isn’t going to change this.  We need an overhaul in our attitudes towards child rearing, and a recognition of the work that goes into running a household.  If I thought that changing the terminology we use would have a significant impact on our attitudes towards the work that’s done at home, I’d be all for it – but I don’t think that’s the case.

Related: How to Manage the Invisible Mental Load of Motherhood

Argument #2: Nobody Uses the Term “Working Dad”

In my completely anecdotal experience, this is true.  Men are rarely – if ever – referred to as working dads.

While I think this needs to change, the change should not be to abolish the term “working mom”.  Instead, we should be normalizing the terms “working dad” and “working parent”.  “Working mom” suggests that moms are the only ones struggling to balance work and everything else in life.  This is no longer the case.

Gender roles have changed significantly in the past 60 years.  However, we still face an ingrained assumption that Mom will be the primary caregiver, while Dad is the primary breadwinner.  The fact that we only talk about “working moms” minimizes the role that dads play in child rearing, and places the burden for juggling all things child- and home-related squarely on mom’s shoulders.

Every family divides the workload differently.  But in the dual working parent families I know, both parents are very much involved in the work-life juggle.

Dads want to be there for the big moments in their children’s life too.  Dads are dealing with sick days and snow days, doing school drop-offs and pick-ups, and attending parent-teacher conferences.  Dads are making lunches, buying birthday presents, doing laundry, and handling the countless tasks that go into the successful running of a household.  They need to be.  There is no reason that these tasks should fall solely on Mom.

Related: The Reality of Being a Working Mom

When we add “working dads” and “working parents” to the conversation, we’re not just recognizing that working dads need flexibility and support.  We’re also recognizing that women should not continue to bear the disproportionate responsibility for child rearing and household tasks.  By supporting working dads – by adding “working dad” and “working parent” to our vocabulary – we’re also supporting working moms.

Argument #3: My Parental Status Isn’t Relevant Anyway

I’ve read a number of articles arguing that we should abolish the term “working mom” because our family and parental status is not at all relevant in the workplace.  For example, in Dear Everyone: Let’s Ban “Working Mom” from our Vocabulary, Jennifer Dziura writes:

These words don’t belong in a professional environment. They are unnecessary reminders of some people’s status as part of a disadvantaged class. They’re overly personal. It’s inappropriate.

I respectfully disagree.

I have no interest in pretending that I don’t have kids or familial obligations.  Doing so, in my opinion, does all working parents a disservice.

If we keep doing this – if we refuse to acknowledge and speak candidly about the issues that working parents face – things will never get better for working parents.

Maternity leave, parental leave, flexibility, child sick days, part-time schedules, remote working – depending where you live and who your employer is, we have a long ways to go in supporting working parents.  These changes won’t happen if nobody is advocating for them.  And if we’re pretending that being a parent doesn’t come with additional responsibilities that can make sometimes make balancing two full-time careers difficult, we’re a long way away from being able to advocate for change.

Candace Alnaji at The Mom at Law, wrote a great piece explaining why you’ll always see “Mom” in her professional bio.  My thoughts are similar.

Being a mom has changed me.  It’s changed my priorities, and it’s changed what I look for in an employer.  Becoming a mom has made me more efficient at work, more organized, more empathetic, and less willing to waste time on things that don’t matter.  It’s also made me place an enormous value on flexibility and a job that recognizes and respects the boundaries I’ve set on my time.

Related: The Truth About Being a Working Mom: A Letter to my Younger Self

I recognize that my experience is not everyone’s experience.  Assuming that every parent’s experience is the same is as dangerous as not talking about these issues at all.

But I do think there is immense value in sharing our experiences.  It’s only when we talk openly and collaborate that we can learn from each others’ successes and mistakes, and advocate for modernized policies.

I will gladly embrace the term working mom – or, even better, working parent – to connect with and learn from others, and improve the supports in place for all families.

Is the term "working mom" outdated? Does it minimize the work of stay-at-home moms? We never hear about "working dads", so why is my parental status relevant? My answer may surprise you. #workingmom #workingparent #motherhood #momlife

What do you think?  Do you embrace the term working mom (or working parent), or do you think the term should be retired?  

7 thoughts on “Is it Time to Stop Using the Term “Working Mom”?”

  • I applaud the fact that you acknowledge the implications of what the term “working mom” can mean even though you are a “working mom.” I also feel like I better understand your view point as opposed to being a SAHM myself. I agree with you on this subject.

    • I spent three years as a SAHM (year long mat leaves), and although I LOVED having that time with my kids, it was harder on me mentally. I have an incredible respect for stay-at-home parents. In an ideal world I’d love if we could all have a stint as a stay-at-home parent – I think that would go a long way in improving how we value the work that stay-at-home parents do.

  • I agree with you! I am a SAHM but wasn’t always. Hubby deals with work hours that are not family friendly. It makes sense to me to talk more about what being a working parent means rather than getting rid of terminology we may not like.

    • It’s a catch-22. Women still deal with getting mommy-tracked, and men still face the assumption that there’s somebody picking up the slack at home. I was at a conference last week where they were praising people who had been putting in long hours/evenings/weekends, and I kept thinking that we recognize people who are working long hours, but nobody acknowledges the work that the other spouse is doing at home to make that possible.

  • Good for you for tackling this topic. It’s messy, complicated and so sensitive. For lack of a better term, I am a stay at home mom. I avoid referring to myself as one simply because it doesn’t fit or describe my life at all. We are seriously never at home! Our days are full, there is not much staying at home going on unless someone is sick. The words”stay at home” irk me for so many reasons. I really don’t like these labels. I tried using “full-time mom” once and will never again, someone very rightly pointed out that no mom is a “part-time mom”. I don’t know what the solution is, but you’ve made so many great points here and asked good questions to make us all think! And yes, why the heck isn’t the term “working dad” a thing??

    • I get it. When I was writing this post I spent some time trying to think of terms that were better than what we have now, and couldn’t come up with anything. I think part of why these terms irk people is because moms seem to face judgment no matter their choice. And as you said, most SAHMs I know very rarely stay at home (and do a heck of a lot of work!)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *