Is it Time to Stop Using the Term “Working Mom”?
I recently came across a tweet that called for the rejection of the term “working mom”:
I’m in full rejection of the term “working mom.” 1. All mothers work. 2. Never heard of a “working dad.”
— June Diane Raphael (@MsJuneDiane) November 4, 2018
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Is the term “working mom” outdated?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.
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.
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.
What do you think? Do you embrace the term working mom (or working parent), or do you think the term should be retired?