What’s in a name?

Some time ago, I noticed a new term in the e-lists and blogs I was reading regularly: SAHM.

Frustrated, I looked up the term (I love Wikipedia!) and discovered its meaning: Stay At Home Mom.

Wait. What does that make me? A WOOHM? Work Out of Home Mom?

Or a MHDMAMAYM? (My Husband Doesn’t Make As Much As Yours Mom)? Or an IDMJTCHADWYDADM? (I Do My Job Then Come Home And Do What You Do All Day Mom)?

I have to admit, the term annoyed me. Made me a little jealous, too. Though I’ve raised three different sets of children, one with each marriage, I’ve worked out in the world most of that time. I never had the luxury to stay home and make the special cookies for birthday parties at school and cook the hot breakfasts for the kids. And when I was a single mom? Forget it. Those years I was lucky to keep everything moving forward, the light bill paid and make sure the kids at least had socks on, matching or not.

And what about the dads? My husband went to school part time over a couple of years and stayed home with our kids, then toddlers. He was a great dad at a time when they needed a lot of care, had multiple therapies, etc. Was he a SAHD? No. He was “unemployed.”

“Parent” as a job, is a difficult one. You have huge responsibility for these small folk, and you’re expected through some kind of unspoken magic formula to turn them into worthy people. C. Everett Koop, MD, said, “Life affords no greater opportunity, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.”

Those of us whose children have “issues” often spend more time parenting; we have to. At the same time, I see many blogs where parents define themselves by their children’s shortcomings. I exchanged emails this week with a mom who had a beautiful singing voice; she liked to perform jazz songs professionally but said she wasn’t doing it any more. I urged her not to give it up just because she had a child. She wrote back and said she gave it up not because she had a child, but because she had an autistic child.

Is that all we are as people? Should we illustrate ourselves to others only as our relationship to our children or our house or our jobs? Do we have to sacrifice everything that we are for the children?

I don’t introduce myself to people as a lawyer. Or a mother. Or a quilter. Or a writer. I’m still me. I’m all those other things, too, but I start with who I am.

And that makes me wonder about the woman who uses the title SAHM. Is she trying to convince me of her worth and status? Or herself?


15 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. Pingback: Wikipedia » What’s in a name?

  2. I think this is part of the same thing I wrote about last week. I think it has to do with the professionalization of maternity (and paternity, only not as much) by women who were heavily into careers before they decided to stay at home with their kids. They’ve still got the mental mindset and the accoutrements of their professional lives, so they attach it to their kids and their role as a mother. Maybe before they were Prof So and So or a VP of Whatever; now their title is SAHM.

  3. Amen Sister!!! This is a subject near and dear to my heart – and i might put my take up at The Trailer Park later tonight (and give you a big ‘shout out’ for your eloquence on the subject)! You have captured this so well – and Jane’s observation was very insightful! We need to drop the defenses across the board, and do what’s right for ourselves and our families. My deepest admiration to you for keeping in touch with your own life, while devoting yourself to special needs children. That’s extra tough!

  4. Pingback: My Mom’s Better Than Your Mom « Trailer Park Refugee

  5. Wow – your post really hit home for me (you probably knew it would after my recent post about losing my identity!!!). When C was born, his doc told us he had to be in isolation for his first year and not get a single cold (can you believe it – we actually made it through that year with NONE of us getting a cold despite my husband working at a high school!). I had fully planned to go back to work, but then the choice was made for me – and I’ve been most thankful that it became a no brainer – one of us simply had to stay home. So I never struggled with that decision. But once I became a full time Mom, it DID define me. And I struggle with that. Sure I still carve out time for myself, but now that I’m starting to get back into the job hunt, I’ve realized I don’t even know what I want out of a job anymore – I’m really interested in advocacy, but is that only because I’m living it right now? I’ve just sort of lost my center and some of my sense of self. And **ouch** I hope I don’t define myself by my child’s shortcomings, but rather by what he needs.

    Great post. Really got the brain moving around!!! That’s why I so like reading you every day! 🙂

  6. And, I kinda like the word WOOHM – the way it sounds when you say it. I think you should start using the term. LOL! 😉

  7. As I was doing yet another chore at home I thought “Hey I am a Many Hat Momma-mHm”, kinda fits in your theme. Women somehow always let themselves be defined by their children or families. I know one woman who spent 8 years being Mr. Xs girlfriend. Then she and Mr. X broke up. She’s still getting over that. P.S. love your site!!

  8. Loved your post! I am a WOOHM too (or some of the other alphabet soup names you came up with) and PROUD OF IT!

  9. I found your blog through a MEME thread and am so glad to read this post.

    My life BC (before children) was always irritated with those who had children and defined their lives by children, who couldn’t have a conversation about anything other than their children.

    My life after children is the same. I’m a SAHM, but I didn’t know the acronym until recently. My life is my life. Part of my life is raising responsible children who will make something of themselves and not flounder in the world (I truly hope), but there is more to me than that–so much more. And there should be more to everyone who has children. Whether or not I stay home with them or work is a decision that I have to make that works for me. What you do (and anyone else) has to be the same. But who we are has nothing to do with whether we “work” or “don’t work.” (I have to add that I “work” much more now than when I had a “real job.” I’m ALWAYS on the job, and my personality keeps me constantly at it.) Who we are is who we are–inside. Who we are is not what we do or what we used to do. (Many SAHM’s bask in their years of past accomplishments, which I think is sad also. They have–or could have–accomplishments NOW that are worthy of defining them.) Who we are is the sum of our lives to this point, and what we’ve chosen to make of them.

    Children are the greatest blessing I’ve ever been given, but for my life to be defined by them is not only unhealthy for me, but for them. They need to see parents who have a life, not parents living in a child’s world. My hats off to all of you who do your best to have some life of your own. (I admit it isn’t always easy.) It’s not selfish, it’s sanity as well as sensible.

    One added note: I read something once about WOOHM’s compared to SAHM’s. The hours/week spent doing housework were vastly different–SAHM’s spending much more time “keeping house” than WOOHM’s. However, the amount accomplished was almost equal. Since WOOHM’s have less time to do those things, they do it more efficiently.

    So be proud, whatever you are. And make the best of it. And be the best at what you do! And get out of the house without the kids every now and then!!!

  10. Thank you for submitting your post to the Mommy Monthly carnival at Pajama Mommy. We’ve included your post into the next edition. It will be posted on the 30th of this month so please stop on by and check out the other participants.

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