Sunday, June 5, 2011


In the last few days I happen to have read a few posts and tweets that have to do with how we moms refer to ourselves. First, I read a blog post on The Heir to Blair about working vs stay at home moms. The next day @DontSpkWhinese tweeted: "Is it wrong for me to find it offensive when a married Mom refers to herself as a Single Mom when her hubs is out of town?", which sparked a really interesting debate on Twitter. So I've decided to add my two cents on the subject. So here you go, an overview of mominology, and what you might want to consider when using each of the terms.

Stay-at-home Mom (SAHM)
Accepted Definition: A mom who does not work outside the home.
Usage Notes: Possibly the only term of the bunch that does not come with baggage. Feel free to use this term whenever you encounter a mom who cares for her children 24/7.  

Full-Time Mom
Accepted Definition: Alternative to SAHM
Usage Notes: Many stay at home mom's use this term to indicate that they do, in fact, have a full-time job of raising their children. But everyone should be careful when using this term. Some non-SAHM's dislike the implication that they are not "full-time" moms, as though they cease being moms when they are at work. On the other hand, non-SAHM's should keep in mind that this term is probably being used by women who dislike the implication that they don't have "real" jobs. So everyone, just be sensitive, ok?

Working Mom
Accepted Definition: A mom who, in addition to raising her children, also has a job outside the home.
Usage Notes: Some SAHM's dislike this term because it implies that SAHM's don't work. To them I say: most moms know how hard you work. This isn't a term used for comparison to SAHM's, it's just the best term that there is. So please, try not to be offended.

Accepted Definition: none
Usage Notes: Don't. Just don't. You may think this term is a corollary to the full-time mom. It's not. Full-time mom's are mom's full-time, but this does not mean that mom's that work are part-time moms. I have even heard this term used to describe women who work part-time outside the home, hence making them not full-time mom's but rather part-time moms. But it doesn't work that way. No one is a part-time mom. So just remember, do not use this term. Ever.

OK. Now that that's clear, there is ONE exception to the never-use-this-term rule: If YOU are the mom in question and you are talking about yourself, go for it.

Single Mom
Accepted Definition: A mom who is raising children on her own
Usage Notes: There are many ways one becomes a single mom. Divorce, death, breakup, father never in the picture to begin with. Being a mom is tough. Being a single mom is even tougher. Some women have been known to refer to themselves as "single moms" when their husbands are deployed, away on business, or even out for the night. Here's what you should know before referring to yourself as a single mom because your husband is away for a week... actual single moms are probably not gonna' think that's so cute. Your husband will be coming home. While he's gone, he's probably going to call you to check in on how you're holding up. And all the while, your household income will not be reduced to solely what you earn. Referring to yourself as a single mom when you're not really a single mom... likely to make real single moms think you totally don't get it. 

Solo Mom
Accepted Definition: A mom who is parenting without assistance for a period of time
Usage Notes: This seems to be a better alternative for mom's who are going to be on their own for a period of time while their husbands are away. It doesn't imply that you're really experiencing the difficulties of being a single mom, but does suggest that things are gonna' be harder on you for a while while your significant other is away.

Accepted Definition: Someone who watches children while their parents are away
Usage Notes: Did you get the part about it not being babysitting if they are YOUR kids? Moms and dads, please make a note of this. Moms, do not refer to your husband "babysitting" when you're out with the girls. Dads, do not tell your buddies that you can't go out because you are "babysitting" the kids. That is not babysitting. That is parenting. If you do not know the difference, you should know that it makes the rest of us parents want to call social services on your ass.

(I know that last one isn't a mom-term, but is there anybody who doesn't find that annoying?)

So what do you think? Are we all being too sensitive, or should we be more careful with the terms we use? And what terms did I miss?

If you'd like to read more from the people who inspired this post, here are their links:

Full Disclosure: I am a married mom of two boys. I quit my job after my first was born and was a SAHM for a year. I then went back to work two days/week. Then three. Now I am practically full time. I consider myself extremely lucky to have an amazing husband who is also an amazing father. I have rarely had to parent without him, but when I have, it always reminds me of the amazing strength of single moms and military moms. My own mom raised three kids on her own. It is a job I still can't fully appreciate, but am grateful for and inspired by just the same.