Thursday’s Wall Street Journal features a story with the following headline:
Working Parents Are Having a Rough Summer.
The piece goes on to detail rising tensions both at home and in the office, especially as many businesses begin to transition back to an in-person labor force. Many parents with young children, who benefited from working from home the last few years, are now scrambling to find and fund childcare and camps – all of which have skyrocketed in cost.
Two-fifths (32.8 million) of all families in America include children under 18 – and 62.3 percent (20.4 million) of those families who are married contain moms and dads who both work outside the home.
“Working outside the home” is the key phrase here.
The term “working mother” is a redundancy. Of course, I get what the writer and the common parlance are getting at when they use the term, but using it has consequences beyond sloppy or inexact terminology.
Whether intentional or not, using the term “working mother” subtly suggests that mothers who devote their full-time attention to child-rearing and family care are somehow not working as hard. In reality, the opposite is often true.
Motherhood can be exhausting and frequently more difficult and wearing than traditional workplace responsibilities. We all know women who have said as much, commenting that office work is sometimes even a psychological and physical “break” from domestic chores and challenges.
Yet, the point is not to claim or convince you that one role is harder than another. The point is that by using the term “working mother” we’re inadvertently and subtly degrading the efforts of mothers who don’t work for wages.
A recent story from the Babylon Bee, the wildly popular satirical website, alludes to this psychological beatdown. Here was the headline:
‘I Accomplished Nothing Today!’ Says Mom Who Spent All Day Nurturing Infinitely Precious Human Souls
“It sometimes feels like I’m not using my full potential,” said Mrs. Walker (the fictitious mother), who daily lives to raise her children in wisdom and the fear of God. “I feel like I’m in the same narrow rut,” sighed the incredible woman entrusted to introduce the entire universe to her children.
One of the many reasons the Bee is so popular is because the best humor always contains elements of truth. And moms need to be reminded and affirmed again and again that the work they’re doing in raising the next generation is the most important work there is.
Another lie of culture is that mothers who devote their full-time attention to raising their children are somehow entitled or enjoying a luxury reserved only for the wealthy. It’s true that motherhood is a privilege, but stay-at-home motherhood in two-parent families is also a choice, and one with consequences.
Many families choose to do without certain things in order to make ends meet on a single income. Whether buying clothes from thrift stores, cutting the cable cord, changing their own oil on high-mileage cars, forgoing eating out or going camping instead of going on a vacation to a popular theme park, many families have found ways to make it work. They should be lauded and applauded.
It’s time to retire the term “working mother.” All mothers work – some for wages – and all for the nourishment and betterment of the next generation.