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Don’t call me MOMMY at work.

Don't call me MOMMY at work.

Don't call me MOMMY at work.Last week I received an email from a woman.

You are missing one of your important jobs on the list in your blog blurb. Mommy! Ya gotta ad [sic] that because it’s the most important job you will EVER have!

I was on my ass with the flu at the time, which is why it’s taken me days to write about this rather than hours. Ordinarily, receiving an email like this would set me off like a lit cigarette tossed into desert shrubbery during an epic drought.

This “motherhood is the most important work in all the world” thing is, not to diminish the importance of being a good parent, annoying as hell.

And.

I just deleted 500 words of diatribe because I think this post could use your input.

Working parents of the world, unite! Consider me to have just tossed a lit cigarette into the dried-out shrubbery of your working parenthood.

The comments section is all yours.

Don’t hold back.

ETA: In the comments, Darren Barefoot linked to this TED talk by Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook. (I’ll add this thought to her very good points: We need to make it so that when children come into the picture, both parents make decisions about how to balance their career and parenting. One way to shift things so that more women make it to the top of their career is to work toward establishing the assumption that either parent can compromise.)

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Catherine Winters

Oh, Kim! You’ll feel differently when you have a kid–OH WAIT.

Rhian Drinkwater

Feels like there are so many things to say!  Firstly, it’s not a job, it’s a relationship – I’m also a wife and a daughter, and those things carry important responsibilities, but they’re not jobs.

If anything, the word job demeans those responsibilities.  I get paid for my work.  I love it, but I wouldn’t do it for free.  The point of being a Mum (and wife, and daughter) is that I do it regardless of reward or gratitude.Secondly, I don’t particularly want to bring up being a Mum in a work context because I don’t want prospective employers thinking I don’t prioritise my work, or that my work will constantly be disrupted by parenting considerations.

Rhian Drinkwater

Feels like there are so many things to say!  Firstly, it’s not a job, it’s a relationship – I’m also a wife and a daughter, and those things carry important responsibilities, but they’re not jobs.

If anything, the word job demeans those responsibilities.  I get paid for my work.  I love it, but I wouldn’t do it for free.  The point of being a Mum (and wife, and daughter) is that I do it regardless of reward or gratitude.Secondly, I don’t particularly want to bring up being a Mum in a work context because I don’t want prospective employers thinking I don’t prioritise my work, or that my work will constantly be disrupted by parenting considerations.

dbarefoot

For a non-parent like myself, criticizing the notion that “parenthood is the most important work I can ever do” is an invitation to self-immolate. I know this from experience. It was in discussion around this TED video ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18uDutylDa4), in which the COO of Facebook mentions, as a kind of throwaway aside, that raising a child is the most important work she does. The COO of Facebook? 

Steve Hoefer

This would only be true if you were looking for work as a mother.

I don’t have children, but I’m a son and a brother and an uncle. (And a cousin, and a friend, and a citizen, etc, etc etc.) These are all more important to me than my job. 

But they’re not jobs.  They might, at times, be work, but they’re not a job.

Erin Bee

I hate the underlying idea that a working woman is so alien that people need to define her by her relationships to understand her better, and that women are meant to be more socially relatable than men. “I don’t get anything about Sally’s work as a rocket scientist, so I’ll remind her she’s a Mom first so we’re on equal footing.” vs. “Wow. Jim’s a rocket scientist. I feel smarter just talking to him!”

katya

I get very impatient with people mixing up the two, parenting and work. I live in the neighbourhood where there are more stay-at-home mums around than the working ones. And still whenever you meet a new person through school or any other kid related institution and a question of the occupation comes up, they’d all sing in a chorus that they are mums and how bloody important a job it is. Most of them assume that you stay at home because a) your kids are under 2, or b) you are going to have a kid shortly and therefore don’t feel the need of going out to work meantime. Maybe they do it to make peace with the fact that they aren’t happy with their jobs or the fact that the importance of having an ambition has diminished since they had a kid, or their priorities shifted. Who knows.

Robin (noteverstill)

I was pondering this topic a lot when Sarah Palin was in the news ( http://noteverstill.blogspot.com/2008/09/would-sarah-palin-be-proud-of-me.html) – because I found her accomplishments significant and was so irritated that they had to be discussed hand-in-hand with her parenting decisions. (Even though I can’t stand her, it’s important to acknowledge how far she got.. you know, as a mommy). I have a good friend who says motherhood is her most important job. As far as she is concerned, it’s her destiny. It makes me gag, but I believe she believes it, and for her, maybe it’s true. But that’s not true for me. I know I’m a whole person outside of my parenthood. I told Mark I’d be happy with no kids- we’d have a great life together. It doesn’t mean that I don’t love them very much. But I think the best thing I do for them is remind them that they are an important but less-than-total part of my universe. That way they can grow into whole people, too.

Daphne

I find it annoying and a little offensive that someone would tell you to put Mommy in your bio. When I used to have an Etsy shop, I couldn’t stand the profiles that would start with, “I am a WAHM with a wonderful Hubby and 2 adorable babies.” I hate the sugary language and I don’t care about the Etsy seller’s hubby and 2 kids.  I do care about the product she is selling. I don’t think a business profile is a place to gush about the family. That is what a personal Facebook page, scrapbook or friend is for. Not everyone has kids or a family or even wants to hear about it if they do. Some people either don’t have kids, don’t like kids or can’t have them.

Chloe Nightingale

Awww, I’m sure she meant well.  I mean, I know being a parent isn’t technically a job, but that lady probably saw your blog blurb as more of a, “here’s a list of things I do that I’m proud of” rather than a resume-ish blurb.

Kristen

I am coming at this as someone who has been a stay at home mom for the last eleven plus years and only recently added a money making work at home business to the list of things I do. I’d say that home management and full time parenthood have been an important part of what I’ve done for the last decade of my life, and have indeed existed as a job (most of my day being spent in drudgery associated with some form of family related duty) but I refer to the physical labor/management aspect of things, not the relationship itself, which is not in any way a job. I hate when people imply that I haven’t been doing anything (or anything worth mentioning) for a huge chunk of my life, but I ALSO hate when it’s implied that my being a stay at home mom is the Most Important Job in the World (no) or that being a mom defines who I am (no). When I think about WHO I am, yes, mother and wife are on that list, but frankly, I’d like to come first as an individual disassociated from those relationships. Telling you I’m a mom, even though I’m a stay at home mom, tells you nothing about who I am as a person. It doesn’t tell you what challenges me or interests me or what I want for myself. And when it comes down to talking about a job, it isn’t relevant unless one has been a stay at home parent for a significant chunk of time that requires explanation. Even then, that’s limited to discussion with an employer, not necessarily a blog bio. I have yet to see an interview about a man’s career in which it is blatantly implied or stated that he should… Read more »

Nancy Cavillones

I, too, prefer to keep my parenting hat and my worker hat separate. To be sure, the two roles might inform each other but they don’t define each other. My biggest pet peeve is when I say that I don’t work and people respond by saying “but you’re raising children. That *is* work.” I understand the sentiment or whatever but I find it incredibly condescending. I think if it was my husband at home, and he said the same thing, the reaction would be more like “oh, yeah, it’s a tough job market out there,” the assumption being that dads stay at home only when they can’t find work. 
Also, I would like to read your 500 word diatribe… LOL. 

Kim

Thanks for this post. I am a scientist; my husband and I are childfree and enjoy a very equal relationship. I also happen to love doing crafts. It gets on my nerves when every single craft blog author describes herself as “a stay-at-home mommy to three adorable kids and married to the bestest man in the world!” It’s refreshing to read the blog of a sane person who loves her family but doesn’t define herself by them.

Chloe Nightingale

Some of these comments are really catty; it is like some kind of reverse sexism or something is going on in this thread where it’s totally okay to slag off proud mums and people whose lives are wrapped up in their children, but it is totally offensive to suggest adding mother to a list of attributes or saying being a mother is a ‘job.’*  

(Obviously, I fall into the category of the stay-at-home-mum, whose life revolves around and is defined by her kids, and annoys everyone by gushing about motherhood.)  ;p  

*  I know it’s not a job in the paid-employment sense, but it does fit some definitions of job.

Melissa Gold

It’s only recently that I’ve met a lot of stay-at-home moms in my community. Until now, most of my friends with kids were those whom I met through M’s daycare (so, duh, they have jobs). Now that he’s in public school, I’ve been introduced to that whole other sector of the community… the Mommies who are always available to help in the classroom, who always want me to bake, or volunteer, or… whatever. I am not belittling what they do because we do need people with that availability to support the schools and the activities in which our kids partake. However, what gets my back up is when one of these (well-intentioned) Mommies asks me to do something at 11am on a Tuesday, and I respond that I can’t this time because I will be at work, I get the sympathetic head-nod and an “awww…”, like they pity me because I work outside my home. I don’t think that the fact that I work should make me an object of sympathy. Perhaps they pity my children because they are sorely neglected because of my job. I don’t know. I just know that the Mommies seem to think that my having a job makes me an unfit parent. Sigh. I like to think that my children will see me as being an equal partner in contributing to our household and offering value to my community. But I digress… to your original point of whether “Mommy” should be used to define you in every aspect of your life, I think not. I keep work and home separate. It used to be that when I was home, I was 100% home and vice versa. The lines are a little more blurred now, but being a mom has no bearing on how I do… Read more »

Nancy Cavillones

I agree with Kim about the assumption being that “you HAVE to work”, or conversely, that the husbands of stay-at-home moms are bringing home the big bucks, which is the attitude I am more likely to encounter. I chose to stay home with my kids and I feel very lucky that I’m able to but we have made financial sacrifices in order to do so. It would be better for everyone if I went back to work, and in fact, I tried to find a job this past summer but nothing paid enough to cover the astronomical cost of childcare for two children. And before anyone asks why doesn’t my husband stay home, the answer is simple–he has more earning power and he always will. He would LOVE to be able to stay home with the kids.

Chloe Nightingale

I’m sure this is just a UK-thing, but the stereotype here is that stay-at-home-mums don’t work because you can get more government benefits by staying at home.  
I have a BS in electrical engineering, so (theoretically, since I haven’t worked in that field in 10 years) I have a way higher earning potential than my husband and the general assumption (and a very specific assumption from a close family member) is that I’m not going back to work because I’m lazy.  ;p

LB

I feel someone should do an informal survey of the internet to find out how many blogs written by men (that are not specifically about raising children) feel the need to list ‘dad’ as a key part of the description. I have a theory but my sample size of male-authored blogs is small.

Also, I’m avoiding commenting for fear they would inadvertently come out snarky. I kind of just want to type with abandon because there are so few places anywhere in life where one is allowed to talk about the concepts that 1) not being a parent is a viable/happy way to live life for some, 2) one can be a loving, wonderful parent without it becoming a defining characteristic of every aspect of their life.

Chloe Nightingale

“1) not being a parent is a viable/happy way to live life for some”
Seriously!  I have a few friends who have been married for years and years and constantly get flack from their co-workers and friends about not having kids.*  I think the last thing you should do if you don’t want kids is to have kids, so I really don’t understand why people do that.  I am totally obsessed with my kids and want to have a bunch more, but I don’t really care if my friends choose to have kids or not.  Likewise, I am not automatically friends with someone just because they have kids.

“2) one can be a loving, wonderful parent without it becoming a defining characteristic of every aspect of their life.”
I think this is one of the many examples where parents (in my experience, moms especially) tend to get really judgemental and awful with each other about how other people parent.  Your child isn’t potty trained?  You are a failure!  Your child doesn’t sleep through the night?  You’re doing it wrong!  Your life is more than your kids?  You don’t care enough!  

*  I was married for over 8 years before I had kids, but the only person who ever really gave me any flack for not having kids was my MIL.  (I guess I got lucky!)

LB

It’s astonishing how people have such a hard time leaving other people alone about parenting decisions (especially when that decision is whether or not to be a parent!).  Why is it so hard for us all to accept that there are many paths to happiness and just leave everyone alone about their choices?! 

Rebecca

First off. The original comment to you was just silly. I am sure made by some well meaning person who was just excited about your new role as mother. You do blog about him. So maybe it is unclear to people where you separate your home life and your work life. Now if this comment was made more directly in a  work related environment, then yes totally sexist and unprofessional. I do think that we as a society are changing the rules about the separation between private and public in exciting ways. Many peoples daily lives do not resemble the old, get up go to work, clock in at 9am, clock out at 5pm, then go home. I work from home most of the time. Which means my days are blurred with tasks related to my “paying” job and my dishes, laundry, email, dealing with my kids etc. For me being able to have my kids grow up around and seeing me work at my “paying” job (I am a woodworker) and how it relates and fits into the rest of our lives is really important for me. The more holistic I can make our lives, and the less mental separation I make between all the areas in my life the happier I am and the more real my whole life becomes. It wasnt until the Industrial Revolution that we separated all these areas so much. And I for one think it took a lot of meaning out of peoples lives. I also like how having kids has allowed for some class, racial and social barriers to be removed. Kids can give you a way in with strangers, a good ice breaker. I also take great offense to people who say they don’t like kids. Sorry, but you don’t get… Read more »

LB

oh I have to disagree with part of this!

1) humanity is in no way at risk of dying out due to a population shortage (please google to see logarithmic population explosion graph of doom showing how screwed we are, ecologically speaking). When the zombie apocalypse comes and we have to repopulate the planet with non-zombies, then I’m willing to give kids special status as necessary to survival, but right now we all have them because we want them, not to advance the cause of humanity.

2) I think people are allowed to dislike kids. I take this to mean people don’t like spending time with or being around kids – not that they want all kids dead. I happen to like kids, but it makes sense that not everyone will.  I agree people should treat everyone like individuals, but if you don’t like hanging out with babies, for example – it’s unlikely that you’ll find the one special baby that doesn’t do any baby things (cry, scream, poo) that annoy you and suddenly want to spend time with them. You can’t hold an adult conversation with kids – that’s a pretty distinguishing feature – unlike old people (well, depends), and definitely unlike people of [insert ethnicity here].

3) Being a kid doesn’t mean you are required to like kids. I was also a brat, do I have to like brats?  I was once an Engineer, am I required to like every Engineer I meet?

Rebecca

Hmmm I disagree. 1-I was not implying that humanity has a population shortage. What I do think is lacking is societies dedication to raising a responsible and thoughtful next generation. All the wonderful books, research, thought and action that could make this world a better place are only worth while if we have following generations that carry on and give a shit. So I do think that it isn’t just parents and people who “like kids” who’s best interest it is to care about kids and how they are being raised and educated. I do agree western people mostly have children for selfish reasons. Although I only really can speak for myself, and yes it was for very self serving reasons that I had my own children. I think the most responsible thing to do in our day and age is to adopt. But the expense, waiting time, and the research required to insure the circumstances of the adoption are ethical (mostly talking about overseas adoption here) and the curiosity of being pregnant and making my own child got the better of me. And yes I (probably egotistically) think I have something worthwhile to teach and pass on. 2-I again think individuals including kids should be treated and judged as such. More than once someone has told me “I don’t usually like kids” but your son is great. (Maybe they just say this cause I am his mom). I have also seen my baby get grumpy men who are trying to ignore him to eventually play peek-a-boo with him. He’s very persistant. I also don’t enjoy the poo, crying and screaming. But I wouldn’t just write a whole person off for it. Or I might decide I don’t like that particular baby based on that individuals undesirable traits. And as… Read more »

LBrideau

I think the disagreement we’re actually having is over what it means to “like” or “dislike” something.  To be clear: “like” means: To find pleasant or attractive; enjoy I can dislike something and still be tolerant about it.  I can dislike something generally and still be open to exceptions that I may like. Liking is about enjoying something – you can’t tell people they HAVE to enjoy something. You can tell people they have to accept/tolerate something. I agree – we have to accept kids as part of our society and work together to make them not suck as humans, but no one is required to enjoy them. It would be great if everyone did and fortunately, most people do, but I don’t think telling everyone they HAVE to like them is a viable solution.  People are free to enjoy and like what they want. And I’ll still disagree on the adult conversation topic. Call it peer conversation if you want – kids generally are not capable of adult/peer coverstation – by which I mean sophisticated, complicated, lengthy conversations about interrelated matters. Or the ability to appreciate double meanings, meta jokes, sex jokes, etc. The list goes on and on – things that kids won’t understand, don’t have the attention span for, or that aren’t appropriate for their age. Some people love conversations with kids – they can be very entertaining and wonderful, but let’s be honest – they are not the same conversations you’ll have with adults.  If you honestly feel you have the same quality of conversation with 5 year olds as with people your age, then we’ve just had very different experiences in this area and no amount of blog-comment debate will bridge that gap! 3 – again – tolerance and empathy are not the same as liking. And the difference with kids… Read more »

Rebecca

I mostly agree with all your points. Although you still are lumping all kids together as a category, as if all are likeable or unlikable instead of each person being judged individually. Really in the end I am sure we aren’t so different on where we stand on this.
My main problem is that I think it is very easy to say “I don’t like kids” and then write off a whole number of very important issues because you have decided they are not relevant to you (because you don’t like kids, and therefore try to not be around them or people who have them, or listen to topics about them, etc.) It also sounds very final with no movement for change or exception, which to me is just very narrow minded. I do take offense to many generalizations. In my experience there are always just so many exceptions that making such bold statements as “I don’t like kids” just makes one sound intolerant and close minded. Saying “I don’t feel comfortable around kids” or “I havent had a lot of experience with children”,  sounds a lot different to me than “I don’t like kids”. I am okay with ” I don’t like loud kids, or silly kids” or whatever. Just like I think saying “I don’t like dumb blonds” seems more tolerable to me than saying “I don’t like blonds”.
Anyways, yes I have a problem with people who say they don’t like kids. A society where people only want to interact and only like and enjoy interacting, with their own peer group is an unhealthy place, that leads (obviously in my opinion) to very micro minded, self serving behaviour.

mom

So why so defensive? It’s all semantics. I am a stay-at-home mom who does occasional graphic design and have recently begun to dabble in creating things without my Mac. I have a background in fine arts and those things are beginning to come together nicely. But I also have a pack of kids to care for. And they come first, even on the days that I’ve had it up to here with poop and snot and meals and laundry. Why does it matter if I call it a job?  I am waiting for them to be more independent before I get too serious about my time creating. Is that anti-feminist thinking? Motherhood IS the highest vocation! It is not glamourous. We don’t get attagirls and praise or earn money or fame or glory. I guess I don’t see why you are so tweaked about the Mommy-is-the-most-important-job comment. It absolutely is, whatever you want to call it. You have a great deal of content about your beautiful babe and letters to him etc, so he IS part of your “job” if your job includes this blog. Then you abruptly leave him out of your blurb. Regarding men: they don’t get that question (or maybe just not as often?) because traditionally they spend less “mommyish” time with their kids. To suggest otherwise is just plain blinders-on silly. WE HAVE THE UTERUS AND THE BOOBS! We feed and nurture them all by our lonesome from conception until they stop breastfeeding. (And bless you for choosing to adopt; that’s wonderful and I do not mean to belittle your choice. I am speaking biologically.) And thanks to feminism (“men suck we don’t need you around even to father our children”) men have become expendable in that regard. So are men seen as an important parent… Read more »

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