As I sit here on day seven of The Worst Cold I Have EVER Had, it's hard to appreciate that I have the "luxury" of being a Stay At Home Mom. I haven't stayed home a single day in years - whether I was sick, pregnant, postpartum, snowed in, or anything else. And I don't just mean that my childcare duties continue without respite. What I mean is that my "job" as a "stay at home" mom doesn't permit me to stay at home. I have a wildly active toddler and we live in a two-bedroom apartment; you can do the math. Barring complete physical incapacitation, which thankfully hasn't happened, getting him out of the house has always been the lesser of all evils. The "Stay At Home Mom" title really seems to me to be the antithesis of my daily goals, almost all of which revolve around getting the hell out of the house!
And yes, staying home is a luxury, but it's far from luxurious. It's also far from passive so it's really unfortunate that we've chosen an acronym starting with the word "stay." The first two definitions listed for the verb "stay" in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary are "To stop going forward" and "To stop doing something." I can't think of a less accurate way to describe what I do with my time. And while it's true that I did "stop" practicing law, I hardly think my current vocation should be defined as not doing whatever I used to do.
The passivity of the word "stay" also contributes - in no small part - to the dreaded Mommy Wars. There's an ongoing, ludicrous debate about whether kids who "stay home" lack socialization; again, as if anybody is actually literally staying in the house! And take this meme that popped up a few times in my Facebook feed awhile back:
Fifty Shades of Hell were raised over that. Maybe even sixty.
But even working moms and the staunchest of feminists can get behind a remake of my least favorite acronym. Why? Because of the gender exclusivity. Our language shouldn't imply that whether one works outside of the home makes them a definitive type of "mom." It's needlessly polarizing. And we're not doing our daughters any favors either. My brother plans to be a SAH*D* - his wife's career is really taking off in amazing ways, but as with so many such careers it promises to be incredibly demanding. In my humble opinion, we're not going to see equal numbers of women "breaking the glass ceiling" until we see equal numbers of women with spouses who enable them to go all the extra miles at work. Continuing to linguistically reinforce the idea that mainly "moms" are the parents who occasionally choose to take on all of the domestic work is simple sexism. As the "feminist housewives" that so many of us are, we should demand a better title.
I'm not the first to call for an upgrade here. Slate ran a piece back in March that followed the evolution of "SAHM" from its original "housewife" roots, and suggested "primary caretaker" as a potential replacement. Others have suggested "full-time parent." I would reject both of those as rightfully offensive to working parents, though. Nobody forfeits their status as their child's primary caretaker simply by working outside of the home. And parents who do work outside of the home are still parents - not part-time parents.
I'll offer up as our next iteration either At-Home Parent (AHP) or Full-Time Caretaker (FTC). Either of those would alleviate the passivity, borderline-cutesyness, and "This Is The Kind of Mom I Am" statement I feel forced to make when I tell people I'm a SAHM. And just imagine if the next generation of boys could grow up hearing about FTCs or AHPs instead of SAHMs... it might sound trite, but we could really change the world.
UPDATE: Two days after I posted this entry, check out this NYT article: "Wall Street Mothers, Stay Home Fathers: For growing numbers of women on Wall Street, stay-at-home husbands are enabling them to compete at work with new intensity." LOVE!!!