Let’s Talk: Are You a Part-time Mum?

Do you ever wonder what people mean when they ask “So you’re a full-time mom?”    Are they thinking how nice that is for you and your children?  Are they wondering about the career you left behind – at least temporarily?  Are they wondering why you aren’t working part or full time? Are they wondering why you went to graduate school and worked hard at a career, only to leave it and stay at home with  your children after maternity leave ended?  Are they wondering what it is like to be at home full time with your children? Are they wondering how your family can afford to not have both parents working in the hyper-expensive Lower Mainland? (Think living/real estate costs) Are they thinking that you’ve returned to the 1950s and have turned your back on feminism? Or are they simply making conversation?

Have you noticed that this type of conversation doesn’t last very long?  Perhaps three sentences are exchanged, at most. Why is that?  Is it because most people have had some type of experience with their own children and think they know what your life is like?  Does the unpaid work of a parent seem out of place in a “what do you do” conversation?

“So you are a full-time mom?” is a typical response when a woman answers a social enquiry about her employment status. “No I’m not working right now”, she replied.

So you’re not working?  What exactly are you doing with your days, mum? Are you watching The Talk until noon? Are you having lunch with your girlfriends every day while your children out with the nanny? Are you shopping in Yaletown and South Granville Rise most afternoons?  Like any woman who is at home full time or works outside of the home, you have your social time and your down time; however, most of the time you are busy.  If you are at home with your children full-time, you could be doing just about anything.  Your schedule is probably different every day. You might have a newborn. You might have twins or a toddler and baby. Your children might be in pre-school or older. Anything is possible, but two things are certain.

Firstly, you are working. You are working full time in the home.  You might refer to yourself as a Stay-at-Home-Mum (SAHM). In fact, if your children are quite young it is entirely possible that you were up at 6 AM and went to bed close to midnight. You might even be getting up multiple times during the night. Technically a mum who works in an office is working outside of the home. (This is in addition to the work that she does at home. ) Recent OECD research (see Related below) has shown that Canadian mothers work 100 more minutes a day than their partners completing unpaid work in the home, even if they are working full or part-time.

Secondly, you are not a “full-time” mum. You are a mum who cares for her children full-time, rather than employing other people to care for your children for a portion of the day. You do not share child care responsibilities with someone else. It is important to make this distinction because if you are a full-time mum, what does this make a mum who works outside of the home on a part-time or full-time basis? Does this make her a part-time mum? Of course it doesn’t. She is a mum for every waking hour of the day.

If you are not working outside of the home, does this make you a housewife? It does if you are married/living common law, of course, and if   that’s how you want to define yourself. You are a wife, who is at home. You can be a housewife if you want. Or not. You can define yourself as a homemaker, if you are keen to focus on that aspect of your contributions to the home and family.  There is nothing wrong with these terms.  You are free to use them, or not. Or you can describe yourself as being a wife and mother, with no reference made to house and home. Or you can focus on your home business first.  That can be part of your personal profile. Or not. It’s your choice how you wish to define yourself.

Children are young for a few years, and then they move on to school and away from home.  Perhaps you are working outside of the home or have a home-based business while they are very young.  Or you don’t work part-time or from home because of child care considerations, for example. You might decide to take on a part time or full time job when the children start school, and enlist the help of before and after school care or a nanny. Or you might not. Anything is possible. Your personal and professional profile will change over the years. You don’t have to feel defined by artificial labels.

Helicopter mothers.  Tiger Moms. Perfectionist parents.  There are so many fake trends being discussed in the online, television and print media.  If you express a concern for your child, nowadays, you’re told that you are hovering over your child.  We are meant to believe that the Baby Boomers, many of whom like to throw around fake trend terms, never worried about their own children. Mums / moms/ mothers everywhere need to get the word out about what they are doing on a daily basis to support their children as a counteractive measure against the exagerated stories in the media.   The unpaid work of a parent matters in our society. In fact in Canada it matters a lot and accounts for 40% of the economy.  The more women talk about their personal experiences, the more Canadians will understand what our society needs to do to support the personal and professional needs of women and children in Canada.  For an example of how women achieve this level of conversation, check out the social policies in European countries.

Forget about trending catch phrases such as Ms. Big. The next time someone asks you what you do, why not reply I’m a “Domestic Goddess“*, if you like a touch of flair in your conversations, or “I’m a Chief Operating Officer (COO) at a family-run business”? Just to stir things up.  One mother got tired of seeing how people shut down mentally when she explained that she was at home full time with her family.  At one cocktail party she decided to give a detailed description of her work load, leaving out the part about not working for a corporation.  When she described her work load her fellow event goers paid close attention.  Eventually she revealed that she was a COO at her own household resident.

Oh and don’t forget to mention that you’re a feminist too!  You may be at home full-time, but this does not mean that you have turned your back on feminism. 


Superwoman to Domestic Goddess*

Cooking, Caring and Volunteering: UnPaid Work Around the World

*BCFamily.ca is an Associate of Amazon.com


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