What is the modern title for a parent who doesn't go out to work? Please don't say SAHM!

retro house wife


Last week I had a bank appointment in Australia and the advisor asked for my occupation. I fumbled over the answer because, since having kids and moving countries, I haven't been "officially" employed for 2 years. I have done some freelance work and I write this blog but my MAIN job is mother, housekeeper, gardener, school helper, accountant, shopper etc. Of course, none of these roles are official. So I finally replied, "Ummm, I'm at home?" The bank woman helped me out by saying, "You're a Home Maker. That's what we call it officially here." 

This Australian term "Home Maker" has a nice ring to it. It gives a value to the role. It suggests the person is "making" something or affecting something and without this role the home would just be a house. But to me, the description feels kind of flowery. I don't really get it. Surely a person who goes out to work all day is also a maker of the home too? 

Mum and child walking

 In France, where I live now, a woman who doesn't return to work after children is known as a "femme au foyer" which literally means a "woman in the home". But it's frowned upon by some people here and many women will avoid using the term. Because in France if an educated, professional woman does not return to work she might be seen as lazy or throwing away a good education. My French friends have told me they often avoid admitting they are a 'femme au foyer' even to their doctor. They might choose to say they are on a career break or they will lie and give the occupation they did before. 

In fact, it's so unusual for a mum not to return to work in Paris, that my American friend is often mistaken for a nanny if she is with her school aged children at the playground. 

In a way, it's great that a woman's role in the French economy is so highly valued. The women's liberation movement of the 1970s would be amazed by how far it's come. But, in other ways, it makes it hard for women (or men) who don't return to work for their own good reasons. Perhaps France needs to find an alternative description like Australia has done. It needs a positive spin! 

House Wife has been rebranded so many times over the last 40 years. Do you remember Home Economist? That was a classic! But I don't think I'd write that on a form unless I was being tongue in cheek.

I have to say, I'm not comfortable calling myself a Stay At Home Mum (SAHM) which is popular now. Firstly there are plenty of stay at home dads so it should be Stay At Home Parent. And secondly,  it doesn't accurately describe the role. It implies that the non-working parent just STAYS AT HOME. Yes, a lot of my day is taken up at the kitchen sink. It's a cliché but it's true. However a lot of my day is also taken up OUTSIDE of the home.  

I'm fully aware that working mums have it much harder than me, so this is not a blog about me trying to prove there is value in what I do. I just want to find an appropriate way to describe it and open up a discussion. 

Sometimes when filling out forms with a box that asks for my "occupation" I write, "Not Applicable". It depends how relevant the answer is to the application I suppose. And I've never seen a relevant title in an online form with a drop down menu! I refuse to select UNEMPLOYED. 

Five Little Star's Kate will often write, "Barrister (non practicing)". I like this. And it would also work if you were a doctor or a dentist. But what if you were a Designer for example? You wouldn't write "non practicing Designer". What is the answer? I still don't know.

So, ideas please!

What do you write on a form when it asks for your occupation or employment? And socially, what's an alternative for saying you're a Stay At Home Mum? Let's find a better title. We can do this!

Alison x


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