What is the title of a parent who doesn't work? Is there a better alternative to Stay at Home Mum?
Last week, while visiting my home city in Australia, I had a bank appointment to sort out a few things. The advisor asked for my occupation and I fumbled for the answer because, since having children and moving countries, I haven't been officially employed for 2 years. I have done some freelance journalism and I run this blog but my main job is parent and housekeeper. So I replied, "Ummm, I'm at home?". She helped me out by saying, "You're a Home Maker. Officially, that's what we call it."
It's not a bad title as it does give some value to the role. It suggests the person is "making" a home and without this function it would just be a building. But it's not quite right, in my opinion, because the partner who goes out to work is also the maker of the home.
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 many women will avoid using this term to describe themselves. In France it is frowned upon if an educated, professional woman does not return to work as she might be seen as lazy or throwing away a good education. My French friends have told me that they often avoid admitting they are a 'femme au foyer' even to their own doctor. Instead they might say they are on a career break or they will lie and give the occupation they did before having children.
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.
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 silly.
I'm not at all comfortable calling myself a Stay At Home Mum (SAHM) even in social situations. Firstly there are plenty of stay at home dads so it should be known as a Stay At Home Parent (SAHP). 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 doing admin, food shopping, attending events and meetings and running the children to activities or appointments.
I'm fully aware that working mums have it much harder than me so this is not a blog about me trying to prove that there is value in what I do. I just want to find an appropriate way to describe it officially and open up a discussion.
Sometimes when filling out form that asks for my occupation I write, "Not Applicable". It depends how relevant the answer is to the application.
I'm yet to see a relevant title in an online form with a drop down menu! I refuse to select UNEMPLOYED.
Five Little Stars' Kate will often write, "Barrister (non practicing)". I like this. And it would also work for a few other occupations. But what if you were a hair stylist for example? You wouldn't write "non practicing stylist". What is the answer? I still don't know.
So, ideas please!
If you're a parent who doesn't work, what do you write on a form when it asks for your occupation or employment? Comment below, send us an email or join our Facebook discussion here.