So, You’re a Working Mom?

There was an interesting comment in a recent article of mine that made me think. Another mom-who-happens-to-work-at-home mentioned that she “just can’t call herself a WAHM.” It made me smile for a couple of reasons. One - I smiled because I suspect I know exactly why that particular title makes her uncomfortable. And – Two -  because I use that particular term on purpose here on the blog. (Even if it’s not one that I am ready to march for waving my own little flag necessarily, and she probably already knows that, too.)

WAHM Baggage

Okay, here’s the scoop. If you don’t already know, work-at-home moms, or WAHM as we are often labeled, aren’t taken very seriously as business people. We’re considered flakes who raise kids full-time and play around making money during naps or whatever. There, I said it.

If you don’t believe me, check out some of the meatier webmaster forums that are almost entirely populated by men or “professional” women. When other members go looking for cheap content or services, members tend to recommend that others “ go find a WAHM looking to make a few bucks” on other forums. There are even e-books created and sold as a “special offer” that outline how to exploit WAHMs.

The general impression from the more “serious” website owners is that moms – especially those who write - are just sitting around watching their stories and eating bon-bons most of the time, but when they decide it’s time to make a few bucks to buy some new scrap booking supplies, they wait patiently for the webmasters to hand them a few quick articles to write for any amount the client is willing to offer.

It makes you shake your head, of course, and presumably you realize that this isn’t true for most of the serious writing moms out there regardless of where they choose to work. But even sadder than the general perception is the fact that there are some out there who encourage the stereotype be being exactly the type of WAHM the rest of us hate to be classified as.

It creates a nasty contradiction within the moms-who-work community.

The Mom Community

Anyone who is a mom knows that there are tiers and levels in the mothering community. Any woman who has given birth is given a free pass into the motherhood club. From there things get a little trickier. You have to earn your stripes if you’re going to be in the ‘exclusively breastfed’ club or if you want to be part of the ‘stay-at-home mom’ niche. You get another notch on your belt if you’re a ‘homeschooling’ mom or if you’re a serious ‘PTA’ or ‘Soccer’ mom. The categorization of the moms is endless, and it’s almost exclusively done by other moms.

Fortunately, while we may pick at each other over formula feeding and soccer leagues, moms tend to unite and support each other when things get a bit hairier. We can forget labels as quickly as we create them. As far as I’m concerned the WAHM title is just one of those that should probably be swept away or reclassified as non-combative.

Embrace WAHM-isms

Do I like being called a WAHM? Eh. I honestly don’t really care. I can fall into virtually any category of motherhood depending on the time of the year and the mood I’m in. But I know that it bothers others and I’ll hazard a guess that it’s the stereotype that is getting under their skin.

I don’t like being labeled anything I find offensive. I would hate to be called dumb or lazy. I would hate to be called a bad mother. I would hate for someone to slap me in a category where I don’t feel I belong, and that applies to all of our sensibilities. Otherwise why would so many professional-level writers feel the need to explain our business model and why we are different than the cheap writers? Why do we get offended when we see newspaper articles claiming that writing articles online is an easy way to earn money for those looking for new career options?

But in the grand scheme of things, this is just another layer of a very complex cake. There are some WAHMs out there grateful to pick up a few bucks while baby naps. These are essentially the same as the hobby writers or the college kids who want a little beer or Christmas money. Big deal. Leave them be.

Then there are the WAHMs who run full-scale businesses that enable them to provide fully for their families. I’ve been fortunate to know a nutritionist with her doctoral degree who choses to work from home as well as a full-time professional employee of Microsoft who also works from home. I know working moms who write part-time (like me) and those who write full-time (like others here.) I know moms who are full-time CPAs and award-winning professional photographers who travel to clients and need only a home office.

Professional or not, Tupperware or corporate accounts, we are all moms and we all happen to be that dreaded term: WAHM. Like so many others, this is a stereotype that holds no water.

Or does it?

Profile image for Rebecca Garland
Rebecca is a full-time everything. She teaches English and reading to her much loved, if challenging, high school students during the day and is a freelance education writer in the evenings. With almost ten years in the classroom and advanced degrees in business and information science, Rebecca specializes in materials that inform, educate and entertain. Rebecca indulges herself by pretending to have spare time and writing about the ups and downs of being a freelancing mama whenever she gets a chance.

8 thoughts on “So, You’re a Working Mom?”

  1. I had no idea WAHMs were seen that way by the super profesh professionals. I guess I don’t care. A couple of my best clients are also WAHMs. I don’t use the term to describe myself professionally, but sometimes I do socially- if that makes sense. For example I’ll tweet about my day with the hashtag #wahm, but I don’t have it in my bio on my website and I would never send out a query for a gig, “Hi, I’m a WAHM who can meet all your web content needs!”

  2. I don’t think it is just the super profesh professionals that use the WAHM stereotype. I have come across that with some regular people too. I have a degree and write code and yet the neighbor who is a gym teacher’s aid is snooty as she has a “real job”.

    I don’t advertise as a WAHM either but I don’t hide from it. Mostly I tell people that I own my own business.

    I don’t know anyone that fits the stereotype either. Most WAHM I know actually put in a LOT of hours. The hardest thing is finding down time because the boundaries are blurred.

  3. The problem is that the stereotype is often true, and that’s a shame for the many WAHMs who don’t fit within it. But we’ve seen it here on this very blog for years. When we talk about doing better for yourself in business, we almost always get a few WAHMs who freak out, accuse us of being elitists, and go on about how bottom of the barrel rates are okay for freelancers because they just happen to be WAHMs who are only looking to earn a bit of extra money so they can stay at home with the kids.

    Is there anything wrong with that goal? Absolutely not. But those individuals who tend to openly embrace the title then join professional communities and conversations, pretending they’re on the same level. They’re not. They’re hobbyists. Again, that’s perfectly okay. But the simple truth is they give the more professional WAHMs a bad name when they push the hobbyist mentality in professional communities that aren’t tailored to them and their goals.

    Most of the moms I know who work from home work their asses off. And they run successful businesses. But very few of them seem to publicly embrace the WAHM label the way hobbyists do. There are certainly biases with some client groups. But we have to understand that we have a lot of very vocal groups on the Web these days, and that’s the kind of image they sometimes portray. It’s a shame, but it happens.

    A perfect example was the big “mommy blogger” crowd a couple of years ago. You had women embracing that label who did little more than fall all over themselves trying to get free swag, and then publicly bitching about PR firms that wouldn’t give them free stuff. It was a big deal when that was the focus after a major conference rather than anything substantive. They gave mommy bloggers everywhere a bad name. PR firms started backing away from giving most of them free stuff anymore. Some of the bigger ones dropped the label from their sites and social media profiles.

    It isn’t just moms though. As writers we deal with these stereotypes, kids or not. Just tell someone you’re a “writer” when they ask what you do and you can still get odd looks. I regularly deal with some level of amazement when people find out I can earn a real living doing this. We still deal with the starving artist stereotype. Even in our own families this can happen. It took years for me to be taken seriously by some family members. It’s the “get a real job” mentality.

    Whether or not these stereotypes are just isn’t as important as understanding there are reasons for them. Some WAHMs give others a bad name. Some mommy bloggers give other moms a bad name. And some freelance writers will always give the rest of us a bad name. We can embrace titles. We can rise above them. But in the end it all comes down to the individual. You decide what image you want for your business and you build it, no matter what you want to call yourself.

  4. I don’t advertise the fact that I’m a mother to my clients, but l also don’t hide it. Although I don’t refer to myself professionally as a wahm, my being a mom and my reasons for working from home as a freelancer are intrinsically linked.

    Loved the way you broke down the hierarchy of moms in the “Mom Community.” 🙂

  5. I actually didn’t realize this was such a problem, I guess because I haven’t been looking for it. Now I’m worried that I’ve been painted with that particular brush. I’ve described myself as “work at home” because, well, I do. I need to stay at home to help my son who has special needs, but I decided to put that time to good use and start a business. It’s building slowly, but I am confident that the pieces will fall into place. I certainly don’t work “between bon bons.” I guess I’ll be more careful when I describe what I do from now on.

  6. This post is so true. I AM a WAHM in the sense that I’m a mom who works from home. However, I don’t call myself that for the exact stereotypes you’ve mentioned, Rebecca. I also don’t embrace the title because it’s not how I started my writing business. I’m a writer who became a mother, not the other way around, and in my mind, that makes a difference.

    But perhaps I’m more WAHMish than I’d like to admit. I do sometimes work while I’m watching Days of Our Lives and snacking, but only AFW readers will know that secret.


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