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.)
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.
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?