“The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only — and that is to support the ultimate career.” — C.S. Lewis
Today, we frequently use the term “SAHM” (stay-at-home-mom) to describe moms who prioritize family life (being wife and mother, heart and home) over careers. It’s time to replace that word with a term that adequately showcases the nobility of the maternal calling: homemaker.
What Do You Do?
To address the issue with the term “stay-at-home-mom,” we need to evaluate one of the most popular dinner party questions: “What do you do?”
Once, it was a social faux pas or “rude” to ask someone what they do. And this stood for good reason. When we ask someone what “he or she does,” we inevitably pry into their financial status.
Talking about money is gauche. It’s an off-putting topic and usually reveals a shallowness of character.
E.g., “Do you know how much this costs?”
“My job is great because I make bank.”
“I’m not excited about this date, so we’ll go someplace cheap.”
So forth and so on.
When we ask someone what they do, we immediately get a monetary understanding of the person. This insight is personal, but it’s hard not to make a financial judgment about an individual based on what they do.
“He must be well off because he’s a proctologist.”
We are human beings, not human doings. There is so much more to the human person than a job, but when we make “what do you do” our primary concern, we reveal that we associate people more with what they do rather than who they are.
Many people are bereft of an identity outside of their career, which is a tragedy. You—work aside—who are you?
The question “what you do” reveals where we are as a culture: addicted to materialism.
And a particular group of individuals who are very much the unfortunate target of this mindset is “stay-at-home-moms.”
“What do you do?”
“Oh, I am a stay-at-home-mom.”
In these few words, you’ve summed up that you are bringing very little to the table as far as finances go.
Hence, the worldly association is: you are not contributing. On the one hand, we could say this is selling yourself short, and on the other hand, we could say this is exceptionally privileged — pointing back to the money problem.
When someone asks me what I did over the weekend, and I didn’t do anything interesting, my response is, “I just stayed home.” There’s a lazy inference in the expression staying at home. I am not participating in the going on around me; I am lying low, soaking up some R&R.
There is a lazy association with the expression stay-at-home-mom since it seems to imply that she isn’t doing anything. She “just” stays at home, which anyone who knows anything about a SAHM, the last thing she is doing is just staying at home.
As Anthony Esolen states: “The phrase ‘stay-at-home mom’ is patronizing and faintly derogatory, like ‘stick-in-the-mud mom’ or ‘sit-in-the-corner mom.’ Do we talk about a ‘chained-to-the-desk mom’ or a ‘stuck-in-traffic mom’ or a ‘languishing-in-meetings mom?”
The woman who chooses to prioritize motherhood and family life contributes to her family and the world around her. And by being a mother, she acts as a collaborator with God.
Engage Rather Than Evaluate
Yet, many belittle women for choosing to devote their time— their lives— to building up the Domestic Church. From a Christ-centered standpoint, this is a position infinitely more beautiful and awesome than a paycheck.
My grandmother, who lived through the Sexual Revolution and Second Wave of Feminism, told me about the odd switch from engaging with people to solely evaluating them.
“I used to go to dinner parties and have a conversation.” She stated one day over lunch, “and then suddenly, it all started to change. Everyone I met started asking me, ‘what do you do?”
Now, my grandmother was an incredibly generous woman. She donated so much of her time and effort to her community and prioritized her role as a homemaker. Anyone who knew her understood that she was an impressive woman. However, as far as “doing something” in terms of a career, she was unemployed.
Without warning, her value became based on her job status. She grew disgusted with having her worth tethered to a paycheck. When people started to ask her what she did, being a classy well-dressed lady, she quipped with all the spunk in the world: “I’m a hooker.”
“That shut them up.” She told me laughingly.
SAHM vs. Homemaker
The term stay-at-home-mom is inadequate, which is ironic because we live in a culture that insists on not selling yourself short. It seems that applies to everyone save for moms.
Women who choose to fulfill their maternal calling and prioritize family life over a career are homemakers. They are the backbone of society and the heart of the world. They turn houses into homes, a place that foreshadows Heaven. They possess the ability to cultivate beauty in a decaying world and act as co-creators with the Almighty. God bless homemakers.
There is conflict when evaluating the question of adequate terminology (SAHM versus homemaker). And that’s not surprising. In asking for language that expresses the nobility and beauty of being a mother, it’s easy for women to believe that we are creating some conflict: moms versus career-oriented women. And that by elevating motherhood, we are shaming women who need to work.
Not at all.
Modernity attacks the family (and coupled with our current economy), it is increasingly difficult for mothers to be home with their families. This situation is a real problem, and there is no shame in generating extra income. If we look back to agricultural times, women had a huge role in seeing hard work like farming and providing.
The problem is in upholding women with careers and belittling women who choose motherhood. Full-time employment and being a mother will inevitably conflict because motherhood is a full-time job. Yet, interestingly enough, we celebrate women who sacrifice everything for an employer and shake heads at those who sacrifice for family.
Women who choose motherhood over a career are often treated with the “you must prefer the 1950s aesthetic. You must like being domestic. How good for you.” Affirming the flawed belief that the world is all about you and what you like. A view that encourages the selfish and shallow attitude corroding society.
This reaction is silly. Candidly, I, for one, am not a big fan of “domestic tasks.” I loathe things like laundry and cleaning bathrooms. But choosing to prioritize homemaking isn’t really about personal tastes. Instead, it’s the belief that there are things in life that are more important than my personal preferences. I have a responsibility to my family, and often that means forgoing the things I find pleasurable and doing the things I dislike. Homemaking isn’t about likes and dislikes. It’s about understanding the necessity of the family, fostering values, and upholding responsibility.
Homemaker is a better term for a woman who prioritizes family life over worldly success because she fulfills what C.S. Lewis refers to as the “ultimate career” — the career that all other occupations serve. The homemaker cultivates a home, a place that reminds us of the eternal, and brings comfort and peace into a noisy and cold world.
Many women who are determined to embrace femininity and their maternal calling are willing to accept the sacrifices that accompany “staying at home.” Homemaker encompasses those sacrifices, including the mom who has an additional “gig” on the side. But instead of prioritizing the gig, the term homemaker exalts the role of the mother.
A Little Extra Cash
To illustrate, numerous women utilize direct marketing to generate extra income. Their goal is not career-centered but rather to make traditional family life more accessible. And that’s awesome! We should be eternally grateful that today it’s easy to work remotely, make your own hours, and make some extra cash. Many of these women can choose part-time jobs that interest them and compliment their way of life: selling clean makeup, fitness coaching, marketing better hair products, and so forth.
Yes, these direct marketing industries can get a lot of flack, but one mom I know confidently challenged the haters: “I love direct marketing, and you can call it a scheme, but that is never going to stop me. If it’s just a scheme, well, it’s the best scheme out there. I get to do something I love, build community with fellow moms, make a little extra income, and be present for my family.”
Another mom navigated the “what do you do” stigma by admitting, “Yup! I work remotely part-time, but my real job is motherhood.”
We need more voices like these. These women are exceptional and willing to go outside the box to find ways to be full-time moms. Personally, my favorite individuals to support are the side-hustling homemakers because I admire their effort and their willingness to sacrifice the more glamorous careers for the sake of their families. And if I can help them out in any way, I will.
Plus, nowadays, they sell really cool things and not just Tupperware. ?
Our words matter. We must communicate well, and as such, it is time we quit using patronizing language to describe the women who hold society together: the homemakers. Those women are the heart of the world.