2 reasons I hate the phrase “Just a Stay at Home Mom.”

(Today is a guest post from my wife Jenny!)

I’m done with the phrase “Just a stay at home mom.”

It’s officially time to retire it and I think there are two very good reasons:

1. It makes you feel like being a mom “doesn’t count.”

The phrase, “Just a stay at home mom” is incredibly belittling to anyone whose dream is to be a mom. I’ve written about this before, for some people, myself included, my whole dream is to be a mom. I have an undergrad in Photojournalism, I have a Master’s from Georgia Tech in Construction Management, but I always knew that raising my kids full time was my full time dream. When you tell someone they are “Just a stay at home mom” it makes us moms feel like we’re not doing enough or being enough.

2. It makes moms who want to chase dreams feel inadequate.

I love that there are moms starting businesses, writing books, recording albums and doing a million other creative things. But sometimes, when they step out, people will doubt them by saying, “Oh, she’s just a stay at home mom.” Maybe you’ve never heard this phrase, I hope you haven’t, but moms all over the country do. How do I know? Because they read Jon’s books and then email him. A few weeks ago, one emailed Jon and said she had been told she didn’t have any leadership capabilities because she was “Just a stay at home mom.”

For such a simple, short phrase, it sure does hurt both approaches to being a mom, doesn’t it?

If you’re a stay at home mom it makes you feel like that doesn’t count and you should be doing more.

If you dare to do more, it makes you feel like you’re unqualified.

It’s a circle that keeps too many moms stuck.

It’s time to get rid of that phrase, because it only does damage.

If you want to be a stay at home mom, who doesn’t start a business, great!

If you want to be a stay at home mom, who starts a business, great!

If your whole dream is to be a stay at home mom, great!

If your dream includes being a stay at home mom and writing a book, great!

I think you can do both approaches. (And it goes without saying, you can be awesome without being a mom. Don’t read this post as a criticism of women who aren’t moms, that would be silly.)

Sometimes, people ask me if Jon’s new book Do Over applies to moms.

I think it does, but then I’m biased.

You know who isn’t?

Parents Magazine.

They named Do Over their “Mom Must-Read” for April.

Here’s what they had to say for us moms and our dreams.

“Quippy and filled with aha moments, Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work and Never Get Stuck helps you make positive changes at work and at home. Best-selling author Jon Acuff makes the obvious points that relationships, skills, character and hustle will help you with every kind of career change. But even better, he explains how you can make moves right away. Want to network with someone important? Be a first responder – answer e-mails and pick up the phone right away. Need to know what skills you even have? Complete the in-book note-card exercise and increase your confidence ASAP. So how do you fix your character? Two ways (out of many): Be generous and turn your phone so the screen is down when you’re talking in person. Hustling sound hard? It is. But Acuff breaks it down into pieces like getting the grittiest, least likeable aspects of your job down first. Though the focus is on careers, the advice applies to a busy person’s (ahem, like parents?) entire life. Whether you want to change jobs, get back into the workforce, or just be a better person, this book delivers the goods you need to succeed.”

parents

I think you’ll love Do Over and should buy a copy, but again I’m biased.

What I’m not biased about is the power of us moms.

Never accept the criticism that you’re “just a stay at home mom.”

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29 Comments
  • David Mike
    Posted at 06:29h, 27 March Reply

    My wife works in a hair salon 2.5 days a week. On the other days she is a domicile engineer, social coordinator, culinary artist, peace keeper, transportation specialist, counselor/therapist, damage control specialist, yes a stay at home mom. I am 900% sure that our home would implode and explode at the same time without her. If she were gone, I would have to hire Mary Poppins, Nanny McPhee and Mrs. Doubtfire to replace her. The value she brings into our home is immeasurable. Thanks for this post Jenny, I know why Jon is such a cool guy. Beside every cool guy stands his awesome wife!

  • Daniel Decker
    Posted at 06:44h, 27 March Reply

    This really needed to be said. I hate it too. My wife is primarily a stay-at-home mom but it’s anything but “just a.” Moms need to be reminded and empowered to know that they have the most important job on the planet. It might not be as glorious or get the notoriety it deserves but the fruit of the labor pays off in the end.

  • Andrew Beck
    Posted at 07:05h, 27 March Reply

    Many times it is said out of jealousy, which is sad. It is sad that people will belittle other, because they don’t have want they want.

    My wife is anything but “Just a stay at home home”, our family wouldn’t /couldn’t function properly, if she weren’t manning the fort.

    I’m excited about the new book Do Over.

    Thanks Jenny and Jon for all you do.

  • Danny Henderson
    Posted at 07:46h, 27 March Reply

    This goes for us stay home dads too. There are more of us out there than you may think. I have never had a job that is so hard and so fulfilling. My wife and I worked for a long time to get to this point and I work hard every day from the time I roll out of bed until late at night. I raise 4 kids, I am remodeling the house myself, and I write. It takes all your time, all your energy, and more patience than most people can pull together. I am not “just” a stay home dad. I am a STAY HOME DAD”.

    • Jack
      Posted at 09:10h, 27 March Reply

      Hi Danny,
      you sound like being a role model for what I want to accomplish. Cool!
      How did you get there? How did you find the guts to step out of the hamster wheel? I guess that you DID work at a certain point??
      My biggest challenge is to feel the right to “just” raise the kids and write. Somehow it feels like cheating on my responsibility to provide something useful to society. Although I am totally aware that this is nonsense, as our kids definitely seem to be the most valuable “thing” I can probably provide in my entire life…
      Best
      Jack
      It´s faszinating to me how deep those psychic imprints reside and how hard I find it to overwrite them with something positive..
      Best
      Jack

      • Danny Henderson
        Posted at 12:28h, 27 March Reply

        Yes, Jack. I did have the full time job. I was a mechanic for years. A high school teacher. I worked retail management for a long time. I did the office job, working risk management for a major company (my most recent job). And none of that fulfilled me. Probably the reason I bounced around a lot.

        The way I got here: My wife and i both agreed that one of us needed to stay home with the kids as soon as we could make it happen. Through a lot of discussion, we decided together that is should be me. She has a position that pays pretty well, and she is in law school.
        When our 4th child was born, the cost of daycare became overwhelming, and was eating my entire income. So we took the plunge.
        It has been a trial, but has paid off. The kids are better cared for, the house is better cared for, we are eating healthier, and I feel like I am doing what God wants for the first time in my life.
        I am being useful to society by raising my kids the best I can and teaching them to be good, charitable people who value hard work and will strive to be all they can. It is also nice to have more control over their spirituality on a daily basis.

        I hope this helps

  • Rachel Mayo
    Posted at 08:02h, 27 March Reply

    Jenny, you are my hero! Thank you for this. My dream job is to be a mom, and while I know that is basically the most kick-ass job I could ever have, I still get confused looks when I say I am building a business so one day I can stay at home with my kids. I know what will work for me, and I don’t need to worry about what others think I should be doing! You’re awesome, and I loved this post!

    • Jack
      Posted at 03:24h, 30 March Reply

      It does help. Thanks a lot Danny!
      Interesting parallels to my life. I was a car mechanic, then worked as a personal and tour manager for bands, then joined the film business, then became a diving instructor and now I am an academic researcher. None of that fulfilled me. Writing to me feels like- how did you put it- “I feel like I am doing what God wants for the first time in my life.”
      I don´t have a spiritual background- maybe that is why it feels so “unlogic” to accept that feeling. (Plus I am an evolutionary biologist- we are not exactly educated to listen to what god tells us (o;
      Thanks a lot for your answer. It needs some more preparartion but I will take the plunge!

  • Cyndi Bujarski
    Posted at 08:17h, 27 March Reply

    Love, love, love! I have heard it all. “But, what do you DO all day?” And it is so hard not to compare myself to my amazing friends who have businesses, jobs, homeschool, take care of their parents… On and on.

  • Nick Hettich
    Posted at 08:29h, 27 March Reply

    Well said. Being a stay at home Mom is one of the highest callings someone can have.

  • Kristin S
    Posted at 08:33h, 27 March Reply

    Jenny, you might have just put me over the edge to buy Do Over. I’m not a “stay at home mom” but sure would love to be.

  • Diane Allen
    Posted at 08:56h, 27 March Reply

    I enjoyed meeting you at the Wiki Conference last year. Just a note on the ‘just a mom’ post. I always filled out papers as ‘chief operating officer of household affairs’. As a mom, you are a leader and one of the most organized people on the planet. Moms manage a household, repairs, children’s schedules, appointments, homework and a number of logistics that qualify moms for plenty of positions in the workforce. Organizational skills are highly sought after, as well as dependability. It was hard when I ‘retired’ to stay home and then returned to the workforce, but I did push my skills and it was well received. David Mike said it perfectly. When I ‘retired’ my company offered me $10K additional salary to come back and my husband said ‘no way’. The stress level in our house was reduced 100 fold, which meant the kids weren’t getting sick as much anymore. It was a huge blessing to our family to have the ability to be at home for a season. Cheers~

  • Jack
    Posted at 09:03h, 27 March Reply

    Hi Jenny,
    I am a (transgender) non-stay at home “mum”, but I am very happy to read your post here.
    Although I think the feminism movement was an important and incredibly bald step towards at least aiming at same chances and rights for women and men, I sometimes do feel that now in the “mother role” we have to do ALL at the same time to be respected in society.
    I love our boys but when I went back to work after our first son was 7 months old, it felt like playtime in regard to the task of comforting and raising a baby full-time. I am working 75% now plus having the two little guys of 3 and 6 years- and I feel like my life is passing by and I watch as a standbyer. I often feel so streched out and I hate to sometimes have so little energy for the ones I care for most.
    That is why I am aiming for a “DO OVER” these days and that is why I am reading Jon ´s books. I am progressing in writing a fiction novel but I feel bad to quit my job and risk to be “just-a stay-at-home-mum” for a while. Can you imagine how stupid that is… (o;
    Thank you very much for your initiative!

  • Amy
    Posted at 09:48h, 27 March Reply

    A common problem in my area is people looking down on working moms. I know my SAHM friends are anything but “just a SAHM.” However, around here it seems you are looked down upon if you are a woman who has chosen to have both career and family.

    • Mj
      Posted at 16:44h, 28 March Reply

      I must agree with Amy, in this group to NOT be a stay at home is looked at as either greedy, selfish, or having an odd point of view. I deeply respect stay at home parents and hard job you do and know I couldn’t do it. Yet why isn’t my choice respected? Wouldn’t it be best to respect all choices?

  • Jody Noland
    Posted at 10:23h, 27 March Reply

    Amen, Jenny! To everything there is a season! I wouldn’t trade one second of my “just a stay-at-home” mom years for $1M! I cherished every second. (Despite the naysayers.)

  • Shawn Washburn
    Posted at 11:34h, 27 March Reply

    I love this post. My wife is a high school Spanish teacher who left that to raise our kids (always our plan from the beginning) and now homeschools three and keeps a toddler out of trouble. She is amazing, gifted, and does more each day than I will ever know. A few months back, I made a push on social media to rewrite the phrase “It’s not rocket science” (or similar) to be “It’s not Stay-At-Home-Mothering”. Similarly, when giving up trying to solve a seemingly impossible problem, one could respond with “It’s not like I’m a Stay-At-Home-Mom or anything”.

    Thanks Jenny for this post. It’s how I feel about my wife, my mom and so many other incredible women I know who fit this role.

  • Krithika Rangarajan
    Posted at 11:52h, 27 March Reply

    My dad worked 80 hour weeks in a globe-trotting job, but my stay-at-home mum still worked harder.

    Our family would have fallen apart with her commitment, confidence and creativity!

    PROUD of you, Jenny, and every stay-at-home mom/dad

    Kitto

  • Jeff Short
    Posted at 12:14h, 27 March Reply

    Someone had already mentioned it … but I think that it should have been written as a Stay At Home PARENT and not just moms (although they are the majority).

    But that being said — I think that the post is spot on…

  • Liz
    Posted at 12:16h, 27 March Reply

    Being a mom is one of the hardest, most financially-underpaid jobs out there. The idea of it is enough to make me run for the hills personally! (My dream is to never, ever have kids, but I have mad respect for women who have the opposite dream.

  • Dawn
    Posted at 12:57h, 27 March Reply

    I have been at home with my 10 children since I became pregnant with our first. 28 years now. Been homeschooling them for 18 years.
    My youngest is only 8, and even when he is grown, I hope to still be able to be at home. I love my home, and I love being with my family every day.
    I feel so blessed to be able to do what I do. Hard work? You better believe it!!
    But I can’t imagine more fulfilling work.

  • Tam
    Posted at 15:55h, 27 March Reply

    *APPLAUSE*

    Thanks for saying it, Jenny.

  • Michelle
    Posted at 17:30h, 27 March Reply

    I have chosen to be a stay at home mom, to 3 children, 6, 10, 12 – all now in school. It “was” never my dream, i was a successful career woman. I made a great 6 figure income, traveled the country every week, and loved it! I assumed I would have “a baby” and fit “it” into my life. Long story short(er) – I held him in my arms and it was like someone played the card game of 52 pickup with my life. I could no longer imagine getting a nanny, or focusing on my career any longer. All I wanted (before) was to be partner at my Big 4 firm in my early 30’s, and I was close to that goal…but then my goal changed in an instant. I felt like I worked too hard to get where I was in my career and I could not possibly give that up. I fought my desire to be home for a little while before I finally allowed myself to accept my new goal and quit to be “just a stay at home mom”. That term used to hurt a lot, now it only hurts my pride a little. I used to command attention when I walked into a board room and seen as highly valuable, smart and respected. Now people say “you are not going back to work right now, but your kids are all in school?” Some judge and think I am lazy, or cannot get a decent high paying job,..truth is I made more then my husband when I quit. We took a 60% cut in our family annual income. It has been hard, financially, physically and sometimes emotionally. But mostly? It has been wonderful. I made the choice to be “100% present” with my children and continue to be. No I never “dreamed” of being a stay at home mom, but it has been a dream come true.

  • Janice
    Posted at 21:05h, 27 March Reply

    Thanks for this. The other day I was at the dentist and the receptionist asked what I was doing with the rest of my day. I told her I was just getting chores done. She then asked me if I had the rest of the day off. I just replied that I did because I did not feel right saying I am a stay at home mom. I felt judged somehow by her simple question. I cannot explain it.

  • Jenny
    Posted at 22:00h, 27 March Reply

    What a great write up Jenny! Very well said! Kudos to all the Stay at Home Moms! I hope the term “Just a Stay at Home Mom” is retired sooner than later!

  • Theresa Diulus
    Posted at 21:07h, 29 March Reply

    Amen!

  • JK Riki
    Posted at 07:10h, 30 March Reply

    Try being a stay at home husband, it’s somehow worse because it’s so unusual or something. :/

    Anyway, at the end of the day you can’t listen to what the World says you’re worth, but God alone. If you’re doing what you’re called to, the other stuff is just noise. 🙂

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  • Heidi Bender
    Posted at 19:02h, 05 April Reply

    I’d like to be a stay at home cat home that starts a business from home! My husband says I need to start the business first and then I can stay home with the cats 🙂

    Thanks for sharing this. I am not a mom (of humans) and also do not like the phrase “just a stay at home mom” as moms do so much for their families!

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