Words go into and out of style just as fast as clothing, hairstyles, and the color of kitchen appliances do. Ester Bloom, a contributor to the online current affairs/culture magazine, Slate, suggests it’s about time for a makeover for the term we use to describe mothers who choose full-time motherhood versus those who choose full-time motherhood plus an outside job.

According to Bloom, stay-at-home mom is "no good" anymore. Neither is its all-caps shorter nickname, SAHM. She's not enthusiastic about housewife, either, preferring instead the word homemaker.

A 2012 Pew survey indicates 29% of mothers do not work outside of the home they share with at least one child age 18 or under. This percentage is up from a low of 23% in 1999. Bloom sees this upswing in moms at home as a reason to revisit what we call these women.

Many of today's moms won't remember the styles of the 1970s — hair strategically tousled à la Farrah Fawcett or bouffant Afro as worn by Diana Ross, and kitchen appliances of harvest gold and avocado green — but Bloom thinks back to the '70s and the thoughts of First Lady Betty Ford.

The women's liberation and equal rights movements were in full swing and the First Lady felt it was time to stop calling women who stayed home with their children "just a housewife." She said there no "just a" about it. Her idea was to ditch the housewife term altogether and refer to these women as homemakers. In an interview for Good Housekeeping magazine in 1976, Mrs. Ford said of her life as a "dancer, fashion model and fashion coordinator”: "I would've missed something if I hadn't been a homemaker."

The word stuck until 1992, when a shift in thinking took the focus off house and home, zeroing in on the importance of the children instead. That year, an article in the New York Times described a woman — Cheryl Leach — as a "stay-at-home mom" who had earned advanced degrees, was once a schoolteacher, and was co-creator of the children's TV show, Barney & Friends. In the 2000s, the term was shortened to simply SAHM.

Well-educated women of affluence may choose to stay at home with the kids but today, when the economy struggles and the job market is too fickle to bet on, many mothers are staying at home full time because they can't get jobs or they can't get jobs that pay enough to cover the cost of childcare. Suggesting they are staying at home by choice or contributing little more than being there, as implied in the term, seems to sell them short, according to Bloom.

These women are not merely at home, they are making a home for their families. That's a noble accomplishment Bloom thinks needs to be acknowledged. These women are not SAHMs, these ladies are homemakers.


Source: Bloom, Ester. "Reclaiming 'Homemaker.'" Slate. The Slate Group LLC / Graham Holdings Company. Apr 29, 2014. Web. May 6, 2014.

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