What Does the Title "Homemaker" Mean to You?

Updated on July 26, 2009
J.W. asks from Grayslake, IL
18 answers

I had a doctors appointment today where the "old school" receptionist put down "homemaker" as my title and I crossed it off and wrote MBA graduate. To which my husband said you don't have an MBA and that isn't a profession. To which I felt even worse, I have an MAEd. I said I didn't want people to think I was sitting at home all day making cookies, I have an education, to which my husband said, the cookies wouldn't be a bad idea. When I told this to some people they said what's wrong with the title homemaker? I think taking care of my son is not something I am ashamed of, but the title "homemaker" is so 1950's. It makes it sound like I wear an apron and vaccum all day and basically cross stich and have a drink ready for my husband when he gets home, and take care of everyone else but myself. I think that title makes me feel uneducated and underappreciated. It is the title that bothers me. I guess I just don't feel like there is a positive title for that role, but there really should be. What do you think?

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So What Happened?

I just wanted to thank everyone for their input, and while, yes, I did want you to answer honestly, I am surprised that there were not more people who thought the role of mother/homemaker is hard, harder than Iever thought. I thought more people would say they were lonely, it is hard to find other moms that you click with and hard to spend the entire day talking to someone that does not talk back to you. It is hard to not talk to another adult all day, and sing songs all day. I thought there would be more people who felt undervalued and unappreciated, and that even though I chose to give up my six figure job, traveling around the United States, always reaching my bonus and receiving many awards before I became a "homemaker", I did like that someone pointed out, it was my choice. Even though it was my choice, it does not make all my days easier, but thank you to everyone who posted, and even more to the ones who were honest that they are not happy 24/7, and that is okay too, I thank you to for being honest. I guess sometimes I think people in the work force look down on SAHM's, that is why I LOVED that someone posted the e-mail fwd they received. I am not just a mom or a homemaker, I am a real person who does not care about scrapbooking, book clubs or moms night out. I look forward to other things, not the traditional, mom things, and so that is also why I find this role very challenging.... I am open to hearing more about the moms who LOVE their "homemaker" title and other moms who struggle with it.

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answers from Chicago on

I always put down "homemaker" under occupation. It lets people know that I am not "unemployed" and that I choose to spend all day at home raising my children. I am also educated and worked in the healthcare field before I chose to stay home with my kids. Some of the titles other women have used include: "domestic engineer", "stay-at-home-mom", "soccer-mom" (ha ha!) and simply "mom!". I don't really feel that it has a negative connotation when you tell people you are a homemaker. If anything, people tell me that they are proud of me for staying home and raising my kids, and they tell me that they know how hard a thing that is to do. Plus, I know how busy I am, and I don't care if anybody else thinks that all I do is eat bon-bons and watch soaps all day long. Maybe you could find another title to put down for occupation that you are more comfortable with. I don't mind putting down "homemaker".

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answers from Chicago on

I have an MBA and I am ok with the homemaker title. When I was working, my title had nothing to do with what I was actually doing and it's the same right now.

I cut out something from the newspaper and it said that if we were paid for everything that we do at home, we would be making $116,805 a year. That is on my refrigerator.


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answers from Chicago on

I'm sure the receptionist was just trying to establish your job for the sake of insurance purposes or to know where you are during the day for an emergency contact. I don't think this woman needs to know your school or career background as it wasn't a job interview or application you were filling out. I see nothing wrong with the term "homemaker" or SAHM. Raising a family is one of the hardest jobs a person can do, and you should be proud that it is your job. To be blunt, I think you were being silly. It sounds as if you are feeling a little under-appreciated by your husband and family. Maybe sometimes you feel like just a mom and lose who you were before you had kids and you had a career. That feeling is totally normal and should be validated, but not by the receptionist at the doctor's office. Have a heart to heart with hubby and let him know that you need some time where you are a woman again. The go out and find a hobby, not knitting =), or a cause to volunteer for that is related to your degree where you can feel useful. Don't get trapped playing mommy and wife 100% of the time and then be surprised when you don't feel fulfilled. I think you are the one that is attaching all these connotations to the word "homemaker". Yes, it is a term that has been in use since the 50's, but so has wife or mother. Your role in your family is what you make of it. I am not trying to attack you, just reading into why you are so bothered by a word. If you were feeling 100% satisfied with your role as stay at home mom, you wouldn't be bothered when someone describes you as such.

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answers from Chicago on

I actually write "Homemaker" on my tax return and other official forms that request an occupation -- it's simple and straightforward. Before I was a Mom, I would never have been able to decrypt "SAHM."

Being at home has absolutely nothing to do with my education, previous corporate title, or even salary from those days before having kids. I'm very proud that I worked hard to "get ahead" for so many years in order to be able to do what I really want: stay home to raise my kids. This was my choice and no one else can ever belittle it.

PS: I often have a drink ready & waiting when my husband gets home from work...but it's for me! :)

EDIT: It sounds like you are struggling with things beyond job title…but you are not alone. Being a Homemaker, Mom, SAHM, etc. is the most difficult, thankless job on earth – especially if you are not feeling any self-fulfillment. It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that the job of SAHM is exactly like being an unpaid servant. (And “Homemaker” is a much nicer title than “Servant,” don’t you think?) Regardless of what title you use, the only people who will understand what you may be going through are other Moms doing the same job at the same time. (And, yes, it’s near impossible to find other SAHMs you click with. It’s worse than high school.) Even my own Mother has forgotten how impossible this job is. I strongly recommend you pick up a copy of the book, “I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids: Reinventing Modern Motherhood” by Trisha Ashworth and Amy Nobile. It is a hilarious book that details women’s real perceptions (and guilty secrets) about being a Mom and gives some suggestions about how to reconcile loving the job as much as you love your children.

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answers from Chicago on

Ok, so I got this email that really touches on this subject. I will paste it for you!! Feel free to use this title!! -H. L.

JUST A MOM!?!?!?!

A woman, renewing her driver's license at the County Clerk 's office,
was asked by the woman recorder to state her occupation.

She hesitated, uncertain how to classify herself.

'What I mean is, ' explained the recorder,
'do you have a job or are you just a ..?'

'Of course I have a job,' snapped the woman.

'I'm a Mom.'

'We don't list 'Mom' as an occupation,

'housewife' covers it,'
Said the recorder emphatically.

I forgot all about her story until one day I found myself in the same situation, this time at our own Town Hall.
The Clerk was obviously a career woman, poised,
efficient, and possessed of a high sounding title like,
'Official Interrogator' or 'Town Registrar.'

'What is your occupation?' she probed.

What made me say it? I do not know.
The words simply popped out.
'I'm a Research Associate in the field of
Child Development and Human Relations.'

The clerk paused, ball-point pen frozen in mid-air, and
looked up as though she had not heard right.

I repeated the title slowly emphasizing the most significant words.
Then I stared with wonder as my pronouncement was written,
in bold, black ink on the official questionnaire.

'Might I ask,' said the clerk with new interest,
'just what you do in your field?'

Coolly, without any trace of fluster in my voice,
I heard myself reply,
'I have a continuing program of research,
(what mother doesn't)
In the laboratory and in the field,
(normally I would have said indoors and out.)
I'm working for my Masters, (first the Lord and then the whole family)
and already have four credits (all daughters).
Of course, the job is one of the most demanding in the humanities,
(any mother care to disagree?)
and I often work 14 hours a day, (24 is more like it).
But the job is more challenging than most run-of-the-mill careers

and the rewards are more of a satisfaction rather than just money.'

There was an increasing note of respect in the clerk's voice as she
completed the form, stood up, and personally ushered me to the door.

As I drove into our driveway, buoyed up by my glamorous new career,
I was greeted by my lab assistants -- ages 13, 7, and 3.
Upstairs I could hear our new experimental model,
(a 6 month old baby) in the child development program,
testing out a new vocal pattern.
I felt I had scored a beat on bureaucracy!
And I had gone on the official records as someone more

distinguished and indispensable to mankind than 'just another Mom.'


What a glorious career!
Especially when there's a title on the door.

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answers from Chicago on


I agree with what you are saying. For those of us stay at home moms (SAHMs)who have a degree and left our careers to take care of our children some of these antiquated terms ARE out of date and belittling. None the less, consider the source. I don't think many older people consider it rude, I think it's just a term they are used to. It doesn't sound like she was delivering it as a slam.

As far as those lovely "forms" it's the same thing. They are old forms, using outdated terminology that is just that, outdated. I would try not to take offense, but rather mention it to the office manager or receptionist. The reality is that MANY computer systems used outdated terms and the office/users are forced to select one of the "boxes" because that's all they can "check" in their systems. We ran into this ALL THE TIME in my HR department when it came to "race".

I say make light of it. Some night make your husband a hot meal, have cookies baking in the oven and the smell of Pin-Sol in the air. Have the dinner table set, you wearing an apron and ask him if there's anything else he needs - wink wink.

Know in your heart (and well educated mind) that you are capable of doing MORE than housework and taking care of your child. As were the women back in the day. It doesn't mean you CAN'T do anything else. It means you choose not to. What better title is there than "Mommy"? (Especially when said from a toddler?)

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answers from Chicago on

I hear where you're coming from but honestly (and I hope you want people's honest opinion) I think its silly that you are wasting your energy and time on this. Who cares what title you have? You do the most important job in the world and your kids will thank you for it one day. You should feel great about what your role is and who cares what others call your title. Honestly, I would do a little introspection why you're feeling belittled for doing your job. And I don't think your husband is off since a degree is not your job, but he might of said it a little more sensitively to how you are feeling. I wish you luck with your JOB as a SAHM and enjoy every moment being at home with your little one's as I'm sure you are. I know I feel so blessed to have made it work for me and my kids. I wouldn't give it up for any title in the world. I know how I feel about it and that's all that matters.

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answers from Chicago on

Title or Occupation? Does it even matter? You could have put "N/A" instead. Personally, I like "Domestic Engineer." Although, I love the suggestion of "Bon-Bon Eater." 'Cause duh, as an at-home mom, I sit around and eat bon-bons, drink champagne and wait for the gardener or pool man to arrive. hee

So, does this receptionist's perception of what you do really matter? Because I can almost guarantee that she moved on after she filed your form. What's more imporant is what you think of yourself and the role that you play in your family. Other people are going to think what they think and there's no label or title that is going to make a difference.

And yeah, what's wrong with baking cookies?

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answers from Chicago on

I don't think there's anything wrong with being a 'homemaker', 'SAHM', 'domestic engineer', 'CEO of domestic familial relations', etc. I was a temporary SAHM/homemaker for 9 months and I never felt belittled or less than others because of it (I, too, have an MAEd). What I learned about being a SAHM/homemaker is that it is hard freaking work - much harder than most people think it is.

It's a little silly to get upset over a title and you really shouldn't feel trapped by it. People have to make family and career decisions that work best for their family structure. The perspective is in your eyes - you can either be upset about it and remain hung up on it, but that doesn't mean that everyone else out there thinks that you're sitting around baking cookies, watching your soap operas, and waiting to slip your husband's houseshoes on for him when he returns home. In this modern world, lots of people know just how challenging, demanding, and tough being a 'homemaker' is.

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answers from Chicago on

To me it means I do the most important job in the world and I am SO PROUD of it. :)

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answers from Chicago on

You know, I saw a bumper sticker one time, that always stuck with me - "Motherhood is a Proud Profession". Whatever you decide to call yourself, you know well, that you are using your education to form the next generation who will lead us in the future. Don't let a title bother you, have confidence that you are shaping the future with a massive contribution. In filling out those forms, I write Mother. They get the gist, without you feeling outdated.

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answers from Chicago on

Yes, the title is old but the real title would probably take up way too much space. : ) My husband stayed home when we had our triplets. They put down that he was unemployed.
Just be proud of yourself and forget what anyone else calls it. It sounds like your H was trying to be cute.
As for a role title, I think we all qualify for Life and Family Manager.

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answers from Chicago on

I have never heard anyone of this generation refer to themselves as a "homemaker." Not that there is anything wrong with the word but it seems outdated. Most people say "stay at home mom."

I wonder why the doctor's office wants to know your occupation, anyway? You could have fun with that stereotype and put "bon-bon eater" or "soaps watcher". I tend to just put a line through nosy questions that aren't needed on forms - so far no one has ever challenged me on it.

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answers from Chicago on

Hi J.,

I agree it's an outdated term, but the receptionist meant no offense. Is it possible that your reaction to the word is a reflection of your perhaps mixed feelings about being a SAHM? It is quite a shock to go from a challenging career to poop patrol. Let's face it, much of the day to day stuff is drudgery. If you had been used to seeing immediate results of your efforts, or ticking things off a to do list, motherhood can be a bit disconcerting. You can't just check off raise child successfully. However, it's all the little moments that you do accomplish day to day that will lead to that end result. Your education is not wasted. Although you have stepped back from your previous career, you have the benefit of that knowledge and experience to shape your and your child's world view.

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answers from Chicago on

It is an outdated term and I would never use it. I understand why it bothered you. I am sure that there the receptionist meant nothing by it--but I still get why it bothered you. I personally get offended anytime I am referred to as "Mrs."--it is an antiquated title and one that I just don't feel comfortable with. (Why must a woman continue to broadcast her marital status when a man never does??) I also absolutely LOATHE when I am Mrs. (insert husband's first name) (insert last name). The people using these terms don't mean to offend or demean, I know that--but the use of the terms and the connotations that they have held over the years tends to bother me.

How lucky you are stay home to take care of your son! It is a shame that there is not a universally encompassing term to grasp the special role your play.

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answers from Chicago on

I completely see where you're coming from. I was recently laid off so when people ask what I do now, I feel like I have to go into this explaination about how I was operating a medical facility blah blah blah, but now I stay home. Like I have to justify just being around the house. So I get it. It's just a very personal thing so how you feel very likely may not be how the next person does and so on. I would say you work from home or you can even say you're self employed. Why not? They're your children, you run the house which really is a job (more work than I ever did at my 9 to 5, that's for sure) and you do it from your home which is your "office." Who cares. If it makes you feel better, then do it.



answers from Chicago on

I don't make homes, so not a homemaker. Wouldn't that be a construction worker? LOL.

I have heard stay at home parents say they are "child activity coordinators" or some other term that makes it more of a real job title that it is.

I like your husbands response about making cookies not being a bad idea! Made me want to go make some (With my cookie dough that comes prepackaged of course!)



answers from Chicago on

I wonder what you thought -or your peers thought -of the term "homemaker" or SAHM before you became one.
I remember thinking of "course I would go to college have a career"- children never came in the picture. As a soon-to-be married, educated, working woman, I wasn't sure how children were were going to be part of my future life. It's not that I did not respect my mother when she stayed at home - but our society seems to devalue family. Corporations see motherhood as a potential burden to their bottom line.

Initially, becoming a SAHM was kind of like a death. Death of an idea. Being a mom can be fulfilling- but not the same way a job is.

Whatever you want to call my profession - it doesn't matter - our society doesn't seem to see the difference between "mommy at home" and daycare - until they do- any label will seem inadequate.

I would say that I don't always feel like I fit the mold SAHM. I need more.
More time for me to be me. I find that the drudgery feels less heavy when I try ( a little at a time) to include other pursuits.
My husband noticed that I seemed happier since I have joined some groups on MeetUp.com I choose what groups to join and decide how involved I will be.
I don't get caught up in a lot "stuff"-I hate drama, keeping up with the Jones's, ect.
I have found some groups that help me be more than "so-and-so's mom"

One of the groups I MeetUp with once in a while- it's a playgroup. We have the kids play together (nothing sadder than going to the park when no one else is there) talk about our kids, sometimes laugh about why we signed up for "this" and maybe tell a story or two. It's a kind of release and stress reducer.

For a little while I talk with adults -and even if I don't feel I click with someone it's OK- I am not expecting to find a life-long friendship- just some people who will swap understanding nods.

I have also joined a group Mothers 4 Others- Last month we helped cook dinners for a shelter, did a Walk for Colitis, we will be visiting a retirement community with my girls and bunch of other things in the future.

With little ones I try to do one activity once a week- it keeps me sane!

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