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Location: Northern California

Read all about the adventures of the Tsao Family during the summer of 2012

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Don’t use mom as a reference

For most of my adult life I have been steadily employed, and therefore, the friend whom others use as a reference on job applications. Now I am a stay-at-home mom and my name no longer pulls weight as a reference. I no longer give good reference; this fact is hard for me to swallow.

Simply put, my current job title of SAHM looks the same on a resume as if my job title was UNEMPLOYED, and my friends don’t want to list an unemployed person as a reference. I sometimes wonder if perhaps they also don’t want the word mom on their resume for fear a hurried HR person would misread it to mean their mom.

Mom—stay-at-home or otherwise—is not a word that looks good on a resume, either your friend’s or your own. Once you become a mom and decide to leave the workforce for a period longer than six weeks, you run the risk of being labeled exactly what you are—a mom—and being labeled a mom is not a good thing.

Like any woman who has a child, I grappled with the decision to continue working or to quit work and stay home with my kid. For some women, this decision is based on economics and they return to work shortly after giving birth, some happy to do so, others not so much. For other women, this decision is based less on economics and more on their sense of identity. They enjoy having a sense of purpose besides the one handed to them every day by a kid who is learning to change his own diaper, by hisself!

As someone who has been both a working mom and a stay-at-home mom, let me tell it like it is: both situations suck. OK, that’s not totally true, but both situations have their good points and their bad points.

As a working mom, I couldn’t imagine a life more idyllic than the one those stay-at-home mommies were living—a life filled with frolicking, tummy rubs, giggles, and hugs. A life filled with adoring children who didn’t have to wake up at any given time, a life that wasn’t driven by a relentless schedule and the need to schlep a kid to a stinky daycare, a life that was relaxed, happy, and fulfilling in a peaceful Earth mama kind of way.

Now as a stay-at-home mom I am positive that my working mom sisters are living the good life, partying it up in the lunchroom while enjoying the company of adults and basking in the glow of the three Rs: recognition, respect, and restrooms.


Stay-at-home moms regularly complain that life at home with kids is an unrecognized life. By unrecognized I mean unpaid. Being unpaid is a pain of the short term variety, but there’s also no question that being out of the workforce for a number of years hurts your career and earning power long term, too. Even if you are lucky enough to re-enter the workforce in the same place you left it, you may never catch up to your non-child-bearing cohorts.


Staying at home with your kids is a difficult job often performed in isolation, sometimes physical and sometimes mental. While alone, you being to wonder if feminism has failed you (as working women are wondering, too), because here you are, changing diapers, folding laundry, washing dishes, making dinner, and contemplating your need for this generation’s version of the mother’s little helper: Prozac. You are wondering just where is the R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

When you work—if you are lucky—once in awhile you are thrown a bone—a bonus, a raise, a promotion, a pat on the back, a name on a plaque, a byline on a paper, a mention in a meeting. If not, you at least might get a daily or weekly kudos from a co-worker or manager, some small acknowledgement that you are valuable and perhaps even an asset to the company. Baring any of that, you get a paycheck and to some, that might be all the respect they need.

Stay-at-home moms on the job aren’t thrown many bones. When your only job title is Mommy, the respect is hard-earned and self-sought. Darling daughter just peed in the potty by herself? I’ll take that as a sign she respects her mommy. Husband just did the dishes of his own volition? That spells respect to me.


Sometimes the simple things in life are what make us stay-at-home moms envious of the working moms. Simple things like private restrooms, the kind where you can sit in peace and quiet and read the paper while doing your business. Not the kind that contain small children who cry and cling to your leg, thereby causing your sphincter to tighten up and forget what it was doing. Even if you work in an office with a multi-stall women’s bathroom, the stalls have doors; there is some semblance of privacy.

I can’t tell you the last time I closed the door while I went to the bathroom. It just isn’t feasible with a nine-month-old who is extremely attached to mommy and a two-year-old who can not be left alone at any time. If I took my eyes of her long enough to have a peaceful moment on the commode, I would come out to find crayon on the wall, egg on the couch, or poo smeared on the floor. When I go to the bathroom at home, I leave the door open and trade privacy for sanity.

Which do I prefer, being a working mom or a stay-at-home mom? The answer varies depending on my mood and what new spill I cleaned up that day. Like any worker, I sometimes want to quite my job but since I am basically unemployed, that just doesn’t make sense. So even though I no longer get called upon to be a reference, my own resume is gathering cobwebs while I work at the one of the least-respected professions in the world, and I’ve got 3R envy, I am happy in my current position, which for me means staying at home with my kids.

On second thought, maybe you shouldn’t use me as a reference not because I’m a mom, but because I’m clearly nuts!