How we define ourselves, the labels we use and the accompanying social judgments that ride along with our choice of words, speak volumes about how we are positioned in society.
I think for women, especially mothers, the question, ‘so what do you do for a living?’, no matter how casually asked, has been a loaded one.
Should we define ourselves solely by our biological status as mothers, as so many women have done before us?
If so what type of mother’s are we?
Full time mother, part-time mother, stay at home mother?
Or should we strive to avoid the trap of seeking to quantify ourselves by the amount of hands on time we spend mothering in the first place?
On this issue I totally agree with http:// oneforthemummy.wordpress.com /2012/09/28/whats-in-a-name/ contestation over the use of descriptors such as ‘full-time mum’ or ‘stay at home mum’, when seeking to define ourselves.
I’m not sure why we as women still refer to ourselves in these terms, but we do. At least I know I have done and occasionally still do and probably will do again in the future.
Yet each and every time I do, I also know that I find myself becoming increasingly more uncomfortable about doing so.
To me the description of a mother as either a full-time mum or a working mum, automatically sets up that god awful, age-old debate concerning the roles of women in both the family and the workforce.
And apart from anything else, it also tends to rub in the even more appallingly ridiculous notion that being a mother and mothering, isn’t hard work at all.
Newsflash, mothering is hard work. Just because it doesn’t come complete with a recognized financial package and a demarcated award wage, does not mean that it is not legitimate work. It is and it deserves to be acknowledged.
Of course once you get past the whole full-time, part-time, stay at home debacle, you are then faced with the more modern conundrum of whether or not you’re a married stay at home mum, a single stay at home mum, married working mum or a single working mum?
If we’re honest about it, we know that each of these patriarchal definitions arrives complete with their own unique brands of social baggage and more often than not, moral judgements.
Which you might not mind confronting so much if you were simply honestly being asked whether or not you were a Miss, Mrs or Ms,…… but when the question is supposed to be a harmless social ice breaker like ‘what do you do for a living’……? Somehow the automatic roll call involved just doesn’t seem to fit.
Especially considering the fact that feminists worked hard to legitimise the title Ms, specifically so that women wouldn’t have to automatically define themselves as either married or single, instantaneously.
Of course these days the term Ms has become synonymous with divorce, so that now it’s used primarily to define a woman as a divorcee.
So that particular piece of hard worn anonymity still hasn’t been able to purchase for women the same rights as men, who only need to declare the letters Mr before their name, on any and all occasions.
Quite simply I find the inadvertent information that each additional label sends out, when applied specifically to women, nothing short of astounding.
Not to mention a double standard of enormous proportions.
And I think we as women really need to ask ourselves whether or not, in this day and age, giving out that sort of information to a casual observer is really necessary?
I mean, even in today’s world, it’s still not a definitional issue that men are exposed to, as they have always tended to define themselves by their employment status alone anyway.
Even if they didn’t hold that stop-gap , men are rarely expected to divulge their status as either a full-time dad or a single dad with such an easily laid out , ‘what do you do for a living?’…. the way that women are expected too.
But I guess the bigger question is, why do we even feel the need to try and define ourselves by what we do?
Personally I prefer to define myself as a human being, who happens to be both a woman and a mother.
How do you define yourself?