Monday, November 10, 2008

Stay-at-Home Mom Label: Applicable to Any Mother Who Works from Home?

When Kendra LaDuca and Amy Maurer Creel noticed that they never wore jewelry after having given birth to their daughters (because babies love nothing more than grabbing and slobbering on mom's baubles), they saw a business opportunity. Why not make fashionable jewelry out of chewable materials? That way, if Baby wants to use your pendant as a teething ring for awhile, no problem:
The two formed their company, Smart Mom, in 2002, and spent the next four years finding a suitable material for Teething Bling, lab-testing it and refining prototypes. Made from latex-free silicone, the same material used to coat baby spoons, the matched necklaces and bracelets come in an array of colors and patterns, including camouflage and a pale flecked green that resembles jade. They sell for $19 and $12, respectively, on the Smart Mom Web site...

Amy and Kendra started selling Teething Bling in 2006, grossing about $80,000 and netting $12,000 in the first 12 months, Amy says. Sales have climbed over the past 12 months to about $125,000, Amy says, with about $60,000 net.
Brilliant, right? You can find their jewelry here.

My question is this: How would you refer to LaDuca and Maurer Creel? As entrepreneurs? Business women? Inventors?

The Washington Post Magazine bypassed all of those terms, choosing "Stay-at-Home Moms" for the title of the article profiling LaDuca and Maurer Creel instead. "But wait, perhaps the WaPo means that they were stay-at-home moms before starting the business!" you might argue. No go--Maurer Creel was "a freelance media and marketing consultant" before teaming-up with LaDuca, although she did work from her home office.

Look, I'm all for parents being able to decide to stay home with their children, and it would be nice if more parents could afford to do so. Many of us feminist types would like parental leave laws in the States to be more like those in France, where in addition to 16 weeks of paid maternity leave, families have access to two years of unpaid leave that can be divided between parents any way they like after the birth of a child. Choice is good. Yet, to call any mother who works from home a 'stay-at-home mom' seems odd to me - and referring to LaDuca and Maurer Creel as such completely hides their entrepreneur identities, which are the central point of the article, behind their motherhood. Why would the WaPo choose to focus the article's title on their 'stay-at-home mom-ness' while actually profiling of two business women? Is there some glamor to the term that I'm missing?

How do others feel about the stay-home mom label? If you work from home and have kids, how do you answer the question 'so, what do you do'?


petpluto said...

I'm not sure how I feel about the term. True, they're mothers who stay at home... At the same time though, their purpose in staying at home is not, entirely, about being mothers. That seems to be more of a perk of creating and operating a business, and the fact that the entrepreneurial aspect of their venture has been completely eliminated from the title doesn't sit well with me personally.

Bri said...

I think the term stay at home mom (SAHM) implies that the woman in question is sitting on her ass at home doing nothing and it is this implication that is the main problem. The "opposite" to the SAHM is the "working mom", so you have one or the other and it naturally flows on that the SAHM is not a working mom so therefore she must not work. Which anyone who has been a SAHM knows is total crap. Yes, being at home with children is a different kind of work to working outside the home but it is still work. I am not doing everything I want to do when I am at home with my kids. I am sharing with them, stimulating them and doing housework. Sure I get to go to lunch occassionally etc but then so do women who work outside of the home. I think we need to stop using divisive terms like SAHM and working mom because the truth is that all moms work, just in different places.

NotOverreacting said...

I would think that running a business would make you a business woman. Running a successful business would make you a successful business woman. Just because you have a kid and you work from home doesn't mean you are 'just' a Stay-At-Home Mom. Since being a Stay-At-Home Mom is often thought of as being some maligned state it seems dismissive and disrespectful to classify these women thus. (Although, personally, I think being a Stay-At-Home Mom sounds like a thankless and stressful job that should be respected more).

Also, their product is cool. If I just knew someone who had recently had a baby I might be tempted to buy them a present. :)

Anonymous said...

I think it has to do with marketing. As you probably know, with the media bias in this year's election, more and more people are turning away from media and print advertising. Newspapers (especially) are losing advertising revenues and competition from the internet.

While terms such as "entrepreneur" and "business women" rank higher on Google than "stay at home mom", there's a lot less competition for "stay at home mom" and, therefore, a greater chance of being read.

If you're a woman, would an article on entrepreneurs or business women pique your attention more than an article about a stay at home mom? No - the SAHM has more magnetism. People ask themselves, "What kind of crazy idea did this person come up with that is making them gazillions of dollars?" Or they're curious about how the "underdog" rose above adversity to become successful.

I agree with petpluto - they've become SAHMs because of their business rather than the other way around. But as bri points out, it really shouldn't matter - all moms work their butts off trying to manage their households and families!

The only problem I see is this - the story is a great motivational and inspiration piece. But it's the exception - not the norm.

Most SAHMs barely have enough time to do anything for themselves, let alone start a business that requires manufacturing, distribution, etc.

We have a 3-year old and a 6-week old. My wife has to make the difficult decision every day as to whether she should take her 30-minute nap before one of the kids wake up, or if she should try to get stuff done that she needs/wants to get done. I know how appealing that nap is because I LOVE to take it when I've got baby duty!

What WaPo should've done was included some reviews on stay at home opportunities that the average mom could do given her hectic schedule. Find the businesses out there that have a step-by-step system, can be worked on around busy schedules, low startup cost, low entry barriers... something they can pick up and go from day 1.

I'm curious what opportunities out there SAHMs find work well for them?

I've written a blog that outlines some of the challenges SAHMs face and some of the criteria they should look for when choosing a home business opportunity - let me know if you agree with it or if I'm nuts.

Victory Garden said...

I'm a work-from-home mom, in that I am at home with my daughter, working for an outside employer. I find that a lot more descriptive for me than SAHM, which implies not other occupation (not that caretaking a child isn't enough in itself!).

Jessica said...

I completely agree with bri. I don't like the term stay-at-home Mom, nor do I like the differentiation between working and non-working mothers. I feel like it's set up to be more about dividing us than uniting. Does a working woman who stays home for a few years become a stay-at-home mom even though she'll be back at work soon? I think we should avoid the labels all together.