Poll: Degrees of Motherhood

Mother’s Day is a tricky subject, especially among feminists. It’s hard to know what to say that will please everyone and not cause undo hurt feelings. You may think that it should be done away with at church, or you may still hold on to the notion that “every woman is a mother”. But regardless of how you feel about it, it’s hard to ignore the blitzkrieg of merchandise and sales geared towards making sure you feel as guilty as you possibly can if you don’t get your own mother something.

But commercialism aside, most of us are probably thinking of motherhood in some form today. And that’s what we would like to ask you all about. The gap between working mothers and SAHMs is narrowing. More and more mothers are finding that they either want or need to do some form of work for pay in addition to raising their children. It could be loss of income, or just loss of mental stimulation and reward that pushes women into the workforce. And in some cases, the SAHM becomes a WAHM, where the lines are blurred even further. But how do you feel about these varying degrees of the motherhood/worker balance? What category do you fit in, or which could you see yourself in if you are hoping to have children?


Corktree is exploring life and spirituality in new ways and new environments while studying midwifery, reiki, yoga, homeopathy, herbology and evolutionary nutrition. She has 3 daughters and one son, which add up to what now feels like an enormous family of 6.

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17 Responses

  1. Emmaline says:

    I never know exactly what I am in this scale. It changes semester to semester, and while most summers I’m exclusively a SAHM, that’s not always the way it works out. I teach, I work on my dissertation, I do research projects for professors, I take translation jobs on the side…and I find that I’m a much better mother when I do some sort of academic work. The pay is a perk, but I absolutely need the time away, and the mental workout.

    Either way, I struggle with the inevitable contradictions that come up during the Mother’s Day sacrament meeting, and the perpetual stereotypes that just won’t go away. Enough that I might just take my two-year-old to the nursing lounge and turn off the speaker. 🙂

  2. Melanie says:

    One of the things I miss about my old singles ward was the way we talked about being aunts on Mother’s Day. I was so proud to be apart of a legion of women who took that role so seriously.

    I think to be an aunt- to give yourself fully to someone else’s children, whether you have your own children or not- is something to be celebrated as a degree of motherhood. Being an aunt to me isn’t a consolation prize. It wasn’t until I realized was accountable to 2 little girls who would see my life as an example that I found the courage to change my life. If motherhood is a way we claim power as women, I think being an aunt is one of its highest manifestations.

  3. CatherineWO says:

    I’m a WAHG (work-at-home-grandma).

    Melanie, I love your comment about aunts. I was very close to two of my aunts (my mother’s sisters). The only one still living, now 88 years old, continues to play a very important role in my life. Yeah, aunts are awesome.

  4. Stephanie says:

    When I have children I expect I will work outside the home, because I want to, and because of the financial security it will add to our family. I also want my husband to be able to work less and spend more time around our family.

    That said, I really hate the “full-time” “part-time” labeling on the motherhood thing. All mothers are “full-time” regardless of whether you work or not. To me, it is like being a wife or husband, or any other family member. You would never say someone is a “full-time” wife because she does not work, or a “full-time” brother. I understand the distinction for the purpose of the poll, but the wording only further increases the divide between SAHMs and working mothers.

    No matter what lifestyle I chose, I will never be a “part-time” mother. 🙂

  5. Lori Pierce says:

    I have moved through many of these options. For 10 years I was basically a full-time mother. I was glad I did it, thought I can’t really say that I “enjoyed it” exactly. But I wanted to be a full-time mom and feel better about the mothering that I did because I did not have job stress. This past year I started working part-time (my children are all in school and I taught only when they were actually in school). This coming fall, however, I am transitioning to full-time work, though still on a school schedule so that my schedule will mostly match that of my children. All of my work has been because I like it and want to do it. Extra money is nice, but not necessary.

    However, I never really considered myself a traditional full-time mother/homemaker. I was always involved outside of our home in community work or very part-time jobs. I never liked staying at home all the time to cook and clean and entertain children. I feel as though there are mothers out there who can take total satisfaction in their home environment and cook dinner every night, make bread and cookies regularly, keep a clean kitchen and a clutter-free family room, hold regular FHE and family prayer and don’t yell at their kids. I can’t quite make it to that level of mothering.

  6. Stephanie says:

    Corktree-Thanks for understanding my nitpickyness.

  7. TopHat says:

    I’m a SAHM and for the moment, I guess it’s because I want to be. I mean, I’m full-time nursing 2 children, so this is the easiest way to do that. But ultimately, I’m not sure why I chose this route. I do keep myself plenty busy volunteering, though. I need to kick a few things off my plate, so I have more room for Talents of Sisters. 😉

  8. Emmaline says:

    This past week as Mother’s Day has been approaching, I’ve been talking to my mother, my sister, and my sister-in-law about their various approaches to their motherhood and what it feels like to be where they are with being at home or working. The conversations were interesting, and, I was amazed at how vulnerable they became as we talked. I think this is an issue where the feelings run strong. I don’t have children, and I’m not sure where I would decide to be if I do have children … but their responses made me think about it.

    There’s a new podcast on http://daughtersofmormonism.blogspot.com/ for Mother’s Day that gives an interesting view of mothers. (And our Divine Mothers! Which I loved.)

  9. Rachel says:

    I’ve always worked part time. I really have to think about the question “if my husband made 40% more income, and I could not work, would I choose not to?”. If anyone other than my parents were providing the childcare on Tuesdays/Thursdays it would be much easier to not work outside the home.

    I love my job and I often joke that I probably don’t feel guilty enough. But, when my parents leave on a mission in the fall, I’ll probably work about 5 days a week, but be off before the kids get home from school. So, that means not going in to help in classrooms, anymore, etc. When I think about that, I think I would rather not work at all. I’m thinking I’ll just work 4 days so I can have the 1 day to still do classroom stuff, temple, errand-y stuff so the weekends aren’t so packed, so the time we have together is more ‘together fun’ instead of together rushed.

  10. I’m not sure about the title to this post. Degrees? I feel like it implies that, depending on your choices you are a mother to a lesser degree? I dunno. I like the idea that a mother can be 100% a mom “full time” as they say, but also work. She doesn’t stop being a mom just because she goes to work.

  11. Meggle says:

    Wow. I feel like a failure on every level. I am a sahm. My youngest is in school full time now, and I haven’t baked bread in ages, and I just majorly screamed at my kids. I have a degree in zoology, which doesn’t exactly make me particularly marketable, so while we could use the money, because I’m not fabulous money manager either, I stay at home and do nothing very well. How impressed I am (and maybe a bit depressed) that so many of you do so much so well.

    • Corktree says:

      I’m really sorry if the post made you feel that way Meggle. It was not intended as a judgment, just a poll to see where people feel on the spectrum. I do NOT think you are a failure.

      As I said, the words I chose were not the best, but it’s tricky to change at this point. I’ll try to get a chance to do so in a bit.

      As for the title “degrees” referred more to the double meaning of the fact that we assign labels to ourselves and others as means of an accomplishment or job title, such as “stay at home mom”. It was meant a little tongue in cheek, but I’m sorry if it came across as offensive. Not my intention, it’s been a rough weekend with sick kids. I’ll be more careful in the future.

  12. Amy says:

    Meggle, so sad to hear you feel like you’re a failure…I think most of us aren’t going to advertise our “failure” moments, and I think I’m safe in saying that most of us have them. If you don’t want to bake bread, no reason to bake bread when it can be easily bought at the store! Having kids is wonderful and exasperating! No surprise if we aren’t always our ideal selves with them. But, there’s always tomorrow (and the next day…)I think I am also responding to you, because I can relate to your feelings. I have felt so inadequate some days and wonder what is so special about me when I feel like I can barely hold things together and not do anything really well and am seeing so many women pulling off great things. But, when I feel that way and I pray and try to block out what I think are everyone else’s expectations, I feel that what I am doing is important for my family and to the Lord. And despite the blessings of being a SAHM, I am guessing that sometimes it is easier to feel that way, because it isn’t as intellectually stimulating nor do we get the tangible reward of money that most work out of the home gives. Good luck! Hope you have a better day!

  13. jks says:

    Meggle – Three out of four of my children are in school full-time now. Full-time works out to be 7 hours. I still have the one at home and I am able to accomplish grocery shopping and cleaning and bills, I don’t bake bread. I never get it close to all done. When my other children get home they need attention and rides to things and help with homework and time with me. From 3 to 10 pm every day is pretty intense.
    So, recognize all the things you DO do. Even if involves supervising children “Did you brush your teeth?” kinds of things. It may not feel like you are accomplishing anything, but you are.

  14. E says:

    I clicked on the 4th and 5th options, but I certainly do not think of myself as a part-time Mom. I think mothering is so much bigger and so much more important than any other work that we do, and in many ways it is all-consuming, even though I am employed full time outside of my home. I hate to see mothers denigrate what they do. Making bread is nice and all, but it is nothing compared to making a person. And then loving that person. Feeding, cleaning, hugging, and loving that person. Being irreplaceable and so important to the development of that person. To me, other things we accomplish in life seem fairly trivial in comparison.

  15. Caroline says:

    Thanks for this poll, Corktree. I find it so interesting to see the choices people make regarding motherhood, work, etc.

    I am a part time stay at home mom who goes to grad school part time. It’s tough to juggle it all — sometimes I feel like my husband and I just toss the kids to each other and then drive off to do whatever we need to do. There’s very little family time with all of us together. But I love going to school. It’s keeping me happy and sane, even with the stress.

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