Show SAHM Respect

Danielle & Greyson at Church

The other day I was at the bank with Danielle, updating our accounts in a sit-down meeting, and the banker posed a question to her that caught me off guard. It made me wonder if we had pulled a Marty McFly and stumbled back into 1985. With our children sitting in our respective laps, the banker asked Danielle the following:

“Do you work?”

Asking this 3-word question to a person — usually a woman — in this context, where her husband’s employment and the existence of 2 small children are both readily known, presumes the existence of two possible answers: (1) the person works, or (2) the person does not work.

But what, I would respectfully (or maybe resentfully) ask, is the scenario in which that second answer is a viable one? It is either true that the person being asked the question labors in a workplace for a paycheck, or that the person labors in the workplace of the home without getting a paycheck as a stay-at-home mom or dad (SAHM or SAHD). There is no meaningful scenario in which the person being asked the question does not work. Or there is, since I suppose it’s possible to drop kids off at all-day child care and also not be employed, but it’s not common enough to justify the wording of the question.

How hard would it be to ask, “Are you employed outside the home?” Or if that could somehow be construed as impolite, how about “What is your occupation?” This would allow every hard-working SAHM and SAHD the eminently deserved dignity of answering with “I raise our kids at home” or even an “I’m a proud stay-at-home mom/dad.”

Think about it. Which exchange would make you feel more valued?

Option 1

Banker: “Do you work?”

You: “No.” (Or “no, not outside the home.”)

Option 2

Banker: “What is your occupation?”

You: “I raise our kids at home.” (Optional flourish: Add an exclamation point!)

One exchange is built around a negative, and implies the lack of something. The other is built around a positive declaration of identity and purpose.

I ask you: How is this a hard thing to figure out? I think we can all agree that no one’s career should be summed up with the word “no.” Wording a question like this is not rocket science. It just requires a modicum of basic respect for those in our society — a plurality of whom are women — who make a 2-decade career out of performing arguably the most fundamental human task: Raising children.

It also requires even a rudimentary understanding of the job of being a stay-at-home parent. And anyone who has ever (A) been married to one, (B) been raised by one, (C) been friends with one, or (D) observed one in daily life can attest that this job is more physically and emotionally grueling than a majority of paycheck-accruing vocations.

And it’s a job that deserves far, far more respect than the careless utterance of “Do you work?” intentionally or unintentionally conveys.

(To be completed tomorrow…)

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