Identity Crisis: I’m More Than a SAHM


identity crisis

I’m sitting at the doctor’s office updating my daughter’s medical forms. The general information seems easy enough until I get to the parental information section. “Mother’s Name, DOB, occupation…”

As a mother, how do you define yourself? When you meet someone new, do you have more to say than “I work as a mom”? I’ve been told that taking care of my children full-time is a luxury or a privilege. I’ve been asked what I do all day. I’ve been questioned about what I used to do before children (since obviously what I do now is stay-at-home all day and isn’t worth talking about). I’ve been asked when I’m planning to go back to work.

At first, I used to be on the defensive. I’d tell people, “I’m home with my kids now, but I used to be a teacher.” It felt like I was saying, “I’m home with my kids now, but I used to do something important.” It’s frustrating to feel like the job I do every day doesn’t sound meaningful enough. When I was working outside the home, people didn’t gloss over the fact. They didn’t tell me working was a luxury. They didn’t ask how I filled my days at work (and trust me, I’ve had jobs where I really wasn’t doing much of anything!). They didn’t ask me when I was planning to quit and take care of my children.

I don’t need to catalog all the things I do to prove that my days involve more than staying at home. I also don’t mean to imply that one way of being a mom is harder or better than another. I don’t like to call what I do every day “staying at home.” Yes, I might take care of my children full-time, but we do not, in any way, stay at home all day. Home is the base for our day, like anyone else’s, but our lives extend far beyond the four walls of our home. It is wonderful, exhausting, fulfilling, heartwarming work, and I love that I get to do it every day.

But, when I fill out those forms or meet someone new, I don’t like describing myself as a SAHM. Would you call a parent who works outside the home a “stay-at-work mom?” I also don’t like to list my occupation as a “homemaker” or “domestic engineer.” What is this, the 1950’s? By the way, moms with jobs outside the house also have a home they’ve made with their partner and children and are doing a ton of engineering to keep those homes running smoothly. Finally, I don’t like to leave the occupation line blank. I do have a job I do every day- multiple jobs, I could argue!

I know that in the grand scheme of things, this identity crisis is not a huge problem. It’s just one of those things that occasionally creeps into my day and gives me pause. Now that I’m “only” a mom, what else am I? If I ever do return to work or introduce myself to someone new, what can I say that isn’t a total conversation stopper?

Are you a “SAHM?” Do you have a better way to describe what you do every day?


  1. Have your husband or another man fill out the form for you if it’s too scary or disorienting. You can also have him answer people’s questions for you and generally speak and act on your behalf.

  2. Another option is occupation = unemployed. There’s no shame in your truth. Mothers with jobs outside the home also do the same work for the household that the SAHM mothers do, the only difference is employment. A mother’s work is indeed work but it is not a job like employment. A working mother doesn’t say she has 2 jobs when listing occupation. I am employed full time outside the home and I’m also a SMC (single mother by choice). Wait, does that mean I have 3 jobs?? 🙂

    On a more serious note, if you are struggling through this as a crisis I would definitely seek multiple hours per day volunteering to help others. The rewards are endless and you are certain to forget your occupation troubles. Good luck!


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