Recently, I was chatting with a neighborhood mom and when I innocently asked whether she still worked, she responded, a little snippy, “Yes. Every day. As all moms do.”
Then I complimented her on her cute Oriental daughter and asked her if she had any crippled friends.
Perhaps I should know better. We have entered a new enlightened era of referring to stay-at-home moms instead of housewives, and now saying work-out-of-the-house mom instead of working mom less we offend (I offended! I am offensive!) anyone and everyone. We’re all so touchy about who we are and what we do and how people talk about us. Language is changing by the nanosecond. Or at least by the blog post. And it’s sometimes hard to keep up.
I’m pretty good about it on these pages (and when I’m not I get schooled by you all) but I suppose in person, without the benefit of rewrites, habits die hard. Still, I’ve always believed that people are entitled to be called whatever they want to be called; as long as I’m given one free pass when I get it wrong.
So while I guess you never ask a stay-at-home-mom “do you work?” (but rather, “do you work out of the house?”) I guess there are some things you never say to a working out of the house mom. Like, say: She’s a good mom by night.
(Presumably not by day, when I’m “off duty?”)
Or: Well we just gave up the luxuries in life so I could stay home with the kids.
(Because things like heat and food are luxuries.)
Or my favorite: If you didn’t want to raise your own children, why have them?
(To which there is no appropriate verbal response. You just smile and walk away from the discussion and feel bad that this woman has not acquired any social skills that might lead to things like, oh…friends. Meow.)
As luck would have it, I’m working on a piece for a big ol’ magazine about things you never say to a working mom. (Or, I guess, work out of the house mom. Although that’s just so damn cumbersome. Can’t we think of a new one? But I digress.) And I’d love your help. You’ll have my eternal gratitude and admiration, and I’ll link to the final piece here and credit all of your inspiration and genius.
That is…genius by night.