Never never in my previous life did I ever think that one day I would be a SAHM (stay-at-home mom), and especially not a housewife, let alone a Hausfrau, which is what the vocation of SAHM is called here. A foreign woman who lives with a local man is usually given this title as well. So I fall somewhere in between, a foreign woman with a Swiss man, who doesn't have a 'real' job and who also has a baby. Sigh.
I am not certain I can pinpoint the moment in America where the handle of housewife took its steady decline, perhaps about the time homemaker entered the general vernacular of everyday speech… yet definitely sometime before an associates in Home Economics was considered questionable … and definitely long before a domestic engineer, domestic goddess or SAHM and any of the other multifarious and well-intended acronyms made their debut. But either way, the negativity surrounding most of these titles has followed me to the expat front and I am determined to understand why.
Whatever the title or name, people seem obsessed with naming things. I also see in this with my 18-month-old, who is now struggling to say as much as she can articulate in her very limited vocabulary. But my real query is: Why all the negation and variance in mother-titles? What clearly delineates the areas of gray or duties even in the domestic goddess versus the domestic engineer, or the SAHM from the homemaker? Why was being a housewife never a 'real' career? Why still do I feel the discomfort of others when I say I am a mother (in response to a question of work or career)? Usually my answer leads to the next question, "Well, then what did you do before (you had a baby)?"
The longer I (multi-degreed and motherly) think about it, the more I feel baffled at the state of naming and embracement of motherhood in this new world. We all adore our mothers, right? So why the disapproval or dismissal toward a very modern woman who decides to stay at home with her child versus put her in daycare? Where has the reverence toward the all-mother gone, whatever her name? Perhaps I also need to embrace these said monikers and get over my own nomenclatural misgivings as a fair starting point?
Susana Gardner is a poet, writer and U.S. citizen who is now an expat mama living in Switzerland with her daughter Stella (1.5), Swiss partner Harry, and Alaskan furbaby, Jasper.