“The juggler in the circus,” “A stay-at-home mom in the business of raising successful children,” “COM (Chief Operations Manager),” and my favorite, “Your Majesty.”

The above resulted when I asked a group of moms to describe their “momming” with a title. My desire wasn’t to call the “workingness” of a mom into question. Moms have always worked, whether in the field while nursing an infant, earning a paycheck in an office, home schooling, cheering for their children at a soccer match, or all of the above. Yet, I think as moms, we are often curious about how to perform the balancing act of life as a mom.

Back when most people lived in an agrarian society, all people worked. For instance, my grandmother ran the farm while her NAVY husband was at sea. I’m not sure how all the chores were delegated, but I can assure you that Grandma worked all the time. In order to remain sane, she balanced her life based on her priorities. It helped that she was unselfish and believed that life was “not about me.”

Incidentally, she was also a registered nurse—perhaps not the image one gets when thinking of a 1940’s farm wife. Whichever “job” she was doing, I doubt many people asked her, “Do you work?”

I wonder about that above question and have tried to figure out how to get to know people without asking them, “Do you work?”

Perhaps I should ask, “What do you do in addition to being a mom?” Or how about: “What was your life like B.C. (before children)?” I’ve found the safest question to use is: “Tell me about your life.”

Many of us have an image of the epitome of “mommness” in our minds. In my case, I can tell you the mom I had in my head was an image impossible to achieve… I think it was a combination of many of the stereotypes I had seen portrayed on TV sitcoms. Sad, but true. Always the house was clean by the end of the episode, the bills were paid, the trouble was solved, laugher abounded, and dinner was served … in a freshly ironed dress.

What … ever!

So, what is a mom?

One of the blanket statements I can make about “momming” is that it looks different in every situation. Another universal I have found is that mothers love their children with a fierce protectiveness and want to be the best they can be in every situation. Also common is the mommy guilt monster, but that is a topic for a different day.

In my exploration of this topic, I’ve had some interesting conversations. I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard moms talk about scaling back. Perhaps it is the time of life many of my friends find themselves in: kids in school and growing up way too fast. The constant topic among these moms is that their jobs are taking too much time and energy much away from their children. The extra money isn’t worth it. In fact, many moms reported that the money isn’t nearly as much as they thought. Some of the moms unable to scale back from their busy areas of life wish they could. They want to find a way to bring balance. It always comes back to balance, and moms want that balance to fall in favor of their children.

There is no exact or specific formula for happy, balanced “momming.” It is as individual as a woman’s taste in shoes. Perhaps, though, there are ways to prioritize.

First of all, it is difficult to have a great number of priorities. When too many are present, they become commonplace. I’ve seen a great number of life assessments where I’m asked to list out my goals and priorities by numbering them. Does that really work for everyone, though?

My sweet friend Alyssa suggests that we should view priorities less as a list and more as a pyramid. God is the foundation and hubby (if that is applicable) takes the second widest base block. Children come next. The rest goes above that, meaning that there is less space, time, and energy to pursue what is farther from the foundation. With that in mind, I think over what I am doing. Am I keeping the base levels strong and firm? If I don’t keep up with my foundation, the rest crumbles and/or I am left with regret.

While on this topic of what’s in a mom, I wanted to include some of the insights women from all different walks of life shared with me. The initial question I asked is if the moms earned a paycheck or volunteered regularly would they define themselves as a “mom who worked” or a “working mom.” My desire was to see how moms defined themselves and how they balanced the multiple demands of life. Here are some of the responses I received:

Brook: “All moms work. I’m a mom.”

Danielle: “I am so blessed to be called mom … If I had to choose between ‘Working Mom’ and ‘Mom who Works,’ I would say a mom who works, simply because mom is what comes first.”

Terri: “I was thinking about this the other day and I try to define myself as not on a “Supermom” but a “SUPER Mom”. This doesn’t mean that I can always handle all the requests put upon me on any given day, but more importantly, I am a SUPER Mom to my kids. I take care of the essentials to raise happy, healthy, little people that I hope will make a positive contribution to society one day! This defines who I am in every way!!!”

Delana: “I think to add ‘working’ into the phrase is redundant. Isn’t that understood? 🙂 It really doesn’t matter to me where the ‘working’ part goes. ‘Mom’ is the part I want to define me.”

Laurie, mom of a child with special needs: “I don’t feel I’m a super mom or a mom that has it all together, I just do everything I possibly can to make sure [my child] has a “normal” life as possible. I feel like God gave me [my child] because He knew I would not take no for an answer. So I guess I would say “determined” would be what I use. From the time he was born we have overcome everything the doctors said he would never do. For that I’m blessed.”

Jennifer: “I am, to my deepest essence, a mother.”

Jen: “I like to say ‘mom who works outside the home’ if referring to someone with a job because all moms work! Either in the home or out! :)”

Katie: “I earn a paycheck, but I work out of my home office so I tend to call myself a ‘Work from Home Mom.’”

Stacy: “I am just “Mom” I always work whether outside or inside the home. Whether it is during school hours or after school hours. Mom just is mom and is always going!”

Kim: “‘Mom who works’ makes me giggle. As if those who don’t work outside the home get to sit and eat bon-bons, lol. I am a mom first, and I work outside the home, but one identity really has very little to do with the other. I am a daughter, mom, aunt, wife, employee, etc. I see no need in defining me in one phrase.”

Kathy: “I’m a Mom who works. No matter what the job my kids still come first. Now this doesn’t mean that I will miss my work because of my kids’ activities. In fact I think it is important for my boys to know that I have a life outside of them. More occasions than not they will go with me to work. I am fortunate in that I do not have to work full-time so I also do some volunteer work with the school and church. This is how I grew up, although it was my dad with whom I went to work. My mom worked for a few years … at the school office. She was overall a stay-at-home mom. I didn’t think any less of her for that, but for me I need to get out of the house and be among individuals for my own sanity. ”

Heather: “As a ‘stay at home’ mom, I find that such a phrase receives little regard among some circles. In that case I proudly state that I am in the business of raising successful children, lest anyone think I am not about a great work! The greatest ‘work’ I will ever do is within the walls of my home.”

Karen: “I always say working mom. Never really thought about it. Too busy working. LOL… Funny it seems the only people that kind of thing matters to are other women. We are harder on each other for the choices we make than anyone else. I do not get hung up on the words. It should not matter what label one places on me. I am not a label or a role…”

What about you? How do you define yourself?

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  1. I like to use the term Domestic Engineer, especially when asked what my occupation is. On a lighter note it depends on the conversation, but I usually say “stay at home mom” or homemaker.

  2. Thank you for honoring your grandmother in your blog. She would be so proud of you. Good comments by a number of your friends.