Are You a "Weekend" Mother?

by Leslie Morgan Steiner


Good god, sometimes I don’t know whether I can take the mommy wars anymore.


The latest salvo: invention, by stay-at-home moms, of the derogatory term "weekend mother" to describe women who work for pay outside their homes from Monday through Friday (or some other period).


The implication being that working moms can not give as much love and attention to their children as stay-at-home mothers.


"They're not there," one stay-at-home mother said of working mothers. "Most of the working moms I know, all they have time for is dinner and bath time. They're not really spending time with their kids."


Oh dear.


The debate raged on Facebook about this moniker and then was picked up by newspapers, including the Sacramento Bee. Writer (and mom) Niesha Lofing wrote in her own defense:


"The ‘weekend mother’ label certainly hit a pressure point in my brain. I thought good parents were the ones who engaged in their children's development – whether they stay at home with them or not."


Shout it from the laptop, Niesha! For the record, The American Association of Pediatrics has said that a child's development is influenced more by the emotional health of the family and quality of child care than by whether mom spends all day child-rearing. I know stay-at-home moms who are so nuts I wouldn’t leave a child with them for 30 minutes. And working moms who bump pediatrician appointments in favor of a pedicure. Your employment status is irrelevant to how good a mom you are. Most of the 80 million moms in this country are darn good caregivers, no matter where you find us between 9 am and 5 pm. The vast majority of mothers are working moms who have to work to support their families – only about six million of the country’s 80 million moms stay at home fulltime. And all moms work, whether we get paid or not – the label "working mom" is just as silly as "stay-at-home mom."


Time and availability of a mother doesn't equal good mothering. This is a sad argument. I work full-time and travel 50% of that. But, I also spend more time with my son when I am home, take him on my work trips ocassionally, and make other sacrifices to give him equal or better care than that of some SAHMs do for their children. Because I work, I scarifice any concept of me time and I stay up to ungodly hours making home-made meals so my son doesn't have to eat convenience foods even when I am out of town. Mothering is so subjective and the decision to work or be at home isn't about being a better person on some level- it's about providing the best care for one's child. Sometimes this means staying at home because your child needs extra individual attention or because you would always regret your not having spent their early years with them. Sometimes, it means working so that you don't resent losing a career to your child or working because you realize that for your child a school environment would be more stimulating ot making money to ensure that your child will have certain opportunities and a college fund. Women need to realize that staying at home and working are both choices- choices which can both be called selfish or unselfish based on the motivations that lead us to make our choices. The good mothers are those who know themselves and their child and make the decision on an individual basis for what's right for their mother-child relationship and make the best of that choice from there.


Great column! I especially like your question of why we don't attack the "real enemies". It is frustrating that for so many years (decades?) we have been talking about the "real enemies" and yet so little seems to change. Why is part-time still so rare and challenging in the professional work world (at least where I live)? Why is more than a few weeks paid maternity leave still considered almost a luxury? Why can't more partners be TRULY involved? Why do women (speaking for myself here...) continue to feel they have to choose between professional success and being as involved as they want to be as a parent? (And by saying this I'm not implying that women who work outside the home are not involved...I work from 9:30 to 5:30 outside the home, and virtually all of my time at home is quality time with my son. ) It shouldn't be so hard to balance things.
And thank you for acknowledging how hard mothering is!


I agree with a lot of the posts. One more dose of reality: In our society, it's incredibly hard to do the same thing for 20+ years. I anticipate that a fair amount of the current SAHMs may circulate back into the workforce at some point, and some of us in careers may cycle into working less or ramping down completely. There certainly is space for choices here in America. We should embrace that part of our culture. I vote for us moms spending more time and energy and money helping moms that are living below the poverty line and/or are in oppressive situations. Would love to see a MommyTracked article (or even section) on easy ways to help other women in the US and around the world. Leslie, maybe you can help?


This actually made me cry. I have heard a lot of judgey, narrow-minded commentary by women against other women, but this is just mean and hurtful. It's name-calling of the worst kind. I run myself ragged to help provide financially for my family while devoting nearly every non-working, non-sleeping moment to my child. I don't go to the gym. My house is a mess. I don't want a medal. But I wholeheartedly resent the notion that I am somehow less of a mother to my child than my friends who have chosen to stay home.
I realize I am preaching to the choir (i.e., moms who read this smart, empowering website), but this upset me so much, I had to comment.


Amen Leslie. I had not heard this depressing term before. God save us from the mean girls mommy wars and try to be comfortable with the choices we have made. I am still looking for that part-time dream job that lets me spend more time with my kids but still pays well within my field. But guess what- it does not exist. So I have to make do and make the most of things. Something tells me from reading these posts that I am not alone.


I've really seen both sides of this coin, and it really sucks! I was a SAHM for 4 years, and I've been working full-time plus since February. The sad fact of the matter is that it seems women cannot win, and half of the battle scars we receive come from other women! SAHMs often are quite unappreciated by everyone and looked down on by working outside the home moms as being lesser individuals. Working moms are sneered at by many SAHMs with holier-than-thou attitudes about how much they do for their kids. Society at large plays into it, and it's ridiculous! You wrote a great article, and I wish it was out there in wider circles.

doctor dirt

Great post and I'm all for supporting one another's choices - or at least, to stop being so judgmental about the choices other people make! But, I do have to say, having been both a stay at home parent and a working-outside-the-home-full-time mom, there *is* a difference in the kind of time you get to spend with your kids. When you're at home all day, not all of it is quality - but you have more hours in which to stumble into those little nuggets of quality. Quality time can't be fully planned out in advance, in other words. Those mindless, long hours just lolling around with your toddler/baby, making noises and looking at books and singing songs... you just don't have that when you get home at 6 and need to do household stuff. I'm not saying that interesting and lovely moments can't happen while that household stuff gets done - I have lots of fond memories of my little ones 'helping' me and my husband in the kitchen... - but just that the time frame is more compressed. It's just a reality - a number of hours available sort of difference. I'm not saying that those parents who can't have those wide-open time periods are not good parents, god forbid, or that they are not getting to experience true parenthood, or whatever. I'm simply saying that as someone who has parented both ways, there's a difference and I think acknowledging that difference, without passing judgement, is okay. But to ignore it is a bit disingenuous, IMO.


Wohoo, was really missing the lack of mommy wars. This can't be real, I personally think these are just internet wars.

I wouldn't blame dads any more than moms, though. My husband is really helpful, but the reality is my own dad broke the norm - working a lot but doing laundry, cooking when we let him, making lunches, etc. My husband's dad was rarely home even on weekends, so my husband gets showered with praise for doing more than the "average dad" despite his lack of role model - so why would he ever feel bad?


This has got to stop. Every family, child, and mom is different. What works for one doesn't work for everyone.


I work outside the home and pump milk for my 4 month old 3 times a day while at the office. yeah. I'm only a weekend mom. ::eyeroll::