The Playroom: The mother label

Author: Maraya Steadman '89, '90MBA

Maraya Steadman

My children’s school has started to move all correspondence and newsletters on-line, including working with a new service to facilitate paying registration fees and tuition. Last night I was filling out the on-line form to register my children.

And it was late, and I was cranky and I did something maybe I shouldn’t have done.

But they asked for all this personal information and the form was so long and I couldn’t figure out any good reason why they needed our social security numbers. I didn’t know the date of my children’s baptisms or the number of our parish envelope. I had trouble coming up with six telephone numbers and three emergency contacts and did my children want milk with their lunches next year and what was my occupation?

My occupation? I don’t have an occupation.

It is one of the banes of the mother who chooses not to work outside the home, the dreaded forms asking for our occupation.

The lady at the DMV told me to write in “homemaker.” So I did. I don’t like being a homemaker, whatever that is.

I am not a housewife, I can’t fold a fitted sheet, I massacre the grocery budgets, the floors are never clean, I don’t sew or make decent meals in a crock pot. I can’t even make Jell-o, mostly I just donate it to the food pantry along with the canned pumpkin.

Stay-at-home mom is a complete misnomer, I am never home.

There really isn’t a simple title for “I made a difficult choice to quit my career. A choice that challenges me to stand up for something I believe in, something I decided to do eight years ago, raise children who spend more time with me than with the nanny.”

A title that speaks to how much I love my amazing life. How much I enjoy spending this time with my kids, being the one to pick them up from ballet lessons, take them to the park or the library, or be there when they get sick and they have to stay home from school. A label for how hard it is to be that mother, because some days I feel sorry for myself.

I watch other women go off to their fabulous careers, and I envy them. Sometimes I want a paycheck and an office where I know where to find the scotch tape. I want to be respected because I’m actually good at something. I want to talk to someone who listens to me, and I get tired of being invisible.

Some days I daydream about having a career again, about being fabulous like many of the women I know. But, I’m not. I’m probably folding the laundry.

So when the forms ask me for my occupation, I politely just write in “none.”

Except this time, when I wrote “none,” the computer rejected me. My children’s school registration form was rejected because their mother did not have a “valid title.”

It was at this point that I got mad, put in another load of laundry, chastised the dog for slobbering on me, typed in “trophy wife,” hit the submit button and my registration went through. What?

It was one of those impulsive things I do sometimes, and as soon as I did it, I wished I hadn’t. Because I think maybe the school board is going to read this one. I know the principal will see it.

A group of my husband’s law school classmates once remarked, “Her? He’s marrying her? He could do so much better.”

Coarse, mean, but true, I’m not a trophy wife.

But here’s the thing, what am I?

Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. She can be reached at