Mompreneurs, Dadpreneurs and Stigma

It’s Thursday, so I’m Crafting my Life! For 2011, I have ditched the themes and link-ups. Instead, I am just going to write what I’m thinking about this week. And if you would like to chime in and contribute a guest post about your own journey, please drop me a line – I’d love to have you!

I am a WAHM, or work at home mom. I do some freelance work, I write stuff (mostly unpaid), and I run the Crafting my Life online course. Two mornings a week I have some help from the ever-fabulous Wonder Nanny, but most of the time it’s just me and my kids, making our way through the day. I work around the little ones as best I can, and stay up far later than I should pretty much every night.

This is the life I’ve chosen, at least for right now, and I’m not complaining about it. But recently I had a conversation that led me to ask some questions about the labels I give myself. I spoke with Jason, who is an entrepreneur (he founded Coco & Tini) and the father of a 3 1/2 year old, for an upcoming episode of the podcast. As I was preparing for the interview, it occurred to me that I’ve spoken to a lot of mompreneurs, but he was the first dadpreneur. And it also occurred to me that we don’t even use the word “dadpreneur”, pretty much at all. There are entrepreneurs who are dads, of course, but we don’t necessarily connect the two roles.

Just like we don’t say dadpreneur, we also don’t really say WAHD. To prove my point, I did a quick Google search for WAHM and WAHD. WAHM got about 1,650,000 hits about work-at-home mothers. WAHD got about 255,000 hits, including someone with the middle name “Wahd”. And as the icing on the cake, Google asked me if I really meant to search for “WAHED”.

What does it mean, that moms who work from home or run their own businesses are called WAHMs or mompreneurs, whereas dads are called freelancers or entrepreneurs? It’s a good question. I suspect there are a few reasons. Many work-at-home moms, myself included, are in businesses that directly target other mothers. Our motherhood is a part of our business identity. Also, we often assume that fathers aren’t taking on the lion’s share of the childcare obligations. If a dad’s running a business, then the kids must be with their mother, or else in daycare. Whereas if a mom is running a business, we wonder how she cares for her kids while she works.

Double standards, much?

I think society still feels pretty strongly that a woman’s identity is forever wrapped up in being a mother once she has kids. And I also see that mothers seem to talk much more freely about their identities as parents, generally speaking. I was searching for a local dad blogger to be part of a panel I’m proposing for a blog conference, and it was hard to find someone. I found lots of dads who blog, but they blog about business or technology or sports. Yet there are dozens and dozens of local mom bloggers I could name off the top of my head. Mothers are much more public about mothering than fathers seem to be about fathering.

Could it be that fathers have a point?

As I debate over whether I want the WAHM or mompreneur label, I consider the message it sends. I don’t like the term “mommy blogger”, for instance, because it’s just way too cutesy. And the word “mompreneur” carries a lot of the same stigma. If you want an earful on why marketing yourself as a WAHM can be negative, check out this video rant by Scott Stratten. He says that if your business targets other moms, then playing up your status as a mother may be to your advantage. But if your business is unrelated to the fact you have kids, mentioning it may cause people to take you less seriously.

I don’t always agree with Mr. Unmarketing, but I can see where he’s coming from. Why does a mom with a business need to be viewed differently than anyone else with a business? And why do we need to slap the word “mom” or “mommy” in front of nearly anything that a mother does?

This week was the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. It’s a day to recognize the role and plight of women in society. There’s no denying that women have come a long way in the past century. But as I consider the ways that businesses run by mothers and fathers are viewed and labeled, I think that we still have some work left ahead of us.

Do you agree? Do you think it’s unreasonable that mothers with businesses are labeled “mompreneurs”, and fathers don’t receive the same treatment? Or do you wear the “mompreneur” label with pride? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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  1. Okay, off the top of my head, and ready to duck for all the stuff that gets thrown at me for saying this — I think being a Mom IS different from being a dad. I don’t see how you avoid being wrapped up in your children when they’re small, unless drastic circumstances prevent this. It makes sense to me that a stay at home Mom would end up in a business targeted at other moms, because we’re always thinking ‘what would make this easier?’ Asking Moms to be less public about mothering sort of sounds to me like asking them not to breastfeed in public — if it’s your life, why should you be less public about it? And if you can combine it with a livelihood, why on earth wouldn’t you?
    allison’s last post … TMI Wednesdays – dont say you werent warnedMy Profile

    • I’m definitely not asking moms to be less public – that would be totally hypocritical, for one thing. I’m just wondering whether we need to incorporate “mom” into everything we do. And whether it’s us doing that, or a larger societal influence.

  2. Wow, this is a doozy of a question Amber.

    Some thoughts:

    Part of the reason I identify as a wahm is because mothering is my primary identify right now. And I’m pretty hella proud to be a “mommy blogger” (similar to the way Inga Muscio reclaimed the word “cunt”). Sure it was a pretty little pat on the head, but look at what the mommy blog world is doing! I’m completely blown away, proud, inspired and quite frankly, I think bigger corporate world is in shock at how we managed to pull it off while they thought we were watching daytime soaps.

    I get it though: you are taking the conversation to the next level. I think you are right and that is where we are heading, but you can’t just make that leap and I think the process of owning motherhood AND stepping out into the business world is a bridge to further women’s empowerment. During the feminist era women had to deny motherhood. My mom and all my friend’s moms were working and that’s why we were all bottle fed and crying it out–so we could be independent enough to be in daycare all day away from mom.

    Post-feminism is embracing motherhood, but still insisting that we can participate in the business world.

    What’s next? Perhaps not thinking twice about motherhood when you’re doing business.

    Another thought–part of the grassroots movement of the wahming world has to do with supporting each other. Relying on the wahm title was/is a way for us to identify and support each other: through commerce, word-of-mouth and encouragement. I think it was tool for empowerment and when it’s no longer necessary it will get dropped.

    (And for what it’s worth we have a wahd at our house and he’s just as befuddled as you as to why guys aren’t talking about fatherhood. It drives him crazy.)
    Hillary’s last post … Homeschooling and Working from Home- Yes You Can!My Profile

  3. I don’t refer to myself as a Mompreneur (that’s a mouthful anyway), nor a Mommy blogger. Though I am both (a biz-owner working mom, and a mom who blogs). Here on blogs, Twitter, and in “real life”, I have mentioned that I (was) a WAHM when the conversation presented itself – because it is an accurate descriptor. Yet, I don’t particularly relish that title either because it comes with an air of “not real work” – like, what do you mean you work at home – do you sell Tupperware makeup to your friends, what, like you run a triangle scheme? Sigh.

    We’ve both (my husband & I, he longer than I, as he’s been working freelance for over ~12yrs) have faced some biases in the last many years of being freelance, WAH, entrepreneurs, biz owners. No one likes to see entrepreneur, self employed, or biz owner on your resume or loan application, for example. In many people’s minds, those terms are synonymous with rebellious or (gasp) unemployed. I don’t think THAT in particular is just a bias against mothers who own businesses.

    I’d say pretty much never do either of us use the label entrepreneur nor mompreneur. I think those labels are most often used by OTHERS as descriptors or ways to classify/list, though I can’t say anyone has ever called me a mompreneur. That being said, as we don’t cater directly to moms in our business, that term really isn’t really in the lexicon. In the online/parenting/blogging world, sure. And I agree that the term mom or mommy doesn’t need to be added to the front of whatever job or label you choose. Other than when you’re talking about being a… mom.
    kelly @kellynaturally’s last post … The Bouncing Ball and the Childs SpiritMy Profile

  4. I agree with Allison — it IS different to be a mom than a dad. Not better, not worse, but different.

    But what if all the “mom” labeling is simply about the idea that moms take their jobs seriously? When I call myself a “mompreneur” (which I don’t, but I am one), what if I’m saying “I hold 2 jobs actually, and both are important.” What if the mom-labels aren’t so much a disservice to women as they are to dads, by ignoring the idea that dads are also doing 2 jobs at once?

    The stuff moms do doesn’t have to be the same as the stuff dads do — at home or at work. Different is good. Our businesses and our kids benefit from each way of looking at things and doing things.

  5. Well, putting aside my dislike of the acronym game to begin with (SAHM/WOHM/SAHD, etc…) I think you raise some interesting questions.
    I don’t work at home–I work full time and my husband stays home. He also runs a successful freelance and art business, on top of being the stay at home dad. He would never call himself a dadpreneur. He’s either an artist, or a freelancer, depending on who he’s talking to. Oh, and he stays home with our son. Part of that, I think, is because he started his freelance work long long ago–long before we were married, much less had a child. So his identity as a freelancer was built before his identity as a dad. However, even if that weren’t the case, I don’t think he would combine the two. It just doesn’t seem to work that way for men.
    For women, I wonder how much of the labeling has to do with that pre/post baby career decision making. So if you started your business before you had a child, would you rename yourself as a WAHM after years of being just a freelancer or self-employed? I”m not sure. However, if you started your work at home after having a child, or perhaps even more importantly, in RESPONSE to having a child (whether that’s so you could be home, so you could reach other moms, what have you), the mom label seems to be more inclusive naturally to what you do.
    I do think from a business/societal perspective, the labeling makes it easier to diminish the work that’s being done. Misogynistic though that is, it can make it seem that the work is secondary to the mom. Anyone who’s tried to work at home with children knows you have to be, in many ways, even more dedicated to it all, but that’s not always the outside perception.
    Ginger’s last post … Book Marketing by DayMy Profile

  6. I hadn’t thought much about this issue before reading this post but now that I think about it, I agree with your take, that there is a double standard here. I have long since noticed, and been bothered, by the stigmas attached to dads who stay at home with the kids.

    Growing up, my dad worked full-time and had an hour-long commute to and from work, and I honestly never got to spend all that much time with him until he was laid off from his job. This experience made me think a lot about how our society is structured. I think it’s healthiest if both parents are able to spend time with kids.

    I think a lot of these stigmas are not only unnecessary, they’re outright ridiculous and have negative aspects on society. I think that deep down though, we all know what matters: being a loving parent, spending time with your kids, and in a work / career setting, producing goods or services of value to others and to society as a whole. It doesn’t matter what gender the parent is or how exactly they choose to structure their time, their life, or their career. I think that our society focuses too much on social norms and doesn’t focus enough on the deeper purposes of life, the things that really matter. So, thanks for encouraging us to question these things!
    Alex Zorach’s last post … Neighborhood and Community Gathering SpacesMy Profile

  7. Reality is the momprenear. mom blogger / WAHM movment if you can call it that, is unique. There is simply no Dad equivalent. Moms have babies, breasfeed and find themselves yearning to work from home or maintain some flexibility and the only way is to get entrepreneurial.

    That said, as mentioned above, if this is what you’ve always done, the label WAHM seems odd. it certainly does to me because my son is taken care of my others while I work so I’m really just a freelancer like any other.
    harriet Fancott’s last post … What I learned in FebruaryMy Profile

    • I know lots of individuals who fit this model. They may be in a small minority but I think that saying there is no Dad equivalent is part of the stigma that this post was trying to expose. I know more examples from people I know personally than one would expect, and I think it’s a growing phenomenon as people become tired of long commuting distances and as the changing economy pushes people away from normal 8-5 work schedules.
      Alex Zorach’s last post … Neighborhood and Community Gathering SpacesMy Profile

      • I agree. My own husband has worked from home as an entrepreneur at various points, and he would like to do it again, largely so that he can be more present with his children. I think that more and more fathers are going this route. But we still don’t particularly view it as equivalent to when a mom makes the same choices. That’s puzzling to me, to be honest.

  8. I agree, much work needs to be done. Part of what irks me is the need to identify things with a tag specific to the gender – e.g. a female X (fill in the profession) or a work-at-home-mom. I don’t know that the same qualifiers go with males – I rarely read a male X. Likewise, there seem to be stigmas associated with fathers performing certain tasks too – when they are at home, it becomes a stay-at-home-dad situation – but you don’t generally read about a work-outside-the-home dad. I think it suggests that gender roles are still very fixed and the qualifier comes when there is a seeming oddity about the person’s work.

    I think that we each carry multiple identities, and those identities don’t need to be the same – there are benefits from the differences in the lives of those we intersect with (spouse, children, neighbors, etc). It *is* different in some ways based on gender, as it in one way or the other impacts how we approach the world – even if it is a choice to try not to match a gender role. But the boxing out of those identities kind of wrankles me in some moments. I don’t want to be known by only one of them as my identity. Nor do I want to have one qualified by the other (e.g. mother/worker/student, daughter/student/worker, etc. ).

    Complicated stuff!

  9. I really feel like men compartmentalize better. I was discussing this with my mother recently and she felt the same way. If I can physically see or hear the baby, he is my number one priority no matter what I’m doing or who else is around. So I am still a WAHM, but there is never really a good balance. There is a reason that moms typically win custody battles with all other things being equal. It’s biological really. My husband can easily tune out the baby so long as he knows he is safely in my care, whereas I cannot do the same.

    There are also so many mom bloggers that the quality isn’t there most of the time, and that adds to the stigma IMO. I don’t want to bash other women but I feel like maybe men are better at judging their own skills and acting accordingly.

  10. I just attended a seminar on gender differences in the workplace and one of the findings consistently confirmed in studies is that mothers (compared to non- mothers, fathers, and non fathers) are considered most likable and least competent. The same resume with Parent-teacher association president listed instead of homeowners association president brings far fewer responses and lower salary.
    Lady M’s last post … Hungry for BooksMy Profile

  11. Mompreneurs seems to refer to the fact that those women are first of all moms. Who is more likely to take care – say – of a sick child, a mompreneurs or a freelancing dad?
    Francesca’s last post … the magic of Black!My Profile

  12. It makes sense to give yourself those labels when it’s directly relevant to your business, but if not, then it’s kind of unnecessary. When applying for a job offline, you wouldn’t put that you’re a parent in your resume, but when browsing freelance sites for contractors I see it quite often in their profiles (which act as virtual resumes). I think for some types of home jobs, having that mentioned might actually hurt the applicant (background noise, lack of availability, etc).
    Amber’s last post … GoDaddy Coupon CodeMy Profile

  13. i bookmarked this post for later reading as i really do want to comment on the whole momblogger/WAHM/mompreneur thing.

    I am a mum.
    I blog.
    I work from home.
    I have my own business.

    Yet I do not label myself momblogger/mompreneur, and I’d rather describe my situation as working from home.

    Well, a lot of women who blog are mummies, whether they are blogging about parenting or not, yet momblogger implies you will be rattling on about parenting/breastfeeding/eco-awareness and so on.

    Mompreneur seems way to cute and amateur to describe how I want my business to run. I don’t want to give anybody any kind of fodder to accuse me I’m not being serious, and quite honestly, some of the mompreneur role models I have seen are both cutesy and behave in an amateur manner. Moreover my business is not oriented to children, childcare, infants or similar and a lot of mompreneur businesses are ‘limited’ to just that spectrum.

    Working from home – all mums work at home, it’s inescapable. I run my business from home. I really don’t want to arm anyone with the idea that I can be though of as inefficient, unreliable, distracted or whatever – mums already have a lot of stereotyping to get thru. Why not impress a client with your business acumen and delivery, and then let them be even more impressed when they discover what else you deal with?

    Dads do not land themselves with any kind of parenting tag. It is unfair out there in get real land, but until parenting is shared equally (and we show it can be done by example) I think that if one half of the equation is not labeled then neither should the other be. It’s like being addressed as ‘man and wife’ – offensive to both parties.
    pomomama’s last post … Sunday is runday in Port MoodyMy Profile

  14. Interesting post!

    I haven’t had a chance to read all the comments, but here’s how I differentiate between the terms:

    WAHM: This is a mother who is running a business from her home while also caring for the kids.

    WAHD: as above, but a father.
    Mompreneur: A mom who has invented or started a business specifically drawn from her experience as a mom. Such as clothing labels, or baby slings, etc.

    Dadpreneur: I’ve never heard this term used before.

    Entrepreneur: Someone who has started their own business. They might work part-time or full-time, but when they are working they are not also caring for children.

    Not of the above terms strike me as unreasonable, but I prefer entrepreneur over “mompreneur.”

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  1. […] And still I don’t need to carry my motherhood on a badge around with me at all times. Men don’t call themselves dadpreneurs because it sounds silly. Why would they? Even if their business was inspired by their offspring. And to me mumpreneur sounds silly in just the same way. A desperate attempt to blend the different roles women play every day. Mother, wife, business owner, friend, daughter, caretaker, housewife. Blend them if you wish. Be a mumpreneur if you want to be one. But for me, I am a woman in business. Meaning business. And I am a good mother. A proud mother Sometimes I am all at the same time. But I am never and will never be a mumpreneur. […]

  2. […] Words matter. I don’t like the term “mommy blogger”, for instance, because I find the diminutive to be somewhat cutesy and maybe even a little bit patronizing. If other people want to describe themselves as mommy bloggers, that’s cool with me. But I think that I have the right to say that I would prefer not to be given that label. So why, then, do I persist in holding on to the engineer label, some three years after my last day of work as an engineer? […]

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