Monday, April 12, 2010

Is There a Negative Stigma Attached to being a WAHM?

Yesterday I wrote a blog post for asking whether or not labeling yourself as a WAHM (work at home mom) is a bad thing. It was my response to a guest video blog post by Scott Stratten (@unmarketing on Twitter) that appeared on last year.

I must say, Scott is a very brave man to take on a topic as touchy as WAHMs and business identity. Scott (a WAHD) explained in his post that there’s nothing wrong with being a WAHM, but it’s not a good idea to promote yourself as one to every market. If you’re mostly marketing to other WAHMs that’s one thing. That can actually be a strategy that seals your connection to other WAHMs. But you might run into problems marketing yourself that way to other markets. Some businesses seem to have preconceived notions of WAHMs, the biggest being that their project comes second to a WAHMs children and home responsibilities. I imagine that’s the case for any working professional with a family, but I digress…

I’ve always been aware of the negative labels some clients attach to WAHMs. My first negative experience came about three years ago while lurking around the writer’s forum at Someone over at Warrior Forum released a report for Internet Marketers detailing how to get quality articles written for as low as $2 each from moms "looking to make a little money" over at As you can imagine that report sold like hot cakes, and then big surprise - the forum was all of a sudden flooded with brand new clients seeking writers for $2 and $3 article jobs.

Long story short, the forum blazed with biting comments and hurled insults to those poor, innocent souls who’d come looking for the guaranteed, cheap WAHM labor mentioned in that report. Writers themselves even got caught up in the melee.

The writers who had blasted the Internet marketers were even more incensed with the writers who responded to the offers. Then of course the writers accepting the $2 and $3 article jobs became defensive saying it was their right to accept the work if they needed it. It went on like that for a couple of weeks until I think the Internet marketers decided that the cheap labor wasn’t worth all the trouble they’d have to endure on that forum to get it.

Situations like that are what made me shy away from the WAHM association when I first started freelancing. I did so because I needed to be taken seriously because I was seriously trying to make a living as a writer. My website includes no personal information, only information about my professional writing services and my professional credentials (I don’t discuss being married or the fact that my twins each lost a front tooth during the exact same week on my “About Us” page).

Just because I happen to have kids and work from a desk in my living room doesn’t mean that I won’t consider a client’s project top priority and deliver as expected. I happen to think my being a mom is irrelevant to my business identity. I know lots of other WAHMs with similar professional ethics. At the same time I am a WAHM and make no apology about it.

Scott's video clarified that it’s not at all about shunning the WAHM label; it’s understanding when it is, and isn’t, appropriate to market yourself that way. After all the whole point of marketing is to appeal to your target market. What are your thoughts?


Lori said...

What I don't like about the WAHM designation is the emphasis is on MOM. All words in that acronym put modify MOM, not WORK, not WRITER (it's not even in there). It's telling your clients up front that MOM is your identity, not writer who happens to be a parent. Our families are our priority, certainly. But stating that in our titles sends the message that we're somehow unreliable. Our clients may think that a kid's fever is going to affect the outcome of the product.

I'd never use it. I'm a writer. I'm a mom. I choose to do what men do - separate work from parenting.

Lori said...

Sorry, I have an extra word in there. "All words in that acronym modify" not "put modify." More tea!

Anne Wayman said...

I was a WAHM before we had the term... back even before the internet. I was advised then not to let people know I worked at home and my kids were there - I mostly ignored the advice... didn't emphasize my kids or my home office one way or another. Seemed to work out.

Of course, now I'm a WAGM - everything changes all the time.

Devon Ellington said...

I agree with Lori and Anne. I've had hugely different experiences working alongside people who identify themselves as WAHM and those who identify themselves as freelance writers.

The experiences I've had with those who call themselves WAHMs are that they are in it for what used to be called "pin money" -- in other words, they'll work for cheap because they don't count on it to pay the bills, the quality tends to be low (they're more likely to write for content mills -- enough said), and they're more likely to miss deadlines because something came up with the kids.

When I've worked in situation where multiple writers are on a project, and some of them came on as WAHM -- I ended up picking up the slack, because I'm not a WAHM. Yet they expected to get paid for work not done, because everyone else is supposed to understand that, when you're a mom, "things come up."

When you're a freelancer, you get paid for the work you DO, not the work you shove off onto someone else.

I know plenty of mothers who are also freelance writers, but they don't market themselves as mothers first. When they're on the clock, they are writers. They go for (and land) the higher paying jobs, their quality is good, they meet deadlines, and they don't use their families as an excuse not to get the job done. In group situations, they completely pull their weight. Their family responsibilities do not interfere with their professionalism.

In marketing, I don't believe one should lead with one's personal life. One should lead with one's professional qualifications. It doesn't matter WHERE you do the work or the make-up of your family life, as long as you behave professionally and get the work done on time. So why market yourself from an angle of your personal life?

Stacey Abler said...

Wow, this is great advice. I would not have thought about it in this way had I not read this. But it makes perfect sense. This is a good reminder to keep business sites purely professional and leave out the personal details that do not apply.

I was working from home before I was a mom and found it impossible to work from home and be a mom full-time so my son goes to daycare. For those who can do it, I applaud you. I couldn't make it work! :) Even though he's not always here with me during the day, I still consider myself a WAHM. Though I will be sure I don't market myself as such.

Kimberly Ben said...

@ Lori: I think this was my biggest issue as well - too much focus seemed to be on the 'mom' part. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE being a mom. It's a big part of the reason I decided to work for myself. But I was also trying to build a successful business and wanted that identity to be separate from my role as writer and business owner.

@ Anne Wayman: I'm so delighted that you stopped by to comment. :) Good advice - everyone has to do what works best for them in the end. I look forward to being a WAHG myself some day.

@ Devon: Devon said: "I know plenty of mothers who are also freelance writers, but they don't market themselves as mothers first. When they're on the clock, they are writers. "

This statement is more in line with the way I try to do things. I have a client I worked with for a year before he realized I had children at home (and at the time was homeschooling no less). He thought it was funny because he'd had absolutely no idea the entire time. it wasn't that I was trying to hide the fact; I was just focusing on his projects whenever we'd speak.

@ Stacey: I think you're right about it being difficult to operate as a full-time parent and work from home at the same time. I didn't struggle so much with my older three ( twins and a sister that's 2yrs older) because they occupied themselves a lot playing together while they were home. But my youngest clings to me throughout the day so I've resorted to doing most of my work at night.

He will be going to preK this fall and I am working on getting everyone involved in some sort of educational program this summer to keep them all nice and busy. :)

Yo Prinzel said...

We all have our own reasons for working from home--and not all of those reasons revolve around the fact that we want to be business owners. I started my business because I wanted to spend more time with my husband and cats before they all die and leave me alone--but that would be some shite marketing if I used that as a platform (plus there's no really cool acronym for my situation). I think it is great that mothers can and do stay home and work while raising their children but I don't think it needs to be mentioned in their marketing unless it's something their target clients will respond positively to.

Kimberly Ben said...

That's very true, Yo, not everyone who works from home aspires to be a business owner. When I first started working from home I wanted to be home with my young kids and I was sick and tired of the corporate environment I'd worked in for 8 yrs. Owning a business was the farthest thing from my mind at the time because my main objective was to just be happy.

Also, now you've gone and challenged me to come up with an acronym that perfectly suits your work at home status.

Karl legitworkfromhome Guy said...

Read through forums, blogs and social networking sites to find out what you can about an legit work from homebusiness. If it's getting a lot of bad press, then don't go with it.

Ruby @ Science Summer Camp said...

I don't use WAHM to introduce myself as well because of what most people view us. However, I still think highly of Moms who do because it is not an easy task.

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