“How do you say working mum in French?” someone asked me recently. The answer was easy to give; you don’t. Not exactly. We use phrases that I think are much more descriptive: “a mum who works” or “a mum with a job”.
French language doesn’t use “working” as an adjective. While this is simply a grammatical difference, I think it's a key one when it comes to how we describe mothers. In both English and French speaking countries, whether you work outside the home or not shouldn't define you and your mothering style. Describing someone as a "working mum" doesn't tell you whether they're a caring mum, an anxious one, a fun one, a busy one, a free-spirited one or a strict one. Working and being a mother are two different aspects of a woman's life. So using the adjective “working” to describe a mum seems slightly strange to me as a French speaker.
And sometimes the list of adjectives used to describe a mum with a job gets longer. I've heard people referring to “part-time working mums” and “full-time working mums”. Why the difference? Does it matter at all? With these expressions come assumptions and often judgements on what kind of mum you are with your kids and what your life must or should be like.
I have also recently heard of “career mums”. Referring to someone as a career woman, that I can understand. But a career mum? I am not sure what that is and why having kids should have anything to do with how ambitious you are professionally.
The flexibility of the English language is so great that you can even talk about a “full-time working mum of three”. By using all these expressions, I feel we are ranking women or trying to prove something. Who has the busiest life, who is the most ambitious, who is the most caring mum and so on.
At KiwiOz, every day we speak to mums and dads looking for help with childcare. We find solutions for those who work part-time, full-time, and those who might be at home but need the help of a nanny. Listening to all these different parents talk about their families and their particular needs, you would have no idea who was working and who was not. They all simply love their kids and want what is best for them.
And on a side note, do you ever read articles about “working dads” or hear fathers describing themselves as “working dads”? No. They are just dads at home, and workers at work. If they are allowed to be just dads, we should certainly be allowed to be just mums. The juggling act of modern life is hard enough as it is without adding extra labels and pressures.