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Stay at home parents, DO NOT call yourselves “Household Engineers”!!

On the show Property Brothers today, a rather annoying woman called herself a “household engineer”, and it threw me for a loop until I realized she was a stay-at-home-parent.

I didn’t know at the time what irked me so much about the title she used to call herself, but after reflecting upon it, I realized it was that she was ashamed of calling herself simply what she is: a stay at home mom.


Trying to give yourself a “better title” just means you think your job at home is worth less than a job outside of the home, and you feel the need to make it sound better than what it simply is.

Tongue-in-cheek or not, that’s just insulting to all stay-at-home parents in my opinion.

It is NOT easy to take care of children all the time, especially little ones that can’t understand what you’re saying.

It’s much easier to tune out in a meeting at the office while the project manager blathers on yet again about cost-cutting than it is to tune out your child having a meltdown because they missed their nap.



I am not saying a stay at home parent is a bad job by any means, but it does show that you’re embarrassed to use the real title. I remember when I was a high school student, trying to figure out what to put on my resume to apply for jobs in the summer.

Food Artist?

Burger Attendant?

Fast Food Engineer?

All of them sounded stupid because they were first of all, stupid names to begin with (yeah, not going to lie), but I was trying to put lipstick on a pig.

This goes for people who have think they have crappy, lowly jobs right now and want to make it sound better than it really is, like “Project Assistant” at “So-And-So Big Firm / Designer / Outfit”, when really they were just secretaries who fetched coffee, and indirectly felt like they helped keep the project caffeinated, so they felt entitled to elevate themselves to “Project Assistants”.



I was able to figure out what she meant after a few seconds by “Household Engineer”, but then I realized that if by chance she met others and they would ask her: So what do you do?, and she would reply “Oh I’m a Household Engineer“, if English is not their first language or they just didn’t get the play on words, they might literally say:

Oh that’s interesting I’ve never heard of an Engineering degree for the residences. What do you have to do, exactly?

… and she’d have to explain that no she’s not really an engineer per se, she’s a stay-at-home-parent.

Some might laugh it off as a good joke, but others might just feel pity (ICK!) that you felt so ashamed of just coming out and saying proudly that you take care of your kids full-time.

Where’s the shame in saying so?

Isn’t it more shameful and embarrassing to be caught in a lie where you’re dressing the pig up in a petticoat, trying to pass it off as a lady?

This is what happens in real interviews when people call themselves “Project Assistants”, only to have the interviewer realize that they don’t know how to use any of the current project management software, and they were only fetching coffee and running errands for the most part.

What do you think?


  • RT

    Your assumption that the lady uses the title because she is “ashamed” is a stretch (perhaps a projection). While that might be true, an equally valid interpretation is that she is very proud of what she does at home and is trying to communicate that being a stay-at-home-parent is a very challenging and multi-faceted job, since many don’t appreciate everything that goes into it.

    Whether her choice of title accomplishes that objective is up for debate but assuming she is “ashamed” and then concluding that your viewpoint is emphatically correct (you put two exclamation points at the end of the article title with an imperative) because being a stay-at-home-parent is not shameful, does not track. You’re starting with a flawed premise.

  • Twila

    I disagree. I’ve called myself that. And NOT because I’m ashamed of what I do. On the contrary, it’s because I’m proud of who I am and what I do. I still hate when people who stay at home and are the centre hub of their family; making sure their families have healthy food, (shopping, preparing, growing and gathering), making sure everyone is properly clothed (cleaned, mended, stored, etc.), making sure schedules are kept (school, dentist, soccer, softball, gymnastics, and every other type of appointment), making sure finances are balanced and bills are paid, training children (academically, physically, spiritually, emotionally), making sure the house is properly taken care of (at least a pathway without toys!), taking care of the needs of their spouse, etc, etc, etc… are asked if they work!!! Seriously. I’ve worked harder staying at home raising my family, than I have at any other point in my life. AND – it’s a job without pay (although my husband would disagree as I “get his whole paycheque”). Now as I also work outside of the hub of the home, it’s a double job. When it was my only job and people asked if I worked (which I got a lot), I would respond. YES! I work very hard! I had to (and still have to) keep our little family unit a well oiled machine and train them to keep moving and ticking as a unit in their various capacities. From Latin, engineer is to contrive, or devise. I’m sure all Moms or Dads that run their household can attest to the fact that contriving and devising are used on a daily basis!
    I’m currently working with ladies who are going into the workforce outside of the home and say they don’t have experience because they’ve been stay at home moms. I’m in search of what they can put on their resume. The host of experience they have is beyond words. I hope that in our culture of people who think “Home Engineering”, “Domestic Engineering” or “Stay at Home Mothering” is filled with people who “haven’t worked for a while”, that their skill set would be noted and valued for what it is.

  • Aishwarya Arunkumar

    The term Engineering is derived from the Latin ingenium, meaning “cleverness” and ingeniare, meaning “to contrive, devise”.
    Engineering is the application of mathematics and scientific, economic, social, and practical knowledge in order to invent, innovate, design, build, maintain, research, and improve structures, machines, tools, systems, components, materials, processes, solutions, and organizations.

    Parenting is different from engineering.
    I personally think a women can be called domestic/ household engineer, if she really does maintain her house, as in able to do minor repairs, simple plumbing, Change a light bulb, Replace a shower head, Patch a hole in the wall and hang a picture, Fix up the minor leaks, Fix a clogged sink,Fix a broken flower pot with glue, Change a flat tyre, Repair a leaky faucet, Repair your child’s doll etc.

  • Jaime Lila

    No one should be ashamed of being a stay at home mom. There are some extreme feminists out there who really devalue the roles of stay at home wives and mothers.

    So some SAHM then begin to feel bad about being SAHMs when in reality I thought that was the original point of feminism so women would have options and not be pigeon held into roles.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      A SAHM is not an easy job. It’s 24 hours and no one can really criticize what they do until they do it for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for the next 5 years per child.

  • Anne @ Unique Gifter

    I think that it’s not all her. There’s a lot of devauling of the role of stay at home parent, especially if someone is male, in our society. It’s vestiges, or resurfacing, second wave feminism.

  • ArianaAuburn

    My aunt has a degree in Home Economics (this was back in the early 70’s when universities offered gender-tailored programs) and never referred to herself as a SAHM or a household engineer. Since we both graduated from the same alma mater, I discovered that the Home Economics degree was offered under the Humanities and Education Dept.
    These stay-at-home moms should not feel the need to upgrade or downgrade what they do: they are practicing the skills that are no longer taught in schools.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      Good point! I think what makes it so difficult is that it’s usually women who are expected to stay at home. I get it for the first 6 months or so because of breast feeding, but now we have nifty contraptions to express breastmilk so that the dad can take over feeding duty at 2 a.m. too…

  • LAL

    No it’s being insecure. I know a lot of SAHM who regret it because they didn’t stay at home by choice. They were laid off or unable to find a job after a layoff. Then got sucked in. Call it homemaker, whatever. It is hard in this culture where you are what you do. That you went to years of schooling and are now raising children. I can say that because people give me a look of “omg you went to Ivy League and are raising kids?”

    Yes I am. I don’t pull punches. It’s not easy but it works.

  • Nancy

    It was a popular term back in the eighties and I didn’t realize that people were still using it. Before everybody gets too annoyed that they are engineers and it is a protected title, perhaps we should remember the lowly locomotive engineer who only needs a certification. (I read it on the internet, so it must be true.) And let’s face it…..they are the favourite engineer of all!

  • SP

    Um, yeah, don’t do this. (I’m an engineer, but I don’t take any special offense or think it undermines the profession, as no reasonable person would take that title seriously! Also, a lot of branches of engineering don’t require certification beyond a B.S. degree, but you are still considered an engineer. Just not a “PE”.)

    Anyway, it think it would be hard to answer “what do you do?”. We often use our jobs/careers as proxy for who we are, correctly or not. A person who is “just” a stay at home parent still has this other identity outside of her role in her family, and it is probably hard to communicate. In north america “what do you do” is almost synonymous with “who are you?” In fact, I recently wrote a post about identity, and the very first thing that came to mind was “engineer.” While I don’t try to define myself by my job, my training, education, and way of thinking are a big part of who I have become.

    • saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      Good point. We definitely identify ourselves by our careers, but perhaps just saying “I’m a SAHM” is enough to satisfy them, but then you can move on to other points of conversation to show you are not “just” a SAHM, but you can discuss other subjects aside from your children as well.

  • Tania

    I have the upmost respect for stay at home parents, about half of my friends who are mothers do not hold a job outside of the home. In addition to taking care of the home and children, they also track spending and budgeting to ensure the family income can continue to support their choice to be at home.

    As one who used to oversee HR, I would caution anyone about using a title other than their official job title on their resume (cv) or application. When a potential employer’s HR department calls to verify employment at a past employer, the job title should agree to their records. Be very descriptive in the description of job duties so the interviewee can assess your skills yes but I wouldn’t advise changing a title even if you felt your official title understated the work that you did. So, say someone was an accountant but was doing the work of a senior accountant, putting senior accountant on the resume would appear dishonest. When I interview people I hone in on what tasks they performed because every company structure is different.

    Now the beauty of having your own business is you can give yourself any title you want πŸ™‚

  • Lisa E. @ Lisa Vs. The Loans

    Never heard of “household engineers”. I have heard of “household CEOs” though. I don’t know why people feel the need to change their title. I know and am close to people who wear the SAHM badge with pride!

  • cj

    Ha! It’s even more insulting to the engineers. The language is deceptive and to some degree, dangerous. Nice post, M!!!

  • Cassie

    I have a beef with the Engineer part of it as well. The title “Engineer” is a legally protected in Canada, and it takes a considerable amount of time, effort and education to actually obtain that title. People creating titles for themselves using the term Engineer undermines those people who have jumped through all of the hoops to earn the right to call themselves that. It waters it down. You don’t call yourself a “Household Dentist” for teaching your kids how to brush their teeth.

    On the flip side, you are also quite correct. What is shameful about being a stay at home mother? Why do you need to create a pretend title for it? Being a stay at home parent isn’t going to lose its stigma until parents can look others in the eye with their shoulders straight back and say that’s what they are.

  • Tim

    Yep, I have to agree the different title is a dumb idea. If you are don’t want to ‘just be’ a stay at home parent, then do more…start a business, get some education…or what ever.

    As to the engineer title..I hate that. As a title it is protected under law and you can technically be sued over using it when you are not. Also I agree with Cassie, you cheapen the title by applying it too broadly. A Professional Engineer has a total of at least 8 years study/work experience and it is a HARD process, so don’t cheapen it please!

  • maz

    I find the whole thing quite pathetic. Thank goodness ( that ) le ridicule ne tue pas! As a ( now ) stay at home mum, I’ve got no problems telling people that I don’t work. For some reasons people always seem to think that your brain shrink once you stop working. Err, not true. But let them think what they want. I know what I’m worth. But boy, I would never call myself anything else but a stay at home mother or a housewife. An engineer? Utterly ridiculous.

  • MelD

    I find it makes other people feel awkward. They ask my mom what I “do” and she tells them I lead a busy and fulfilling life as a wife and mother and they don’t know what to say, as it doesn’t really lead on to any conversation. There is the underlying feeling that I have wasted my education, “oh dear, she was so bright…”…
    Actually, I have enjoyed being my own boss as a stay-at-home mom for over 20 years, working occasionally (10-20%) as a translator and having the opportunity to do a tailored degree in my late 30s in things that interested me rather than job-orientated; this benefitted me all round. I see my contribution as valuable and even now my kids are grown up, I find my youngest (nearly 18) is glad I am around and meanwhile I have grandkids and can help out there, too, as well with the older generation. Plus I am important for my husband as his wife and partner in his work, so why should I be ashamed?!
    My husband calls me the clan manager, but I am “just” a stay-at-home mom!! Get over it?!! πŸ˜‰

    • saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      … that’s really sad that they feel the need to say: “she wasted her brilliance”.

      No, you’re using it to better your family, and you did work occasionally but wanted and chose to stay at home and weren’t forced into it.

      Oh I like that — Clan Manager. That’s cute πŸ˜€

  • SarahN

    I have beef with the ‘engineer’ part – seeing I’m an actual engineer by study, and soon by certification (which adds experience to the degree). Some countries, there’s even a law against using ‘engineer’ when one is not. I get why people talk up their job title though.

  • Allie

    I have a family friend who is also a stay-at-home mom. On her FB page she states that she is working as a “cultural anthropologist and behavioral scientist at the (family name) life experience.” In her case I believe she left a pretty successful career to raise her kids and I have always been under the impression that she regrets it. Does giving herself this made up (and obnoxious) job title might make her feel more validated in her choice? IΒ΄ve never been sure.

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