I never felt more like myself until I went back to work as a new mom.

Well, except for the 5:30 p.m. meeting my then manager decided to hold, with 15 minutes notice on what became a very long first day back. That was a frustrated version of myself.

I guess I won't see my child awake tonight, I remember thinking of my then four-month-old.

As I rushed home that night, my half-hearted acceptance of the trade-offs in becoming a working mom was crystallized. You never fully understand until it happens to you.

As much as being a working mom is central to my identity, I also wish we could stop using the term.

To be a “working mom”, I knew I'd likely always feel like I was rushing—with work to see family, and with family to do work.

But I wanted to do it all. Or at least a lot of it. To support my family, to learn new skills, to grow my career, to schedule playdates, make baby food (that lasted a week) and return library books... mostly on time. And I knew I could do it with discipline, creativity and a network of parents to lean on.

In the years since that humid August night rushing through New York’s Penn Station, I've become an efficient worker, skilled multi-tasker and rememberer of all things. Sometimes, I’m shocked at my own productivity, before I pass out. And I’m proud of how my son is growing up, seeing how his mom works in and out of the home.

Being a working mom is my superpower, and I celebrate all of us.

But on this International Women's Day, I have to admit: As much as being a working mom is central to my identity, I also wish we could stop using the term.

The bigger headline is that being a mom is work. For all of us.

It has never sat well with me, but my unease became stronger the longer the pandemic and resulting stress on caregivers dragged on.

Suddenly, and then persistently now for two years, many of us moms have been home. And many of us were also working for pay—while simultaneously caring for children, supervising remote schooling, making snacks, taking work calls and trying not to scream (out loud). That is, if we’re privileged enough to be able to work remotely.

The time drain and stress on all of us is real. According to government data analyzed by the Brookings Institute, women with kids under 12 spent an average of eight hours a day on childcare in 2020, when so many schools and childcare centers were closed. Dads worked more, too—about five hours daily on childcare.

And yes, if you were a mom with paid employment, as the headlines made clear, that was the equivalent of a second full-time job.

The bigger headline is that being a mom is work. For all of us.

And differentiating between moms who “work” and moms who “stay home” implies a judgment, a value in one or the other. This has been conflated for years as the “mommy wars,” as Romper pointed out in a piece last fall that called for retiring the term “working mom.”

The longer the pandemic drags on, and the toll on women and caregivers mounts, the more it’s clear: The term “working mom” is outdated, ineffective at capturing who we—moms—all are, and is dismissive of all parents.

Consider the numbers:

There are over one million women still missing from the paid labor force, as the pandemic enters a third year. The National Women's Law Center says, based on the January jobs report, male workers have recouped all their job losses since February 2020. But women are still not back due to continued school and childcare disruptions and a labor shortage in childcare. Some chose to leave jobs, others were forced. Are they not “working moms” anymore? Are they somehow less-than because they don’t have paid employment now?

The amount of unpaid labor done by women is staggering. Even if women aren’t getting a paycheck, they are still working and creating value for the economy. If American women earned minimum wage for work done around the house (including childcare), they would make about $1.5 trillion a year, according to an estimate published in The New York Times. Globally, the figure is $10.9 trillion. Unpaid labor is not counted in GDP. Who are we to dismiss the value women are creating, whether or not they are paid?

Beyond that, saying “working mom” feeds into a sexist narrative. There’s no equivalent for fathers because the assumption is that they work, and women are caregivers. I’ll admit, as much as it troubles me, the term “working dad” sounds a bit silly. We have all internalized so much.

So really, shouldn’t “working mom” sound ridiculous, too?

It’s been seven years since I rushed home to be with my infant son—capping off my first official day as a mom in the labor force.

I made it home in time to see him awake. Barely.

I have a picture of us: me, smiling, exhausted and sweaty from the commuting cardio. He’s snuggled in my arms, chunky and sweet. The time stamp says 6:57 p.m., the first of many long days.

I was there. And that’s what matters.

For women’s history month this year, I commit to thinking more broadly about our definitions of work, parenting and the future we are carving out for our children.

I’m proud to be working.

I’m proud to be a mom.