Meet someone new, answer the question. Fill out a form or a profile, answer the question. It’s a way of defining or categorizing a person. Lawyer, doctor, ditch digger, I don’t care who you are; I just want to put you in a box.
In the past few weeks I have had to answer this question repeatedly and it has caused me great pause. There are no easy answers.
I have kids, so I am a mom. I run, so I am a runner. I make stuff, so I am a maker. These things are passions and joys of mine. They make up who I am but they are not the answer to the question.
Last week I was at my law school reunion. It was fun, a weekend with friends to relive the glory days, to laugh. It was also nerve wracking, a weekend filled with lawyers who didn’t know me. I was asked the question over and over again. I struggled with my answer.
My friends would answer the question with their job title. Dean, coordinator, general counsel; people understood those answers. My friends are also mothers. They may run or make stuff or do other interesting things that make them who they are. But they can answer the question. They do something quantifiable. They fit into acceptable categories. They do big things.
And what do you do? I’m currently at home with my kids.
What a noble job.
That’s hard work.
And now we move on. Let’s talk about what your friend does. That is way more interesting than laundry, packing lunches and kids’ activities.
I’m dismissed from the conversation. It hurts.
The simple answer to the question is I am a stay at home mom. The reality of the situation is a bit more complicated.
I chose to leave the workforce. It wasn’t right for me at the time. I spent all this time and emotional energy to become a mother. I needed to do it with all of my mind, body and soul. I couldn’t split my focus, that wasn’t working for anyone. I left and didn’t look back.
As the kids got older, I was able to explore things that interested me. I didn’t have to do something just because I held the appropriate licenses. I wrote. I made jewelry. I made other things. If I didn’t enjoy something, I didn’t have to do it anymore. I had freedom, I had choices.
I found I loved writing. I thought I was pretty good at it so I sought to do more of it. I found a volunteer position that allowed me to write. It grew into something more and I grew along with it.
And what do you do?
I am a writer. I am a maker of things. I run like a gentle breeze. I am lucky to be able to share my talents with organizations I believe in. I have the luxury of being home for my children.
That answer works for me. I don't care if it works for you.