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speak for yourself

Atomic Housewife. 19/52Melody

Ever since I quit my full time job (when child #3 was born), I’ve had trouble answering that common question:

What do you do?

For an embarassingly long time I would answer some variation of “I’m a stay home mom, but I used to do something important. . . ” (well, not exactly that, but it crossed my mind).  Yes, I know being a full time mother is important — that’s why I made the choice to become one — but I felt like there was so much more to me than the stereotype of “stay home mom.”  Besides that, I hardly ever was at home. 

I’m still a (hardly ever) stay home mom, but I also teach parent workshops, I tutor, I spend lots of time writing (even if it’s online, not on paper), I volunteer here and there, and I am interested in all kinds of things.  I’m not comfortable picking one label that defines me.  I’m multifaceted.  Aren’t we all?

Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira offers a great solution in Mama’s Got a Fake ID:  How to Reveal the Real You Behind All that Mom:

I’m a mom and _____________.

She suggests we think of one thing we’d like people to know about us and pair it with the awesome job of being a mom.  Some examples:

  • I’m a mom and a gardener.
  • I’m a mom and a lawyer.
  • I’m a mom and a preschool volunteer.
  • I’m a mom and a runner.

Or, go with active verbs and say:

  • I raise kids and raise horses (dogs?  gerbils?).
  • I write, volunteer at school and take care of my family. 
  • I drive around in circles enriching my children (okay, maybe not impressive, but accurate!)

Somehow the active method is easier for me.  I don’t have to wonder, “Is it okay to call myself a writer?” when I’m perfectly comfortable saying that I write, because I do.  I guess that does make me a writer, but that’s another conversation. 

The mom and ____ phrasing serves as a conversation opener.  It connects being a mom with other passions and important parts of me.  It also provides a more accurate, natural and broader picture what a mom does and who I am.  So here’s the line I might use next time I get that question:

I take care of my family and write about my adventures. 

And help parents communicate better.  And tutor for the ACT.  And volunteer.  And run around in circles, sometimes.   Okay, I’ve got some focusing work to do!

How do you answer that dreaded question:  What do you do? 

Please check out Magpie Girl’s inspiring article on this same subject:  Speaking with Authority, and find other helpful “works for me” tips at We Are THAT Family

Read more of my reflections on the Mama’s ID book here.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Sarahnaut

Creative Commons License photo credit: Exolucere

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9 comments to speak for yourself

  • I’ve thought about this a lot. I don’t mind simply saying that I stay at home, most people praise that. But there are times when I can tell the person is wondering if that’s “all” I do, and that’s when I wish I could see I was a surgeon or something. But then I just try to get over it :) I also have wondered about adding “and I write when I can.” That’s kinda vague, and then when I do tell people they get all confused about what blogging is. I’m sure you know what I mean :)

    Heather of the EO’s last blog post..How to share the chores equally

  • um…SAY I’m a surgeon…not SEE I’m a surgeon.

    Heather of the EO’s last blog post..How to share the chores equally

  • I’m a mom and an artist
    I’m a mom and a graphic designer
    I’m a mom and a college instructor

    I’m a mom who sometimes wonders if she wouldn’t do better just sticking to the mom thing, but knows she can’t survive without the creative outlet!

    charrette’s last blog post..Pay Rapt Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain. And the One Spreading Newspapers, Too.

  • Amy

    Ha. I struggle with this too. But I just say that I do a little bit of everything, like most women. But I’m a mom first!

  • pam

    Awesome suggestions, ladies. I don’t know, Heather, maybe you look like a surgeon to some?
    I also like the one Chick Moorman suggested:
    “I am a mom and I am commited to raising responsible, caring, conscious children.”
    Keep the ideas coming!

  • Carol H.

    I’ve always wanted to say that I am “a Soul Sculptor for the King of my heart.” But that sounds too much like I’m trying to be God. I don’t know…I’ll figure out what to say once I figure out what it is I want to do for the rest of my life!

  • pam

    Oooooo Carol. . . but you ARE! (Carol writes amazing multi-sensory Christian education curriculum. There’s no need to be humble).

  • Pam, Good topic! The questions always used to infuriate me. I began freelance writing from home (after editing a travel magazine) when my son was 3 yrs old, back in the late 1980s. People were astounded when I didn’t go back to a newspaper or magazine office job.

    I was — and still am — very proud to be a stay-at-home mom. When people asked me what I did, I always told them I was a SAHM. It made me angry when they seemed more impressed by my publishing credentials. So I deliberately underplayed those credentials and told everyone who asked that I was enjoying the most important career of a lifetime — Motherhood.

    Cindy L’s last blog post..The art of motherhood

  • I used to say I was a domestic engineer. However things have changed and I work full time, outside of the home. I guess if someone asked me that question right now I would say…
    I am a mom, a receptionist, and an optimist.

    Annie’s last blog post..May My Life Sing

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