So…what do you do?

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Yep. It’s a question that we are asked constantly. It is also a question we ask others. It’s the standard small talk topic when we meet somebody new. We seem to define ourselves by what we do for paid work…or what we’re studying/training to be. As a stay at home mum, this question can be an interesting one to answer. And by ‘interesting’, I mean ‘awkward’.

I don’t have paid work, so I have to define myself by much more than that. It’s hard to do. We’ve been socialised to believe that our self worth comes from our job title. How we use our qualifications. At times it has been implied that I am wasting my talents by ‘just’ being a parent. I am sh*t at thinking on the spot when somebody asks me what I do. I usually just mumble something like, “I’m just at home with the Little Mister for now…”

And then I hate myself. JUST? JUST?! I sound like I’m apologising for doing the most important job of my life!! Being a stay at home parent is not for everyone. And that’s cool. This blog wants nothing to do with the constant ‘mummy wars’ that we see all over the internet. This is a safe place, y’all.

Sorry, just had to make myself clear…now where was I?

Some people feel most fulfilled being full time stay at homers, while others feel complete working outside the home as well as being parents. I think I’m a member of the former group. However, I find comfort in knowing that because of a wonderful thing called feminism, I have the right to choose and change my mind at any time. Nothing is a life sentence. Which is why I find it ludicrous that there are even ‘mummy wars’ in the first place. Why do we need to label everything/everyone and keep them in a little box in our minds? Right now I love what I do ‘at home’.

I don’t want to apologise for being a stay at home parent. I don’t want to feel like I can’t admit that I love it and that right now, it’s enough for me. I have talents and qualifications. I am lucky enough to be an educated person, due to many opportunities I’ve been afforded in life. However, I find it funny when it’s implied that I am wasting my talents.

I am qualified in behavioural science and counselling. Um…hello…what do you think parenting is???

Being a mum is my job. Running a household. In no way does that make me a 50s housewife, in case you’re getting some funny ideas. Just ask my husband. Feminism is very alive and kicking between our four walls and gender roles are blurred to all hell, just the way I like it!! I just choose to be at home right now, because selfishly I enjoy the Little Mister so much and also because for practical reasons, my husband is the breadwinner. There’s nothing to say that might not change one day.

So…what do I do if I’m not earning money?

I am raising a tiny future contributor to society and that is my contribution. I want him to grow up to be someone that will help our world to be a better place. I want him to know everything from the less significant (using manners and realising the world does not revolve around him) to the more significant (that he has the ability to create change and to stand up for what he believes in). I want him to be a ‘giver’ and not a ‘drainer’. I want him to change the lives of those he is surrounded by for the better. I am doing everything I can to guide him towards the right values and opportunities. Sure, he’s only 18 months old but by giving him a secure foundation to start from, I know I’m doing everything I can. This is not a task exclusive to stay at home mums by the way. I am talking about motherhood/parenthood in general.

I am a writer. A blogger. Sure, I’m not paid to do it, but it’s a big part of who I am. It’s how I express myself and how I share myself with the world (or at least a very tiny percentage of it). It gives me a sense of worth. Not because I have readers who are lovely and pump up my ego constantly (thank you anyway), but because I can do some of the things I might have done at paid workplaces. Use a computer, stay up to date with technology (kind of) and social media trends. Stretch my brain muscles. Set goals for myself to achieve. Self imposed deadlines and objectives for my little piece of internet real estate. I can communicate with the adult world daily. Even help others on occasion!

I love the daily puzzle of being a stay at home parent. Just like any job it is what you make of it. It takes enormous levels of discipline (and I don’t just mean staying strong when your toddler is lying on the floor crying because you took the broom off him before he could smash the television screen with it). Housework, appointments, bills and budgets, quality time with your child, figuring out how to revolve life around a demanding little tornado of a human. It takes a lot of juggling. You don’t always feel like you’re getting it quite right. I just enjoy the challenge. I feel like I’m my own boss (even if my little underling is not really with the program yet haha). I feel a sense of satisfaction when everything has flowed right, because I like to fool myself into thinking it was my superior time management skills that made a day successful (it was most likely that the toddler just cooperated well but I’ll take the credit).  I love each new day getting a chance to figure out how to make it work better. Yeah, I bet half of you just spewed a little in your mouth just then. I’m sorry.

I love to see friends. I love to cook (when I have time). I am a huge social justice freak and will read anything I can on the issues people face around the world. I love stand up comedy – take me to a show and we’re friends for life (even if the comedian is drunk and ranting about how horrible women are due to a recent break up and then it’s all awkward…it might have happened once). I have been a sucky real life friend lately, but I’m quite a social person…who doesn’t mind a cocktail or three. I am a home owner (and so grateful to be). I’m a sister, wife (separately – I’m not a sister wife – commas are very important), mother, friend.

We all have so much to offer outside of the great things we can do in paid employment. Our jobs are only an element of a bigger picture of who we are, what we have to offer, and what we do.

At the end of the day, I guess all that matters is that we do something what brings happiness or joy, not just to ourselves but others. Paid or otherwise 🙂

So…what do you do? And I don’t mean your job. 

12 thoughts on “So…what do you do?”

  1. I’ve come to discover there is no right answer to any of those questions, just how much you own your decision. (Is that an australianism? I mean have strength and stand behind your decision)
    Last wedding I was at there were two stay at home mums at the table. As we went round the table saying what we all did (which is a horrible thing but anyway) one looked at her bread roll and mumbled ‘stay at home mum’, the other (who I’m proud is my sister in law) said ‘I’m the mother of a 1 year old and I manage the family and keep the household in order’. They were both saying the same thing but through their words and body language, my sister in law took charge, had pride in her role, and reframed the discussion.

    My stance (and this is universal on most topics) is as long as someone has made a choice, then I will respect that.
    If you choose to have children and stay at home I respect that choice.
    If you choose to have children and work for a living I respect that choice.
    If you choose to not have children I respect that choice. I place more value on someone weighing up the expectation and choosing their own path than I do what they chose.
    As someone who has chosen not to have children I have this argument quite frequently with people and have been called an extremist. I’m extremely fortunate to live somewhere where I am able to make this choice.

    (This sort of got off track but my point stands)

    TLDR- Mummy wars are bollocks. You rock.

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    • I love what you say about your sister in law owning her position as SAHM and reframing the discussion. It’s something I need to remember to do with confidence when put on the spot. Unfortunately, the ‘mummy wars’ do tend to come up as a topic when talking about being a working mum or a SAHM. I was nervous writing this post, just because people can be so bloody sensitive! The positive feedback I’ve received has been reassuring! Thanks for your comment x

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  2. I have hated that question for as long as people have been asking it of me. And I’m not a parent. I just think it’s daft that I’d be defined primarily by my job.

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  3. So true! My wife runs into the same thing, and she’s a licensed counselor, too. Some people act like she does “full-time/stay at home” parenting because she isn’t smart or didn’t want to work, but as you know, that isn’t the case because she is highly motivated, very smart and works about a million times harder than I do at my job. She’s also tried to stay out of the mommy wars and when asked for her “stance” she just says things like, “This is what I’ve chosen and it works for me,” but it seems like people always want her to join a “side.” It’s so strange.

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  4. I agree with all of the above. Well said. We are lucky that we live in a society (and a time) where we do have choices. I couldn’t care less if someone works outside the home, in the home, with children or without. I think it is up to the individual and whatever works for them is great.

    If I ask someone what they do, I will usually ask more directly….eg. do you have kids? What do you do for work? It is more about getting to know someone and talking about something other than the weather than a judgement call on what they are doing. Hopefully it never comes across as if I am making judgements on the answer given.

    The mummy wars drive me mad. I did write a piece a while ago called ‘Competitive Birthing’ – because I was sick of people judging each other on whether they had a natural or caesarean birth. It inadvertently started quite the discussion (because it was republished on iVillage) and people chose sides. Ironic, because that was the exact opposite of what I was trying to achieve. I think some folks just insist on there being two sides to everything – and their way is always ‘right’.

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  5. I love my children dearly (now adults) but when they were little I made the choice to go back to work, not because I didn’t want to stay at home with them but because I had postnatal depression and I found the only way to keep me sane and be a better parent was to work.

    I was eveious of the SAHM as I couldn’t do it. I felt guilty most days until I realised I was a better parent when working.

    My boys and I had a special bond that to this day hasn’t been broken. They remember a mother, (me) as happy when we had out time together. I made sure that when it was our time together, I really made it matter to them. We went for walks and talked about every subject you can imagine. Sundays were the best as I devoted the whole day to them. We went to museums, theatre and just sometimes road the train, bus and or ferry to anywhere and had wonderful discussions about anything and everything along the way. We also just had pancake Sundays when the weather was bad or we just wanted to stay at home and just chill together.

    I asked the boys just recently ‘did you feel like you missed on out anything when you were a child and I worked?’ They said to me that they had a better childhood than most of their friends as I was completely devoted to them as children, even though I worked full time.

    My point is, do what you feel is right for you and your family. Are you a better parent when working or staying at home? Don’t be ashamed of making the choice because if it is the right one for you, then go for it.

    Reply
    • I think you’ve nailed it. We all need to stop fighting over which way is better (as a stupid blanket rule) and focus on the fact that whatever makes somebody sane, healthy and a better parent is best. We’re all different! 🙂

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