17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Monday, May 07, 2007

What do you do?

What do you do?
And maybe I should rephrase the question, but it just IS that universal question.

What do you do?
The response: HO HUM. I just stay at home with my kids. Sigh.
I just watch my kids all day (fake happy eyebrows).

There seems to be an undertone or shame or a longing for something different. The response I often get, bugs me.

If I were a SAHM, and I practically am, and didn't have my career or hobbies or whatever to talk about, if ALL I did was raise my two children, I would be campaigning for the SAHM's.

If someone said to me:
What do you do?

I hope that I would respond NOT in a ho-hum, shameful, longing-for-something-else way at all. I hope (expect) that I would say in response to that question: What do you do?

I am so glad you asked. I am currently experiencing one of the greatest of life's challenges, as I rear two demanding and energetic girls. Right now I am feeling overwhelmed by teaching my 5-year-old to read and my 2-year-old to pee in the toilet. It is really trying my patience on so many levels. What do you do?

I hope that if I wasn't feeling fulfilled or happy or complete, that I would be honest and authentic about it.

What do you do?
Well, I am embroiled in motherhood right now. I don't know where I am or who I am, but I am pretty sure all that I am sacrificing for my two children is worth it. And I have seen glimpses of that, but right now is particularly trying, and I have hope that they will read and pee one day.

Obviously we all have that moment when we feel ho-hum about our life and we feel overwhelmed and like: How the hell did I get HERE?, but in general, I think that us SAHM's could really RALLY and give a better name to the SAHMS out there. I think the key is in how we respond, and how we educate people through that response.

What do you do?
I wrack my brain for creative ways to teach my children. I try to come up with new foods to try....last week we did Brussel Sprouts, and they actually liked them. I do a lot of laundry, and find great satisfaction when I get THAT STAIN out. I am currently investing in rollerblades for the kids and me, so that we can start (a hopefully life-long) hobby of fun and exercise. What do you do?

Oh, you're JUST a CEO. Cool.


  • Being a college student, I don't know many moms and haven't encounter women like that but I do hate it when people say, in regards to relationships, "oh, we're JUST friends." You should never have "just" friends. I hate the word "just." It means that whatever it is just isn't good enough. I use it too often.
    posted by Blogger Maria Tortilla at 5/07/2007 07:23:00 PM  

  • "What do you do?" is such a loaded question. It may make some SAHMs feel like they're expected to do something else beside full-time mothering. On the other side, I get a little annoyed when people ask my husband what he does and completely glaze over me and assume I don't work because I have a baby.( I work from home as a freelance writer, about 20 hours a week.) Sometimes they don't even ask me what I do. I'm not sure which bothers me more ...
    posted by Blogger Natalie at 5/07/2007 10:15:00 PM  

  • I know, that's why sometimes I say shame on me, when it comes out...but that's WHY I ask it, b/c I don't want to glaze over them and take one look at them and decide that's "all" they do. So, sometimes I find myself saying: What's your station in life?
    posted by Blogger Kage at 5/08/2007 03:56:00 AM  

  • Maybe this comes from 8 years of WANTING to be a SAHM but having to work to support my family. My response to that question now that I am a SAHM is, "I have the great privilege of staying home with my children."

    I don't feel the need to describe or validate what that means in it's mundane details. There are so many women that would switch places with me in a heartbeat but don't have the choice to stay home for whatever (usually financial) reason.

    Be proud, this is a great job!
    posted by Anonymous dede at 5/08/2007 05:08:00 AM  

  • I went to a program in KC put on by the church (Mormon church), and Jane Clayson (used to be on The Early Show-CBS), and her talk was my favorite. Her answer to that question asked by an old collegue of hers after she had left TV was

    "I am a mother."

    enough said.
    posted by Blogger wendysue at 5/08/2007 07:26:00 AM  

  • But for some of us, it's so much more than being "a mother". I mean, you have women that work outside the home, women that have outside professions and work from home, and then there are the SAHM's that don't have to/need to work in a professional setting. And they are ALL mothers.

    I love hearing all about different situations. We're all different and have different talents. Instead of asking about professions (which is automatically assumed when someone asks what you "do"), I want to know what they love, what their hobbies are, what their talents are, and what they enjoy doing.

    Some enjoy sewing, or baking, or writing, or dancing --and some are able to professionally work in those areas, as well as raise their children. But some don't/can't/won't; they find other ways to enjoy their talents.
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 5/08/2007 08:06:00 AM  

  • I have been a SAHM for a year. Once we found out we were expecting twins, we knew that the decision had been made. My first DD was lovingly cared for by my husband's grandma while he went to school and I worked FT for about 3 1/2 years. It is a privilege. While some days are easier than others, I don't feel like I "just stay home" with my kids. I attended BYU Women's Conference last week and the theme was "Thou art come to the Kingdom for such a time as this" from Esther 4:14. While this can be applied in so many ways, I was impressed that my calling right now is to be a mom. Sometimes I feel like the world would like me to think otherwise, and some days I feel like I'd rather be doing something else. Ultimately, I know that I am very blessed to have my girls and I am so grateful for the opportunity Heavenly Father has given me to raise them.
    posted by Blogger Tandy at 5/08/2007 11:23:00 AM  

  • Cheryl- I agree.

    I always like to ask people what they "do", and I apologize by saying I just am a curious george. Then lots of times I will ask people I work with what their hobbies are. As for me, it is all mixed up because I totally call myself a SAHM, yet I keep a part time job that is more hobby than "profession" and just for fun. And I have MANY hobbies that just kind of mix into my true professional side so it's kind of hard to differentiate.

    But usually, when aasked the question I'll start by saying, "Well, I am a MOM to a 5 yr old and a 2 yr old. And to me that is my REAL job. It is challenging beyond anything I have ever done on so many levels. And going into how beoming a mom has made me a happier and stronger person all around is another post entirely.

    I might end with "Oh- And I do freelance Interior Design on the side as well(among other things!)."
    posted by Blogger Rachel H at 5/08/2007 03:38:00 PM  

  • I might have said "just a mom" before but it is not because I am ashamed of how I spend the majority of my days or because I long for something different (although that may be the case for others) but because there was a time when I worked and was a SAHM too. Now I "just" do the SAHM thing, meaning I'm not working and being a SAHM at the same time anymore. I also find it hard to describe "what I do" in a short phrase - which is the kind of answer people usually want. And even if they want the long answer, I am not really sure where to start. Anyway, I am not a fan of the "what do you do" question.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 5/08/2007 07:02:00 PM  

  • tftcarrie- If you work full time how do you call yourself a "Stay At Home Mom"- did you work from home?
    I think of SAHMs and Working (Out of the Home) Moms separately. Not in a negative way- just different definitions.
    posted by Blogger Rachel H at 5/08/2007 07:18:00 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.
    posted by Blogger cj at 5/08/2007 08:48:00 PM  

  • Director of a Non-Profit or CEO of a Start Up are great job titles and depending on the day are pretty good definitions for the mommy gig. People want you to check a box or fill in the blank with an answer to "what do you do" and most of the time "SAHM" is not want they are looking for.

    It makes me think of this quote from the Little Prince:

    They never say to you, "What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?" Instead, they demand "How old is he? How many brothers has he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make?" Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.

    BTW my favorite color is green
    posted by Blogger cj at 5/08/2007 08:53:00 PM  

  • rachel H-
    I worked 20 hours a week - mostly in but partly out of the house. I worked during naps and while the oldest was at preschool. The baby came with me everywhere. So in that way, I felt like I was working (bringing home a yearly salary) and I was a SAHM. Now I have chosen to "just" be a stay-at-home mom (not that I don't do other things in place of the "work" I used to do, but like cj said, that stuff doesn't have a good "fill-in-the-blank" name. The explanation doesn't really matter. It's really just semantics.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 5/08/2007 09:44:00 PM  

  • Kage--I agree that we SAHMs confirm the stereotype that we "just" stay home. However, for me, it is IMPOSSIBLE to say that I find satisfaction in getting THAT STAIN out (although I am a stain master), or trying new foods (although I am always trying to think of new dinners, experiences for the kids), or keeping the house clean (even though I spend a significant amount of time in this endeavor), or teaching them how to potty (ugg). I just can't say that those things are satisfying for me and be true to myself. So, I have made myself busy working and going back to school and providing other experiences that more closely define who "I" am.

    But, I find that I am afforded those freedoms because I choose to stay home 95% of the time.

    I am one lucky mama to get to choose what I do for satisfaction. And that is the privilege of a SAHM. That is what makes the job, for me, so fulfilling. I adore my children, I care for them, I cook, I clean. But, I get to do so much more because of my choice to stay home. And it is in those other things that I receive fulfillment.
    posted by Anonymous maralise at 5/09/2007 06:56:00 AM  

  • I had a revelation of sorts yesterday: I was so happy while teaching my two piano students, so happy, in fact, that I realized how much I desperately needed to teach. So while I'm glad that I'm a SAHM and never have to set foot in an office, I'm elated that I can release my creative energy a few days a week doing something that is important to the individual "me".
    (which, evidently, is greatly helping the PPD)
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 5/09/2007 07:39:00 AM  

  • I sometimes feel a bit of an insecurity when I answer "I'm a mom" to that question, but I realize that that insecurity is coming from within myself and oftentimes I have to remind myself that it is silly (for me) to feel that way. I don't feel as though I need to go into any lengthy description as to why I love staying home (and there are many reasons), and I don't say "I'm JUST a mom". I mean, who is really JUST one thing anyway? No one. I think most of the time when people ask that question they are just trying to make conversation b/c they probably don't know you very well.
    posted by Blogger Beth at 5/09/2007 01:09:00 PM  

  • I kinda feel outnumbered, but I have 4 daughters ages 8 to 2 and don't recall EVER being asked "what I do". I'm not a homebody either so I'm out and about all the time. I suppose everyone just knows that I'm a SAHM, considering all of my days involve toting at least 3 along with me. But, I've had dreams where I've been asked and have been soooooooooo proud to say, "I'm living my dream and staying at home raising my girlies." There isn't one other thing I'd rather be doing right now. I feel completely fulfilled doing the "stain, cook, clean-up thing". Most days, I really walk around almost sad for those that are forced (by whatever reason) to drop their kids off at day-care or not get to be with them all day. I am so grateful there is diversity....it's what makes us women tick!
    posted by Anonymous cali at 5/09/2007 01:36:00 PM  

  • Lately as I'm meeting new people here in Iowa, I'm asked "Do you stay home with your kids?" Sometimes it's even better, "Do you get to stay home with your kids?" It's easy to smile and say "Yes!" Maybe that's a good way to ask others "what they do". And maybe a good way to answer "what do you do" is something like "I work from home raising my kids." Cuz it's work, and you're home(ish), and that's your business. I think I'll say it that way when I'm asked. I'd try not to be too sensitive about phrasing the question, getting the question, phrasing the answer...all that. People are usually just curious what's up--not trying to make anyone defensive or whatever. If that makes sense.
    posted by Blogger Katie at 5/09/2007 02:18:00 PM  

  • Katie - I like that.
    posted by Blogger Beth at 5/09/2007 02:39:00 PM  

  • Honestly, I tell people I'm an 'infant wrangler' or that I'm the best personal assistant ever. It's absolutely the truth.
    posted by Blogger VirtualM at 5/09/2007 05:59:00 PM  

  • I think I answer the question differently depending on the setting and the person asking the question. If you are at your husband's company party talking to female co-workers you might feel more like "just" a SAHM then if you are at the park talking to other moms (stay at home or not).
    I think the large majority of SAHM's CHOOSE to do so. And since that is the choice that I made, I don't feel like "oh, I'm just a SAHM because I can't get a job doing anything else." No - there are plenty of places that would love to employ me - I have chosen this as my career for right now and it's every bit as challenging and more rewarding then any job I could have that would WOW people. That is easy to say...making my attitude match is a different story.
    posted by Blogger Melissa at 5/09/2007 07:07:00 PM  

  • I think the "what do you do" question is often related to "how do you make a living." I often answer that I "get" to stay home, because it is a privalege.
    posted by Blogger jlk at 5/10/2007 02:20:00 PM  

  • Its funny, because I do not get to stay home. I do have a job that I love, and a daughter that I love. But sometimes I feel that SAHM's don't want to speak to me, because I do not understand them. It makes me sad. I still work on getting out stains, playing with the baby, etc. I just don't do it all day. If we could survive, I am sure one of us (husband or me) would love to stay home. But the reality is we cannot. I hate also how people assume that if I work, I am worldly. Just as a SAHM does not want to be considered "just a SAHM" a working mom does not want to be considered worldly or less invested in her children at home.
    posted by Blogger Maren at 5/10/2007 02:30:00 PM  

  • A couple of years ago, before kids, I decided that being a SAHM was a privilege and I would ask if a person "gets to stay home." I loved how it made the person not be defensive and happy that I understood that it was a good thing. I am a SAHM 90% of the time. I love being home and I love working 1/4 time. It is a time for me to recharge and make extra money. I also think that it is good for my child to have some time away from me. The other day I was thinking about this very subject. Even though I am home most of the time, if I am asked what I do, I automatically answer that I do hair. Then I explain that I only work part-time. We should not be defined by what we do for a job. Whether they work in or outside the home. We are mothers and that is our most important job.
    posted by Anonymous AKA at 5/13/2007 10:38:00 PM  

  • This weekend someone asked me where I lived, what my husband does, and were we living in NYc for his job?

    This person assumed that I was a SAHM....and I kept waiting for the question: What do you do? Do you work? And I wasn't ok with that....so where does that leave me?
    I don't know.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 5/15/2007 11:05:00 AM  

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