Tuesday, June 23, 2009

So what do you DO?

Along with the outrageous hours he works and the family un-friendly travel he has, my husband also has to drag me along to a number of a functions. It is basically the same night out, different dress, slightly different menu, same conversation, same people time after time after time.

I smile, I nod I say things like "oh so wonderful to see you again" "How is little Max liking Cranbrook?" "I heard you sold the Palm Beach house, how fabulous!" and occasionally I accept a glass of champagne instead of orange juice and occasionally I forget my corporate-wife hat and accidentally say something negative. I'm not chipper and I'm not cheesy so while I can hold a fake smile for an impressive length of time I'm not so good with the fake chipper talk.

Last year when the GFC hysteria had really taken hold we were at a rather glittery corporate function. Tinker had been tricky that day and I'd forgotten to have lunch so by the time I arrived I was starving. Of course canapes were tiny and champagne was flowing. After maybe two glasses of champagne Mr Elderly I'm Worth About A Gazillion Dollars strolls up to our little group. He launches into this impromptu pep talk about putting clients first in this state of flux and no matter what happens you need to get yourselves out there and make sacrifices for the firm.

For a split second I was back at work. I was the young female solicitor in the room full of old male barristers and I'd forgotten my corporate -wife hat again. I was back to being the loud opinionated one and before I knew it I had interrupted Mr Moneybags with "well that's all fine and good if you haven't been fired isn't it?"

My husband gulped, the other wives froze and Mr Money blinked twice, clenched his jaw slightly and being the polished banker that he is, continued his speech as though I wasn't there and I hadn't spoken. Once he'd finished talking the others dissipated so it was just me, my empty glass and my husband standing there. "Oh was that bad darling? I just thought in light of half the team being sacked right before Christmas and with many of us unable to keep our houses I might just say something..." I can't remember what his reply was, but I was on my best behaviour after that.

For the rest of the night I did a fair bit of smiling and nodding and for a change whenever anyone asked me "so what do you do?" I just gave them the answer that would stop further conversation. I'd answer: "Oh I'm at home, we have a little baby girl". Normally I'm quick to follow up with "but I was a lawyer..."

Why? Why am I so quick to defend a role I was always so looking forward to having? A role I actually really really love? A role I genuinely prefer to my "proper" professional job... It is strange isn't it? What do you say when people ask you what you do? Are you proud, embarrassed or a bit of both?

The type of job my husband has makes it hard for both of us to work. If we did, unless I had the type of job where my hours were fixed, then I'm not sure we'd ever actually see each other. We would probably end up being weekend parents and while it works beautifully for a lot of families, it just isn't the answer for our little family. I have always wanted to be a full time mum and wife and despite what people assume, I did love my professional job as well. I just love this more. Really. Most people raise their eyebrows when I say that. They assume my job was awful or maybe I'm not truthful. I have absolutely no reason to lie at all. I loved it, but I love this more. I really really do. I don't even miss my job. I think of it fondly but I have never wanted to swap back.

Often people remark that I wasted my education, all that time and money on law school and all the training I had to do on the job. I don't agree. My studies, my work experience and my outlook make me the person I am today. The wife I am and the mother that I am. So to those people, I say thanks but no thanks. I've wasted nothing and gained more than I could have ever imagined. Is it so hard to believe? Very few people seem to accept my take on this. What are your thoughts?


  1. I'm always stuck when people ask me what I do...

    'Er......lab management'

    'Er.....Buildings and Estates at the University'

    'Er.....Facilities Management'

    I have no idea what my official title is!

    It also pisses me off when people find out what I do and that I have a biology degree. 'Don't you want to DO something with your degree, it will have been wasted otherwise'.

    No it won't have been wasted, I'm in a good job, on a good wage, I like the people I work with, I'm happy in myself, down to earth, sensible, firendly, grounded, and eerything I've ever done has culminated in where I am today. Knob.

    So yes, I agree, you've certainly not wasted anything, everything you've ever done is what brought you to this point in your life and it's great! :o)

  2. This is a great post! I understand completely. I'm still a full-time worker bee - I went to school for civil engineering and I really do enjoy. Really.

    But I am pregnant now and even though I won't be giving up the full-time gig for a few years yet (5 tops, hopefully) I look gleefully forward to the time when I can be a full-time wife and parent. Not because I hate my job, but because I am looking forward to a career change that honestly I feel is just as important.

    My kids will be better off to have a mom at home who has been educated and slogged away in the working field before taking on the task of parenting full-time. It's all work experience for the most important job of all!

  3. I don't think you should have to defend your opinion and I do believe that you love your role now. I actually envy you - I never had the opportunity to be a full time mom. Instead, I had to juggle "full time job" in with "full time mom" because I have been a single parent for longer than I was married. And my ex-husband was not what you would call "employed."
    Truth be told, I think you should enjoy every second with Tinker and not worry too much about what people believe or don't believe - YOU are the only judge of you that matters.

  4. It's too bad more people to see the value of being a mom and raising your own children. I commend you for doing it and loving it. I stayed home until my children were of school age, and then went back to teaching, which essentially gave me the same schedule as my children. Their dad was working hard on his career and wasn't home a lot. What you are doing is so important...don't ever apologize for it!

  5. I completely agree. People assume that I am crazy for what they think is "wasting" my intellect, education, and work experience to stay home with my daughter, but it truly is the best job ever. I love it, and I have never regretted quitting work to stay home with her.

    I remember after my daughter was born, I had heard some things that were going on at my old office that everyone there had deemed so very important. It hit me very poignantly that all of that stuff going on at work was not important at all compared to what I was doing for my daughter at home. Being a SAHM isn't an easy job, but it certainly is the most rewarding. I applaud you for being a strong, intelligent, and dedicated mommy!

  6. Too many people think that the only path to success is money and career. Unfortunately, they are so ingrained in that way of thinking that you will never convince them diferently. Money, power, status. None of that can give true fulfillment. True happiness comes from finding the right path for yourself. If that path includes those things as a byproduct, fine. But they are not requisites. You might as well say that Mother Theresa was unfulfilled because she wasted her education on the poor and needy instead of climbing a corporate ladder! Why did Gandhi give up a career as a lawyer? Why do Mothers everywhere 'sacrifice' for their children? Because IT IS MORE FULFILLING!

    I once heard a definition of 'sacrifice' as giving up something of great value to receive something that is worth more.

  7. Let me Sing your PRAISES! Too many people these days believe that a woman should work as well as the man to "further" their family and while many women HAVE to work outside the home or even CHOOSE to work outside the home why is it that when a Woman CHOOSES to stay home with her children there must be something wrong with her?

    I am a FULL-TIME mother and student and when people ask me what I'm going to do with my degree I tell them I don't know, just have a degree. Why? Because I am improving myself furthering my knowledge and enjoying every minute of it. I have had several jobs some that I have hated and some that I thought, I could do this happily for the rest of my life but the best job I have had thus far is being a Mom, I am paid in dirty diapers and being thrown up on and the hours are never ending but the benefits are the best I have ever had!

    So GooD For you! You are a well educated SMART woman who choose the greatest Career in the world... Motherhood! *applause*

  8. Oh what a question! You see people see me almost everyday with my "mom" hat on and yet they see me everyday with my "professional" hat as well. I am living in the minority dream and that has no racial connections. You see, I am a stay at home mom, a professional helping to run a very successful corporation and I am a wife to the same man for the last 14 years. Of course, I didn't start that way.....but the long and short of it is that I wanted to be a professional. I loved my job and then I had our first child....loved being a mom but was torn about whether or not we could afford for me not to work. So I vowed by the time our second child came along that it would be my choice to work or not...along came the opportunity for me to work from home for a short time, then I was allowed to take my kids with me to work until they were of school age...perfect (for me)! I think we all can only do what we believe to be the best for our families and ourselves. When I was working from home I found myself a slave to my every inner notion of being a good mom and in turn over did it. Not that I turned into the wicked witch of the west. But I definitely was not doing my kids any favors. I am a better mom when I am feeding my need to be accepted as a professional, child rearing, loving wife. I didn't like fading into the background but I have learned how to do that when my husband needs to be in the spotlight....and he has learned to appreciate my juggling act. So I do very much so believe that it is what works for every family and their personality....

    Don't be afraid to be proud of what you are doing, and shout it from the rooftops if you must (or you can blog about it)....you are very much like my sister, it is her greatest joy to be a parent and would never dream of juggling the way I do....it is also, not to slight myself, my greatest joy to be a parent. My children, of course, come first - way before my job, but.... My job just helps me keep that in perspective.

  9. I agree on your take on this. It is partially what attracted me to your blog. This is what I will end up doing. It is what my Mom did as well. I don't believe in daycare centers or a nanny raising my child. I want to do it, I want to be the best Mom I can be and I want to be the best Wife that I can be. So once I have a child, it will be goodbye to whatever job I hold at that moment. No time or money will have been wasted. Once my child starts school, then perhaps I can find a part-time job that will work out with the school schedule.

    I think what you are doing is WONDERFUL! Tinker will love you for it and you will be one of her best friends (later in life of course ;) ) because she has been able to bond with you, instead of just a Mom she saw a couple hours at night and on the weekends.

    Kudos to you for being the best Mom and Wife you can be!

  10. That precious "little baby girl" is the lucky one. She has been graced with a mom and dad who are making choices that will dictate everything about "who" she becomes and "what" she can offer the world! There is no money on earth that could match the wisdom of your choice. You were blessed with the gift of her life and choosing to honor that gift with all that you are, in her formative years, is a privilege many never accept. You will be richly rewarded - take it from one who knows firsthand.

    I have had the blessed privilege of raising two magnificent daughters - one just completed her Master of Divinity from Duke and is now working with and loving on inner city youth to break the racial barrier in a Southern city; the other just graduated with her Dance degree and plans to perform and fulfill her passion.

    Be excited - the years ahead are filled with excitement and wonder. Enjoy every moment and never look back!

  11. It doesn't matter what you're doing now, education is never wasted. Like you say, it's helped make you the person you are. A good education also givces you more options later if you ever decide to head back into the workforce.
    Don't worry what anyone else says. They know nothing and are probably just jealous

  12. I can relate to attending boring corporate events with hubby - they're so so dull, such a waste of a night out alone.

    I'm sick of parenting being devalued. What you do now is MORE important than what you did for a living in my view ... you're raising a person and shaping who they are.

  13. Oh honey, I hope this wasnt because of my twitter outburst last night. It wasnt aimed at you, I promise!

    I now make something up when people ask. Recently I was asked by husbands co-worker what I did and I answered that I was a call-lady. They didnt even bat an eyelid, which I thought was odd, but it gave me a giggle, as I am far from the ideal call lady ;)

    And good on you for speaking up to the rich twat.

  14. I must be very fortunate; most of the people who ask what I do tell me how lucky I am and how admirable that it is what I choose to do.
    I grew up in a family where both parents worked horrific hours. It took me a long time to realize how hurt I was by the lack of maternal influence in my day to day life. My mother was an incredibly successful business woman but I sometimes think it was at the expense of her family. I cannot imagine the heartache of a choice like that. I believe that's why I chose the opposite path.
    It's not for everyone, I know that. Still, for those of us who have the desire and the opportunity, I say Hurrah!

  15. You set a whole lot of emotions off in my head. I face flak for my decision to stay at home. There are some who think I don't think I need the money ( I do). It is one of the toughest decisions I had to make.

    We should be proud of ourselves that we had the guts to see our decisions through!

  16. loved reading this post
    Its hard when you feel you have to defend your choices, because others feel it their right to judge!

    I know when I chose to take two years maternity leave after having my second child my family and friends were shocked I mean a yr off is more than enough right?

    if I could I would be a full time stay at home mum I love it and dont see it as a sacrafice at all, my kids are only going to be little for such a short time and Im selfish hahaa I want to enjoy that time while I can

    Luckily I have a very flexible job and only work two days a week AND I can take my little girl to work with me...brillant!

  17. I don't really see how it's anyone else's business! If they don't like what you do, then it's just tough luck for them!

    I hate the "What do you do" question. In my case I end up having to blab on and on for ages explaining my business to strangers. I can't be bothered a lot of the time so I lie, and say the job I used to have. Quick and easy!

  18. this is an awesome post! as a former and current SAHM, I struggled a LOT when my daughter and I were younger and a lot of my peers were just graduating college and starting careers. how do u explain what you do all day and give the title proper authority it deserves????
    I worked for awhile once she started school, then I went back to school and found that I enjoyed have a more flexible schedule to be with HER than I did working. She also appreciated our time more. Now I'm going back to work and am torn about it. Its a struggle that I will probably deal with for as long as she's in shcool but I am confident we will get through.

  19. I've long since thought the "What do you do?" or "Do you work?" questions highly loaded and even somewhat offensive, in a philosophical sense. It's something we in the West have deemed the only laudable social barometer. But it's not.

    I actually think the over-used, under-appreciated "How are you?" is a much better question. Because, in truth, I'd much rather know HOW you're doing than WHAT you're doing.

    When well meaning people ask me if I work now, knowing I have a masters degree but was also pregnant during school, I politely answer, "Yes, I stay home with my son." It helps them to understand the difference between what they're asking and what they really want to know. They want to know what I'm doing with my time and what decisions I've made with my life. Even the, "So what are you doing these days?" is better than just "So what do you do?" in my opinion.

    In any case, next time, you should consider answering, "I'm a trophy wife." :)

  20. Don't care what people say. If you just love what you do and feel good being wife and mom... Ma'am, you're so right!