For the last 22 years, there has been one question that I consistently have a difficult time answering. After all of this time one would think I could come up with an adequate answer but I still pause a second before spilling out an answer that may or may not be well received.
So what is this question? It may seem innocent enough as an attempted conversation starter but for me, it’s a quick way to stop the conversation. Quite simply it is: Kristin, what do you do?
When my daughter was 9 months old, I made what some would consider the old-fashioned decision to give up my career and stay home with my baby. I feel so fortunate that I was able to make that choice because I know for a lot of women it is a decision that they can’t contemplate. It wasn’t easy, we made huge sacrifices and there were many, many lean years. Financially is was difficult but if I had to do it again, I would make the same decison all over again. I have loved my years at home and the time with my kids, even when they were difficult teenagers driving me nuts! Once, in a rage, I threw a ham sandwich at my son and we still laugh about it as one of my crazy mom moments. (By the way, the dogs thought a flying ham sandwich was the best thing to happen in a very long time.)
In the early years I made a few friends who had also made the same decision and we would get together at each others homes, pack lunches and go to the park or explore other places that had free admission. It was an opportunity to get out of the house, have some adult conversation, share ideas, do a little venting and socialize our kids. The days went by quickly and I was always exhausted by the time the kids went to bed.
The difficult part for me has always been how to describe what I do when it is no longer a conventional career. Going to parties or being in situations where I am being introduced to new people has always been a challenge. I’m pretty introverted and have difficulty making conversation. When I get asked this question I don’t really know what to say. Stay at home Mom or I don’t work don’t seem adequate. I have been met with admiration, contempt, jealousy, confusion, curiousity, any combination of the above or been completely dismissed. Should I stretch the truth and say I’m a teacher, nurse, fund manager, chauffeur, cleaning lady, chef, philanthropist, life coach, dog trainer or blogger? Maybe that would make me more interesting and worthy of continued conversation.
The real raised eyebrows started when my youngest went off to kindergarten and my working friends would ask me what I would do now that he was in school all day. Surely I wanted to go back to work! Just because he was gone for a few hours didn’t mean my goals had changed, but that was hard for some to understand. They asked again when he was in high school and now they are really baffled since he is in college and we are “empty nesters”. I always assumed I would go back to work full-time but I HAVE worked part-time during school hours and weekends for the last 15 years. The difference is that it is just a job, not a career, and not really something that I identify with but it does seem to satisfy the question most of the time. In my mind I left the professional work force over 20 years ago and the ever-changing marketplace has passed me by. I’m the first to admit that I am a technological dummy. Things are very different now in most industries so I continue on with my part-time work and still wonder why does it matter what I do? I’ve been doing it so long now that our budget and household function well enough. My dogs certainly don’t care, they are thrilled when I come walking through the door and at this point that’s the best kind of approval I could ask for!
This post is a response to this week’s Discover Challenge: tough questions