When people ask you “What do you do?”, how do you answer them?

I blogged a few weeks ago about the status of the elderly, and close to my heart is the status of mothers.  I have always worked for part of the week since my babies were about 8 months old, and I am in utter awe of those who stay at home to care for their children full-time.

Don’t get me wrong – I love being a parent – but it felt like I got part of myself back when I was at work.  In some respects, I guess that may sound a little selfish.  I do wonder, though, about times gone by when we shared our parenting with a much larger family group and all lived together.  Surely mothers would do some form of work, paid or unpaid.  And this is part of my point: the mothers who stayed at home were working a lot harder than I was when I went to my paid job!

Enjoying being important

I had a big change in direction at one point in my pre-children working life.  I had been on a Person crossing things off a list. Status 2: how important are you?high salary with a lot of responsibility, but I decided that this wasn’t for me anymore.  While I was waiting to see if I would be accepted on a course, I took a job to cover a maternity leave.  I later carried on doing it part-time and fitting my studies around it.  I loved the fact that I was able to do the work I had trained for, rather than piles of paperwork that the extra responsibility had incurred.

After my colleague came back to work, I had to consider how I would make the new  job work.  I was determined that I would take on a project that a retiring colleague had started up, rather than suggesting that one of the full-time staff have it.  What a mistake!  I felt that I needed some of the status back that I had had in my previous job, and by doing so I ended up with a lot of stress and hassle for what was only an hour’s pay a week, and little reward in terms of personal enjoyment.

Losing the ego

I now realise that this was my ego at large.  After leaving my highly-paid job, I needed to Pregnant mother holding hands with toddler daughter in a sunny field.Status 2: how important are you?have my ego massaged by feeling that I was still important, somehow.  And I think we all do, in some respects.  I am glad that I have seen this trait in myself as I can try and guard against it in the future.  I can’t guarantee I won’t fall into the same trap again!

When I was trying to make conversation, I once asked a new mum a question, “What did you do before you had your baby?”  It wasn’t supposed to be a challenge.  I wanted to know more about her.  She replied, “I didn’t have a job.  I was a bit of a …nothing, really.”  Our boys are now 5, and I still remember this conversation with horror. I hadn’t meant to insult her!

Being defined by your job

I think what I am trying to say is that what job we do, or have done, should not define us.  Society likes to put us into boxes.  How much we earn is seen to be important, rather than what we are like inside.  We can be unkind, selfish characters with a good salary, and this can be seen as having more value than being kind and caring to others.

I wish society would value those who have given up their career choice to care for their children.  I wish that some of the friends of mine who are stay-at-home mums felt that others would react with pride, rather than with dismissal, when asked what they do.

How can we encourage others to see past the job to value what is on the inside of a person?


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