This has to be the most loathed question to the stay-at-home mum. And it is what I got asked last night. It was the question I had been dreading from the moment I started talking to the Gen Y’er . “So, what do you do?”.
I am not exactly sure why I hate this question so much. But I feel uncomfortable answering it, particularly if the person who has asked me doesn’t have children. Perhaps it’s because I don’t feel like what “I do” is interesting or likely to incite further discussion.
Last night I was at a party and decided to meet some new people, instead of only talking to my friends, all of whom have young children and it’s hard to avoid the talk of kids. I was frocked up, the champagne was flowing and I was in the mood to party. I was enjoying my conversation with a girl I had just met about her work in the film and television industry. Pretty exciting stuff. So when she turned to me and said “so what do you do” I found myself stammering and awkward.
“Umm… well I just had my third child….and I am pretty busy with them…..that’s what I am doing…. I am not working at the moment….well not really working”. It was a bit of a conversation stopper . I am not sure what I would have preferred her to ask. If she had not asked me what I did, then I might have thought she was rude and uninterested. Maybe if she had told me she was an accountant then I wouldn’t have thought my answer was quite as boring!!
It got me thinking about why I can’t just answer with confidence and pride. “I am a full-time mother to three children right now”.
Sometimes I feel like I need to answer with what I used to do, so I quickly dispense with the motherhood part and say I am taking a break from my job as a Marketing and Events Manager for the Asia Pacific region of a major Global Software company. I found it easier to answer in this way when I was officially on maternity leave. When I didn’t return to work after my mat leave was up I really felt as though I had given up my profession. Because we seem to be judged and defined by what we are doing now.
I am not sure I like the “what do you do? ” question much even before I had kids. But it definitely felt easier to answer and it generated easy conversation. My job was reasonably interesting in that I travelled frequently throughout Asia and the US. I spent a lot of time “sourcing” the best hotels and most appropriate venues for client functions. I used to complain then about flying. What I would give now to trade a day at home with my three pre-schoolers for the hum of the plane engine and the time to read my book and eat my meals in peace!
I wonder what would be a better question than “what do you do?”. If you replace this with “what do you do in your spare time?”, I would have been equally as uncomfortable in my response. The truth is, I don’t have any spare time. My entire existence is my kids and it is a hard gig. I am also so preoccupied with domestic survival that I couldn’t possibly keep up with a conversation about any major current event. So, I feel boring. And I hate prefacing an answer with “I used to….”
I also hate every form that asks for my “profession”. I am yet to come up with something that accurately and respectively sums up what I do. “Home duties”, “Full-time mum”? These are only marginally better than “House Wife!”.
So I reckon the best replacement for “what do you do” might be something like this: “If you had a day off, what would your ideal day be?”. I definitely wouldn’t be stuck for words on that one!