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"What Do You Do?"

Last night, my husband mentioned that another person had asked him what I do. I’ve had the question a few times myself from people at church or at the school. Somehow, when I’m holding Sunshine or when they know that I have a six-month-old baby, I thought that answer would be obvious. Why, I’m a mom, of course. But that doesn’t seem to be good enough. It’s as if they’re waiting for me to pop her into a daycare and get on with my life.

Our Society Has Devalued What it Means to be a Mother

 Maybe it would sound better if I told you what I do by saying I’m a chef, baker, seamstress, gardener, laundress, housecleaner, nanny, and dish washer. I once saw an article that said if every housewife was paid the equivalent wage of what it would cost to contract out her jobs, she’d be making something like $300,000 a year. But because she isn’t actually bringing any money into the home, and we seem to measure value by money, then her position is seen as worthless.

In Our Post-Feminist Culture, We Assume That Every Woman Wants a Career

Yet, as Jennifer of SuburbanCEO.com says, “The notion that women have always yearned to work outside of the home but weren’t allowed to until they were liberated by the modern feminist movement just didn’t resonate with what I know of women. If we want something, we make it happen. If staying at home and raising children were inherently miserable, the women’s movement would have happened about 5,000 years ago.” There are still women who want to be stay-at-home-moms, and I’m one of them.

Perhaps part of the problem is how we identify ourselves by our jobs. If you meet somebody new, the first thing that you ask them (after introducing yourselves), is “What do you do?” And the answer comes that I am a teacher, a doctor, a lawyer, etc. Many people have assumed that my husband and I are both teachers. (After all, what else do you do with an English degree?) Maybe the problem isn’t so much with people’s curiosity about what I do, but with my feeling that they will look down on me for saying, “I take care of Sunshine.” Even if I joke that it’s a full-time job.

So instead I tend to tell people that when my mat leave ends, I’ll be going back to work as a contract editor, because I can do that from home and still take care of Sunshine. Then again, since I’m claiming maternity benefits, maybe I could say that I work for the government—raising new citizens!

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