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“So what do you do?”

Hmmm… I think to myself. What do I do? Let’s see. I change diapers. I feed children. I clean food off faces, counters and floors. I sort, wash and fold laundry. I bathe and clothe little bodies. I organize toys. I straighten. I neaten. I sing songs and make faces that make children laugh. I read books and play silly games. I push strollers. I make meals. I hold babies and carry tired toddlers. I repeat these activities again and again like a 24/7 groundhog day. Is that the answer?

“I’m a stay-at-home mom.” Suddenly I feel like a 1950’s housewife. That statement alone feels like it’s pushing back the women’s movement. It sounds like, around 4 p.m., I should start preparing a pot roast and baked potatoes for my husband and the kids.

“I work full time at home, taking care of my children.” More accurate but sounds too defensive, as if I think I’m being judged. I do think I’m being judged.

“I’m an orthopedic surgeon.” Sounds better but it’s a lie.

“I take care of my kids full time and I’m a writer. I have a blog.” Doesn’t practically everyone fashion themselves a writer these days? Even my eccentric neighbor has a blog (written in the voice of his dog by the way). I’ve never read it. And now I have to explain that my own blog is sharper, wittier and more compelling (Oh god, I hope it is) than the ten million other blogs out there. So I’m back to being defensive.

“So what do you do?” Such an easy question before I decided to do what I never thought I’d do. So maybe forget what I do. And I’ll tell you who I am. I am a loving mother. I am a committed wife. I am a writer. I am funny (at times). I am neurotic (at times). I am compassionate (almost always). I am tired (almost always). And I am constantly figuring out who I am.

mama bird notes

Enough about girls on the mama bird diaries. Bring on the boys.

Many of us grew up listening to our purple “Free to Be You and Me” albums which challenged traditional gender roles and celebrated our individual selves. Laura Brownson, a contributing mama, remembers William had a doll. So of course, she bought her son Cade a doll to help him adjust to a new baby brother. But how come her sons only want to play with trucks? Laura is trying to understand why her boys just want to be “boys.” To read more, click on “contributing mamas” under the menu bar.

7 Responses to it’s just what i do

  • Sam says:

    i love this question. i actually think it's sort of a lame question to ask. i'm much more fond of asking "what floats your boat" or some other general WHO are you not WHAT are you question. my answer though, is usually simply "i'm a mom" which is almost always met with a blank/sympathetic/condescending stare. i’d love to say “oh you mean in those spare 5 minutes every other thursday? i’m an astronaut!” nobody really feels better until i utter these words: “i used to be in contemporary art.” oh phew! you WERE someone at some point! the tension goes out of the conversation and we can all move forward. i had a friend who when people asked him what he did he would either say “a mid-wife” or “a shepherd”. that always made me laugh.

  • Betsy says:

    I do not understand why you are questioning what you do? There are tons of mothers out there who have to work a full time job outside of the home and also one inside the home. They would love to be at home raising their children. You were able to make one of the most important choices a parent can make. You are raising your girls to give them the best possible start in life. I am glad that I was also able to make that choice. You have one of the most important jobs out there.

  • Becky says:

    I think the answer is (and you have to perfect the eye-roll to negate the defensiveness) is, “What DON’T I do?”

  • Jordana Bales says:

    When I got my first "real" job out of college I realized I couldn't easily answer that question ("I'm an assistant to a biotech analyst." – No one even knows what that was!). I came up with the idea that what you "do" should be able to be summed up in one word. I like Sam's answer – "Mom." – that says it all!

  • Erin says:

    another CT burbs mom here…I am on the same page as Kerry- unless people know I was working ft before my daughter I dont really get asked too much- maybe they assume I stay home with her? (hmmm…wonder if the messy ponytail, lack of extensive makeup beyond a little powder and chapstick and shirt with baby spitup on it gives it away…no questions needed) :-}

  • I hear you on this one. I go with a hybrid of what I used to do (marketing), what I do now (mom) and write (one book, to be published in april, none on the horizon). I feel like I must sound defensive, embarassed, etc. I also feel totally lucky to be doing what I’m doing.

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kelcey kintner