The Dreaded Question

I was talking to an old friend yesterday. We’ve been girlfriends since high school, over 30 years now (I hope that everyone is gasping in disbelief). We don’t speak very often but when we do it feels as though it was just yesterday when we last spoke. It’s great having a friend who remembers EVERYTHING.

Then the weird thing happened, trying to get a feel for my life she asked me what I consider ‘the dreaded question’ – “So what do you do?”

The thing is, I like what I do, I’m happy with what I do and for the most part I feel pretty fulfilled by what I do. But, when asked point blank like that I always start floundering around. If I have to itemize and account for it, it’s a pretty mundane list. Chauffeuring, some cleaning, some laundry, a lot of grocery shopping and cooking, cheerleading and general support of children and spouse, some time in my husband’s office, parent-teacher councils, some knitting, a lot of reading, blogging, exercising when I’m being good and proactive. You know, the regular Mom/Wife/Me stuff. Not finding a cure for cancer, not running a large company, not teaching and encouraging young minds, not writing the Great Canadian Novel, not counselling people in need. Not a lot of the things I imagined when I was young.

For the most part I’m good with this. I’m O.K. with the fact that at 47 I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up – I have no driving passion outside of my family. But every now and then the niggling thoughts creep in. Could I do more to lead myself to greater self-actualization? Sure. What is my contribution to this planet on which I live? I’m not so sure. Will my husband and I have stuff to talk about when the kids are all out of the house? I think so.

When the kids were little I would listen to some of the working moms talk about their guilt about not being home. I decided then that we have screwed ourselves a little with Women’s Lib. Men seem to be better at compartmentalizing their lives than women are. I know that my husband misses the kids if he has a late meeting and doesn’t get to have dinner with us, but does he feel guilty about it? I don’t think so. I believe that women can have it all but to have it all at the same time is a huge demand on oneself. As I see it, something’s gotta give.

Years ago I attended a conference with my husband. Before dinner a group of us were standing around chatting. One of the women was a mom with young children. She had given up her law practice to be home with the kids. With great indignation she was relaying a story in which someone kept asking her what she does, not taking stay at home mother as an acceptable answer. “Can you believe it?” she asked me, “As if that’s not good enough.”
I nodded my agreement and said that I didn’t find this so shocking as I had been in the same situation more than once as well. She then smiled and said to me, “So what do you do?” I replied, “I’m also a stay at home mom.” She then countered with, “Yeah, but what did you do before?” I smiled and replied “Nothing as important as what I’m doing now.”

So, once again I remind myself that this is important. That I am not a static being. There is always room for growth and who I am now is only a part of who I will be in the future. Albeit a very big part.

In the immortal words of Dorrie from Finding Nemo, “Keep on swimming, keep on swimming.”

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2 responses to “The Dreaded Question

  1. As a product of “just” a stay at home mom, I have to say that your “job” is harder then so many others. I know I took for granted that my mom would be home when I got home from school, and that she could take me from here to there but when I look back now I know I would not be the woman I am today without her! Yes, you may not be curing cancer or a CFO of a company, but at least you can say that your kids are loved and loving, well adjusted young adults, and that’s because of you! Next time someone asks “and what do you do?” just tell them you’re the mom of 4 lovely, smart, and accomplished young adults, and be proud of that!

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