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responses to "so what do you do for a living?"

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
Just wondering if any of you home/unschooling mamas had any clever responses to people asking what you do for a living?
post #2 of 24
I usually just respond with I am a stay at home, homeschooling mother.

Occasinally I get the oh, so you don't work crap. To which I respond, I guess not, if you think that teaching , cleaning, cooking, and raising my children is not work.

Or the "well, you don't get paid" line.
I say, Yes I do. I get paid in knowing that my children are getting a good education, are safe and secure, the joy of watching them grow and reach new milestones, I get paid in being there when they light up as they learn something new, or accomplish a challenging task. I get paid becuase I know that I am providing a great start for my children in life and that they will be well equipped to hadle what life thows at them. That is real payment to me. Money comes and goes and can do none of those thing for my children, I can.
post #3 of 24
Mother Reclassification

A woman, named Emily, renewing her driver's license at the County Clerk's office was asked by the woman recorder to state her occupation. She hesitated, uncertain how to classify herself. "What I mean is," explained the recorder, "do you have a job, or are you just a ........?"
"Of course I have a job," snapped Emily. "I'm a mother." "We don't list
'mother' as an occupation.... 'housewife' covers it," said the recorder emphatically.

I forgot all about her story until one day I found myself in the same
situation, this time at our own Town Hall. The Clerk was obviously a
career woman, poised, efficient, and possessed of a high sounding title
like, "Official Interrogator" or "Town Registrar".

"What is your occupation?" she probed.
What made me say it, I do not know... The words simply popped out.
"I'm a Research Associate in the field of Child Development and Human
Relations." The clerk paused, ball-point pen frozen in midair, and looked up as though she had not heard right. I repeated the title slowly, emphasizing the most significant words. Then I stared with wonder as my pronouncement was written in bold, black ink on the official questionnaire. "Might I ask," said the clerk with new interest, "just what you do in your field?" Coolly, without any trace of fluster in my voice, I heard myself reply, "I have a continuing program of research, (what mother doesn't), in the laboratory and in the field, (normally I would have said indoors and out). I'm working for my Masters, (the whole darned family), and already have four credits, (all daughters). Of course, the job is one of the most demanding in the humanities, (any mother care to disagree.???) and I often work 14 hours a day, (24 is more like it). But the job is more challenging than most run-of-the-mill
There was an increasing note of respect in the clerk's voice as she
completed the form, stood up, and personally ushered me to the door. As I drove into our driveway, buoyed up by my glamorous new career, I was greeted by my lab assistants - ages 13, 7, and 3.

Upstairs I could hear our new experimental model, (a 6 month old baby), in the child-development program, testing out a new vocal pattern. I felt
triumphant! I had scored a beat on bureaucracy! And I had gone on the
official records as someone more distinguished and indispensable to
mankind than "just another mother." Motherhood.!. What a glorious career! Especially when there's a title on the door.

Does this make grandmothers "Senior Research Associates in the field of Child Development and Human Relations" and great grandmothers Executive Senior Research Associates"? I think so!!! I also think it makes aunts "Associate Research Assistants".
post #4 of 24
I am the CEO of the freaking loony bin
post #5 of 24
I once said "I'm in education." It shut the person up.
post #6 of 24
Domestic Goddess
post #7 of 24
Cute story, but what's so wrong with being a homemaker?

By couching what we do as stay-at-home-parents in corporate terms, we give legitimacy to the notion that work without pay ("women's work") is worthless. In addition, if we do it in front of our children, we give them the message that we're ashamed of spending our days nurturing them and facilitating their education. "Reclassifying mothers" is my pet peeve.

I have found that in general, when people start a conversation with "what do you do for a living?" either one, they're just fishing for something to say, or two, it is going to be a short conversation.

I say that I stay at home with my kids, and last week we did this, and it was really interesting, have you ever been there/done that/read anything about that time period? It redirects the conversation (sometimes successfully, sometimes not,) and gives an accurate snapshot of how I spend my time.

A lot of times the conversation is effectively over when I say I stay at home. Either people assume that I can't talk about anything other than my kids (which couldn't be farther from the truth--I'm always eager for adult conversation), or they simply have an "unpaid work is worthless" mentality, and I get enough of that from the world at large. I don't need to waste my time with folks who have debilitating preconceptions.
post #8 of 24
Thread Starter 
Originally posted by mamallama
By couching what we do as stay-at-home-parents in corporate terms, we give legitimacy to the notion that work without pay ("women's work") is worthless. In addition, if we do it in front of our children, we give them the message that we're ashamed of spending our days nurturing them and facilitating their education.
You know, that's a very valid point. I never thought of it that way! Thanks for opening my eyes to another perspective.
post #9 of 24
mamallama's response was wonderful.

I try to emphasise the good things about being a SAHM, and I have had some envious audiences. Once, at dh's company's stockholders' meeting, I told some executive types that I was very lucky... I had been tobogganning every day in the month of February. The VP of Finance replied, "Yes, and your kids are lucky, too..." in a kinda wistful way.

Excellence is important, regardless of the field in which you are employed.
post #10 of 24
I tell people I am retired! I know very few people who even ask me that question but if they do ask, they sure are envious that I am retired and raising my children full time! Retirement at age 40 has a delicious aura of wealth! (Unfortunately this is not quite the case
post #11 of 24


Originally posted by lilyka
I am the CEO of the freaking loony bin
Hey that is MY job!
post #12 of 24
I'm with MamaLlama on this one.
Simply put, I'm a Full-time Parent!

I do the same with re-directing conversation.
Just yesterday we visited a friend and his (don't-like-children-I'd rather-work) wife & daughter.

She's skeptical of homeschooling, mostly because she's concerned that I don't have my own time. I explain over and over that ALL my time is my own, but she doesn't get it, she says, "No. I mean without any children around!" Hmmn--I only do that when I need to buy a surprise toy or something!

So when the skepticism starts, I just talk about a recent project, field trip or interest, and it's much more rewarding than having to defend my choices. Yesterday we told about my daughter's recent interest in slugs--collecting them, studying them, experiments with their food preferences, etc. It was a lively conversation!

BTW, this same woman who works (by choice) 6 days a week responded that Sunday afternoon is usually her 'own time' when I put the question back to her. Oops! Sorry!
post #13 of 24
Thread Starter 
Originally posted by Teresa
Simply put, I'm a Full-time Parent!
post #14 of 24
I'm not technically a homeschooler (my kids are 18 months and 1 week old, so they're not old enough for school, but I *do* teach them!) But I am a...well...I'm not sure what to call myself yet. I hate the term "stay-at-home mom," because it implies that I'm stuck at home all day, which is untrue. My mom always hated the term "housewife" -- "What, am I married to a house???" I personally like "homemaker," becuase that's what my main "job" is: to make a home, a place that's warm and comforting and safe for everyone in my family. But the term is kinda loaded for society at large, KWIM? It's got negative connotations. I like khrisday's response -- "Domestic Goddess" -- but I don't think I've personally attained goddess stature yet. Domestic Nymph? Domestic Demigoddess? I'll have to think about it...
post #15 of 24
When someone asks what I do for a living, I usually reply, "absolutely everything." However, I do seem to remember once telling someone at a party that I was a retired contortionist...
post #16 of 24
I like "full time parent," but I bet it rubs working-for-pay parents the wrong way.

When I say that I stay-at-home, I get a wierd mix of envy and disdain. People say "good for you, but I could never do that" like they would say, "I could never be a porn star."

What are they really saying!? What, exactly, is so unappealing about my lifestyle?

I don't want to hijack this thread, but this is something I'd really like to explore.
post #17 of 24
Thread Starter 
Originally posted by mamallama
What are they really saying!? What, exactly, is so unappealing about my lifestyle? I don't want to hijack this thread, but this is something I'd really like to explore.
Hijack away ; I think that's an interesting question. I've heard people respond in similar ways when talking to/about sahm's, and that was even in the back of my mind while asking my original question.

I would venture to guess that many moms/people who respond that way have a combination of things going on:

Our society expects women to do it all--have a family, a career, a house, etc., and to be successful with all those undertakings. These days, more emphasis is put on a woman to be a successful careerwoman than a successful mother/homemaker. If having a full-time career is truly something a woman finds important, I would imagine that the response you mentioned would be elicited by the thought of "backtracking," if you will, to the days when women were expected to only take care of the house & kids and not be allowed to have a career as well.

Also, their vision of a sahm (like SueZVudu mentioned) may likely be of one who is actually "stuck" at home. I've heard people say, "I'd love to stay home all day, but I would just get so bored!"

And lastly, some people just aren't that into kids, even their own. I find that hard to understand, but for those people, it would truly be unappealing to be with children 24 hours a day

Not being a parent myself yet, I may be way off-base here, but these are just some of the things that jumped off the top of my head.
post #18 of 24
jay, I totally agree with every one of your points.

But I think there's more.

I think people feel threatened by those who make unconventional choices. Choosing to have a parent at home is statistically not the norm.

I understand why it's not the norm, I guess. It's difficult to choose to live on one income. As a woman, it's difficult for me to not be building my 401K, to invest my prime working years into my family rather than a career. I have to put a lot of trust into my partner. I have to trust that he will not move on to greener pastures when we're fifty (or morph into someone I can no longer live with), leaving me with no work history, and no marketable skills. I have to trust that if our relationship does ultimately fail, I will have the resources to make my own way in the world...and I do. I have faith that whatever happens in my life, I can deal with it. I can't see sacrificing the present for a future that may never come.

Maybe I do understand what is so unappealing, but when I balance that against what is appealing about staying at home...answering to my own conscience, having every day to do with what I please, spending all of my time with the people I love best, watching my children blossom into thoughtful, compassionate, radical human beings...there's no real choice to be made! I would not trade what I am doing now for the wealth of the world!
post #19 of 24
Wow mamallama, you spoke so well.

I like to say I am priviledged to be a SAHM.
Nothing could be better than nurturing these children I feel blessed to have.
post #20 of 24
Thank you, Velveteen. I love your signature line!

At the risk of monopolizing this thread, there's more I want to say! Integrating my strongly held feminist beliefs with motherhood, specifically, being a sahm, is something I've struggled with for years.

My sil (early 20's, no kids) is a staunch feminist. She has a degree in Women's Studies from a highly regarded university (as an unschooler at heart, I did not go to college.) Sil is very down on her own mother because her mother chose her family over a career.

My mil (D) is a lifelong learner. She has managed the family finances very deftly over the years, she raised two compassionate, thinking, self-motivated, radical children, and somehow, she has managed to not only remember what her own interests are, but to actually persue them. When I am faced with a dilemma in my life, I ask myself "What would D do?" [I've actually tried asking D, but she's like, "ahh, grasshopper..."]

So, sil and I talk about this at length, over and over. I say that D has managed to accomplish great immeasurable feats, while not losing sight of herself.

Sil says, but what could D have accomplished if she had put that same amount of motivation toward a career?

I say, what is the point of working for "the man" (or the Gross Domestic Product, or whathaveyou), when you can work for yourself!

And there's the rift. The divide that I cannot find a way to bridge.

I agree with Velveteen. I am privledged to be a sahm. I consider it a great honor.

In another way, I was born with the privledges that have led me to where I am right now (I'm not going to unpack the whole bag, but briefly, I'm talking about a reasonably prosperous & healthy upbringing). I do have some degree of "liberal guilt" for using my talents selfishly...but then I think about the guilt that is piled high on women and mothers, and I truly can't figure out what is legitimate and what is a product of our %#!$ American culture--y'know, the idea that whatever we're doing as mothers, we're doing it wrong!!
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