“So, what do you do?”
How often do you get asked that question…? Every time you meet someone? Me too. It’s not definitively a bad thing– it’s a social nicety, an opener to further conversation, one of the qualifiers we use to box people… age, gender, weight, job, and so forth. (Tell me you don’t, and I say– liar. Maybe you don’t even ask that question, but I’ll bet you still put people into categories and boxes, line them up so you understand them a bit better. It’s human nature. Everyone does it. You might be aware of it, and not let it influence your decisions or actions, and that’s awesome. But you still do it.)
I never mind being asked the question. But I’ll confess that it bristles me to have to answer “I look after my kids”. Not because I have a problem with it… it’s just the reaction I tend to get. And I know that’s not unique to me either.
It’s the roll of the eyes, if people are rude enough. If the person you’re talking to is polite– and not a parent themselves- you’re likely to get the literal cold shoulder– a polite smile, then that slight shift in body language that indicates you have been ‘boxed’– a parent, full time. At best, nothing in common and nothing interesting to say.
I’ve gotten so used to it in four and a bit years that it barely registers anymore. The only thing that’s bought it to my attention again is the way I seem to be an exception now- because my children’s father is dead, it’s OK to be at home with them full time. It’s excusable.
I’ve always justified myself, I can’t help it. It used to be with a weak “I used to work at so and so….”. Now, in the After, it’s more akin to “I am all my children have got. After what they’ve lost, what they’ve been through… It’s so much better for them, to have me at home. They deserve to be my full time project, for the next few years at least.”
How freaking stupid. I hate myself a little bit every time I say something like that, and I’ve fallen into a habit of doing it more often. It’s Pavlovian and I feel powerless against it– the positive reinforcement kicks into those subconscious social skills (which I seem to run on a lot these days) and I repeat that explanation, that justification, over and over.
Because, shamefully, people seem to have more respect for what I do– being a full time mother to my children– now that I’m a sole parent than they did when I was part of a couple.
It’s not that what I say isn’t genuine. Its truth– I do feel, having only one parent, it’s only fair that if I can stay at home with them, I do. And they are my full time hobby and occupation. I blog on the side, but most of my time and energy goes to my children. But that’s ridiculous, and I know it– most parents spend all their available time and energy on their children, whether they’re at home or not. Aren’t our children always a full time occupation? It’s just that little ones are so much more so labor intensive.
It’s the way people’s reactions have shifted that bothers me. I wish I were imagining it, but I’m so sure I’m not. People have more respect for me, as a stay at home mum, now that there’s a ‘legitimate’ reason behind it– my children’s father is dead. Not ‘just’ because I want to, or I’m able to, or I think it’s the best thing for them and me, or because they’re only this tiny once. None of those reasons ever seemed good enough.
As I said… it’s ridiculous. I do the same job now that I did in the Before… but the respect I get is far more palpable in the After.
What’s with that?
I think I’ll just leave you with that one. Baby abandonment.
At $19.95 for one glorious smelling pump pack, that’s money extremely well spent.