I Need a Job Title

What do you do?

Nothing…
As little as possible …
I haven’t worked for pay in 19 years …
That’s a rude question …
I’m on maternity leave …
Circle driver …
Happiness engineer …
I’m a writer (ha!) …
Household CFO …
Wife …
Housewife …
Stay-at-home mother …
Cook …
Laundress …
Logistics officer …
Travel agent …
Wear my snuggy on the couch eating bonbons and watching daytime television …

madame-georges-charpentier-and-her-children-1878
What do you do?

I hate that question, invariably asked at one or another of my Husband’s work related events (he has a job, one that comes with a recognizable title and requires additional letters after the BA).  For years it was a fairly easy question to answer.  “I stay at home with the kids” would be met with “Oh, how old are your kids?” “16 and 19.  Actually I just dropped the older one at college” is an answer they don’t expect.  “They really need me, now more than ever!”

To be fair, even when the answer to the question of my children’s ages was more acceptable, say 6 months and 3, it didn’t hold my inquisitor’s attention for long.  “Oh, that’s the most important job of all,” they would opine.  “And the hardest!” they would add for good measure, before their eyes would wander and they would drift away, having spotted someone with an easier conversation starter career.

Nobody responds with the name game when you say you are a stay-at-home mom.  “Oh, do you happen to know Siobhan?  She’s a nanny?  For the O’Connells?  Great caregiver, really very good at her job, frequents Douglass Playground, although she will occasionally be spotted at the Children’s Playground at Golden Gate Park, when she’s feeling ambitious.  Oh, and what about Susan?  At Acrosports?  10:00 am tumbling class? I’m just sayin’.”

I started this gig if not exactly by accident, at least without a very clear “career” trajectory.  I guess many people begin careers that way, without a vivid picture of where they will be in 5 years, 10 years, 19 (gulp) years.  I always said I would go back to “work” when I got bored.  Hasn’t happened yet.

I didn’t have what you would call a career before the kids.  I had jobs, beginning at age 13 working the games at the ocean-side amusement park in my home town and ending at age 27 in the HR department of a large US corporation.  I liked my jobs (for the most part).  I’ve always liked working.  And I needed to work, for financial reasons.  I needed money.  I needed to support myself and later my Husband while he was in school.  I don’t miss those jobs.  I’ve liked this one so much more.

But, whether I like it or not, this job is coming to an end.  Daughter 1.0 is now away (1763 miles away, but who’s counting?) at college.  Daughter 2.0 is only 2 years behind.  The primary focus of my job, the one that makes my decision to stay home, deliberate or otherwise, socially acceptable will no longer be here, as in physically no longer here.  What will I say then?

I had a melt down a couple of weeks back about money, or, precisely, the lack of my own.  I mostly think about the money my Husband earns as OUR money, not HIS money.  I manage it after all.  And, as he likes to point out, we live in California, where half of it really is mine.  Legally.  Maybe the money thing is more about independence, right?  For a while I had job security.  My Husband needed me home to raise the Kids.  Not that we wouldn’t have figured things out if I had gone back to “work”, but my being home made his job (the work one that pays him) easier.  It helped him be more successful.  We were, we are, a good team, partners in this thing we call a family.  Our home team is currently down to 3, soon to be 2.  Will I still add enough value to the partnership when it’s just the two of us?

50s-wife-list-1

But more than that, more than the raised eyebrow reaction to my “what do you do?” response, I just don’t want this job to end.  I don’t want the inevitable disbanding of our team of four.  “Think expansion teams,” my Husband says.  The sports analogy is apt.  The job of professional athlete, like stay-at-home mom, has a shelf life.  Try as we might, we can’t slow down time.  The shoulder wears, the knees given out, the vision fades.  The infant sits, learns to walk and talk, starts preschool, kindergarten, high school, takes public transportation alone, drives a car, gets on an airplane and flies off to college.  Sometimes it feels like it went that fast.  It is absolutely true what they say – the days are long, the years fly by.

I have loved this time in my life and I am sure I will adjust to the post-Kids time and figure out what it is that I will do.  I’ll try not to rush these last two years with Daughter 2.0 at home.  I’m still her mom, the stay-at-home kind.

What do you do?

I live a really wonderful life, and you?

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It’s late summer and the tomatoes are amazing.  Last night we had tomato tart at Daughter 2.0’s request.

Tomato Tart

Make the tart shell first:
Combine in a food processor –
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pulse until combined then sprinkle the flour mixture with –
6 tablespoons olive oil
Pulse again until it looks like course sand.  Add –
2 tablespoons ice water and pulse until there are no more dry bits.  It will still look like sand, just not powdery.
Turn the mixture out into a tart pan that had been buttered.  Press the dough into the bottom of the pan and up around the edges.  Place the shell in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350.  Remove the tart shell from the freezer and cover the shell with a greased piece of aluminum foil.  Fill the shell with pie weights and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and carefully remove the pie weights and foil.  Sprinkle the shell with –
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
Return to the oven and bake for about 10 more minutes, until the cheese is golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack.
Turn the oven up to 425
Slice 4-6 medium tomatoes (any kind will work) and spread on paper towels.  Sprinkle with salt and allow to sit for 10 minutes or so then blot the tops with more paper towels.  Layer the tomatoes on the tart shell, overlapping in circles beginning at the outer edge.  Drizzle with olive oil and bake for about 20 – 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly then sprinkle with –
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Drizzle with olive oil.  The tart can be served warm or at room temperature.

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2 Responses to I Need a Job Title

  1. I absolutely hate this question, and I do have young children at home. You are so right: Eyes glaze over immediately when you say you stay home with your kids. No one ever asks if you have hobbies or side jobs or what you did BEFORE. I found myself doing it with other stay at home parents and recently started asking the “What did you do before you had kids?” question.
    I would suggest that you call yourself a writer… I do, sometimes, when I want to avoid the glazing eyes, but that answer, too, comes with pitfalls at parties. I.e. “What do you write? Where would I have seen your writing? My sister/cousin/husband writes for the New York Times and has published six novels…what have you written?” But writer seems to have more validity and conversational longevity than the whole stay-at-home mom conversation. There’s a certain amount of accepted tinkering about with writing even if you never produce anything. People seem to love it when you tell them you’ve written a book, especially a novel.
    If you ever want to meet up to write or discuss our lack of acceptable careers, I am around. You know, because of the staying home. With the kids. Who are in school. 🙂

    Like

  2. Being a wife and a mother doesn’t have a shelf life. Loving what you do and the people for whom you do it and doing it extremely well qualifies you for an Outstanding Achievement Award. In my experience, life unfolds and “IT” will find you.

    Like

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