I always bite the end of my pen before writing down my occupation in a form. Once, while standing in the immigration line to enter United States, I wrote my occupation as ‘Homemaker’! The young officer squinted at my form and asked, ‘So you are just a housewife?’ It is probably politically incorrect to put the word ‘just’ in front of housewife, as he immediately cracked a smile, an embarrassed one and said, ‘Oh, I didn’t mean to say just a house wife. I meant do you stay at home?’ It broke the ice, he was nicer to us, having made the faux pas, and we moved along.
For a while, I used to write ‘house wife’, but I find that word nonsensical. What the heck does that mean? Then I wrote home maker, instead. But that made me feel guilty because apart from cooking, my ‘home making’ skills are quite limited. Now I write ‘mother’. Now that is a real job, which includes yet is not limited to being a chef, chauffeur, maid, educator, counselor, confidante, disciplinarian, entertainer – did I leave anything out, fellow mothers? Oh yes, it also includes listening to endless jokes with absolutely no punchline whatsoever and laughing along just to see the joy in those faces! But I still get flustered when people ask me, ‘Now that Ryan is in full day school, what are your plans? What are you doing these days?’
I am doing plenty. But are they worthy enough to enumerate? Cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, running errands, laundering and most importantly, I am making myself available to get my kids off the bus and asking that important question, ‘How was school today, guys?’ And then lending a patient ear!
I am always at a loss for an answer. ‘Er, not much really, doing some volunteering but that’s about it!’ I always say I am volunteering at the library or at the schools, never do I mention, I washed the kitchen floor, I cleaned two toilets, I made a four course Indian meal and then did the dishes, got the homework done and here I am sitting at the children’s sporting activity but what I really want to do is curl in my bed with a good book. But having said all that, I realize my counter parts, the working mothers or fathers are doing all that I am doing AND going to their jobs. Working parents, you truly are my heroes!
I asked my wise friend, Wendy the other day what should an appropriate response be to this line of questioning. She keeps me grounded when I suffer from my ‘home maker’ angst from time to time and lends an ear to my gripes. She said ‘Tell them you are investing in your family!’ That sounded important and professional, I am totally going with it!
I thought of ending the blog there till a dear friend threw a wrench in my plan, or rather my thoughts on stay at home parents. He said when he has children he would continue to work and he wishes his partner would choose to do so too, at least part-time. His reason being that staying at home may not necessarily keep people sharp and on the edge. It can hinder personal growth. That idea got me in a tizzy. What is happening to me then? Am I not reaching my potential by being ‘just’ a mother, baking, cleaning, cooking? After thinking about it a whole lot, I finally decided, I don’t agree with this point of view. I may not be sharpening my business management skills, or my software engineering skills (which, by the way, I don’t have folks), I may not be very useful in the corporate world right now, but I am indeed polishing the skills that are equally important – to me and my young family. I am sharpening my skills to stay one step ahead of two young, bright minds, (and let me tell you, that is no mean task), I am practising empathy and selflessness, which I consider my personal growth. I am meeting intelligent, wonderful fellow mothers who chose to give up their successful careers to devote their time to their children. I am constantly growing, learning and evolving. People, busy in the corporate world, may not rate my skills very high and our materialistic world won’t put any value on them. I am fine with that.
After all, ‘reaching one’s potential’ is so relative!