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Community Advocacy Organization

The Mother

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

"What do you do?”

The question hung there in the air long enough that the woman I was in conversation with turned red, paused and said “sorry”. I did not need an apology at all, and I felt a twinge of awkwardness within myself that she had reached that point of visible embarrassment after what seemed to have started out as a nice conversation.

You see, this question is extremely normal. Social setting: one person will talk about their career path, professional life and their responsibilities within it, then naturally, out of pleasantry and respect, they reflect back a what do you do onto the other person in context to their professional endeavors.

For someone like myself who has lived so far outside of those norms, the question just sat on me crooked. It made me feel whimsically untethered- a bit like a child in an adult's conversation. I was not offended. I was not stumped. I was neutralized, in between the world that goes on inside of my everyday life and the social normative that influences most people’s day-to-day interactions.

Being a stay-at-home mom, life looks different for me.

At that point in the conversation, perhaps it was God’s hands or coincidence but we had an organic break up as my children jungle gym-ed all over me, trying to tackle me down and get me outside to trick or treat. We were at a party with more strangers than people we knew. Everyone was kind. She was well-intended. I will likely never see that sweet woman with whom I had a fizzled, dying conversation with but if I did….

That night, I mediated over it and thought around the idea with myself. I wondered the corners of my own mind. What do I do.

Perhaps I would say….

I breathe.

I sleep.

I eat.

I play.

I snuggle my children.

I kiss boo-boos and wipe bottoms.

I love them through their melt downs.

Occasionally, I nap.

And, yell (in pillows mostly).

I have work to do on me, too.

I snack.

I clean up 20 messes in the same spots within the day.

I paint.

I glue.

I count.

I sing.

I dance.

I cry.

I question.

I smile, again.

And then, I laugh.

I notice.

I observe.

I write about it.

I experience.

I see things I never would have if I did not have two little sets of eyes following and leading me around from place to place.

I cook homemade meals for my family nearly every night.

I am no better than anyone else, but it is what I enjoy doing.

I take my time.

I go for walks.

I talk.

I imagine.

I dream.

I read.

I pray.

I breathe.

Ah, yes, if I was invited back into that conversation- I would give her an honest answer.

I would bypass the hesitation. I would side step the confusion that comes from comparison. I would ignore the question in my head halting me from coming to the truest answer: does she mean what do I for money or does she really want to know what I do all day?

You see, there is usually a fit of fumbling that goes on between our heads and our hearts at times as mothers, especially those who stay with their children. I recall a time when posed this same question, I quickly jerked to respond. Looking back now, it was almost a silent defense, as if to say “I am not just a mom”. When we are posed the question what do you do, if not professional, at times we may think is it even worth mentioning?

But now, after a season of being almost entirely just a mom by the world's definition, I can say there is nothing else I would have rather been.

As National Fatherhood Initiative sites, with only 1 of 5 American mothers staying at home with their children, we still make up a smaller percentage of the population. Just as any other mother, we hold a special place in our home and our world. Financial contributions aside, we are investing into our children as their mentors, teachers, chefs, full-time disciplinarians, guides, playmates, protecters, spiritual leaders and parents.

While working the equivalent of 2-3 or more jobs each day, there is no monetary compensation to show for. It goes against the grain of our conditioning. In a capitalist's society, that can become confusing to explain when worth seems to be attached to a salary and title. Just as we are no more important than those who work outside the home, what we do is no less valid or important because we do not.

While 6 decades ago, many mothers stayed at home, the pendulum has swung, so society’s eyes have been fitted to a filter of professionalism, of capitalism, of our roles in the workplace being synonymous with our personal identities, sometimes even with our enjoyments, our life-long aspirations, with what we do.

And in actuality, when work takes up 40-70 hours of a week, quite literally, the job does become most of what you do though, now doesn't it?

In honest reflection, I, too, have fallen to the temptation of asking the exact same question of other moms. What do you do?

As if this woman I just met at the park with two children climbing all over her is not doing enough. As if the mom who just patiently consoled her melting toddler in the middle of a busy parking lot is not virtuous enough. As if the lady at the game with a newborn strapped to her chest needs to be doing anything more than trying to discretely nurse her child. As if that mom with four small children in tow needs to prove to me that she is making some money to be valuable when her children see her as their entire world.

It can be a posturing of sorts that happens in almost every arena because I believe our society sees caring for children as a side hustle, a pasttime, something that is to be done in the voids and outskirts of a more prestigious, more rewardable career path.

When it comes down to it, we ask these things of each other because at the heart of it, aren’t we all really looking for deeper connection and meaning in the eyes of others?

So, what about the whole human?

What about the financial consultant and mom of 2 who really enjoys exploring the city for vegan eats and raving to EDM?

What about the birth assist and mom of 4 who likes getting tattoos, growing a garden, and tending to chickens ?

What about the HR specialist at LuLu and mom of 1 who is a phenomenal chef and enjoys running marathons?

I think to myself: do I really want to know what these women do for a living more than or before I want to know who they are as a person?

So, lets dive a little deeper together on conversational points and questions that may be more fitting for what we truly want to know and admire about people, stay at home moms and others alike:

  • What are you finding enjoyable these days?

  • Do you have any recommended reads that are speaking to you in this season?

  • What piece of your life are you most proud of right now?

  • What is one of your aspirations?

  • What is exciting you?

Even typing those questions makes my heart soar; imagine how people will feel and what incredible things you will connect over when you resist the urge to ask solely about people's profession and instead, inquire about their passions, too.

As always, if this article has spoken to you, mother or not, hit us up and tell us more about what came up. And, thanks forever for journeying with The Mother.

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