In our society, we like labels. They help us put people into roles and more define how we see them. This can be helpful and completely the opposite of helpful because all of us at some point do not fit every aspect of the labels we are given. Labels are rigid boxes instead of flexible spheres.
The absolute go-to label is that of occupation. When we meet someone new, “What do you do?” is almost always the second question after “What is your name?” We are very much about being defined by our careers. Once upon a time the answers were usually easy. Doctor. Fireman. Milkman. Businessman. Homemaker. Nurse. Teacher. Now? I am the manager of the software and web development team for an international multimedia conglomerate does not roll of the tongue. Because we like simple and boxes over spheres, the answer becomes, IT Manager.
Homemaker has morphed into Stay-At-Home-Parent for the most part. (Nothing against anyone who manages a household minus the parenting part.) Which on the surface seems like it fits that simple formula. Even when we acknowledge it is not an easy career, it is a simple idea to understand. It’s a tidy, neat box even if the house you work in is not.
After my son was born and I chose to be a SAHM, though that label didn’t fit perfectly. I worked very part-time as a babysitter in the Y’s Childwatch and several days a month at a public library at the reference desk. Still my children were the focus of my career. I enjoyed the time outside the house. I liked what I did at the library, it was rewarding and stimulating, without making me feel like I was juggling, and I liked the free Y membership.
Both jobs ended in July 2013, and I started a new position that now clocks in at 24 hours a week.
So how do I answer, “What do you do?” I am no longer a SAHM, but I do not consider my job, my career. I still think of my family as my career. I want mother to be my career even if I do a job outside the home. I want to contribute to the financial stability and savings for my family, but I do not want to be defined by the activity I do towards that goal. I want to be defined as a mother, wife, pet owner, watcher of My Little Pony and Scooby Doo, reader of Harry Potter, art critic of Crayola No Mess masterpieces, catcher of pool jumpers, snowman building supervisor, bugkiller, Amigurmi aficionado, friend, and occasional novel writer.
There’s no box for that.
So I say librarian. And maybe as someone gets to know me better, they start seeing all the other things, the important things. The things that are me and not just what I do.