I was 8 months pregnant and hubby and I were sitting in the office of a pediatrician we were interviewing before baby’s arrival. They gave us a variety of forms to fill out before meeting with her asking for general information about my husband and I, our health history, etc.. I began to fill them out, and was struck when I came to “mother’s occupation” and “mother’s employer.” For the first time in my life I had nothing to write on that line. Previously I was able to identify myself as a student, paralegal, receptionist, something! Now I had graduated from law school and was waiting for the arrival of my baby. As I was planning on not working after her birth I wasn’t about to get a job somewhere for a few months between graduation in May and her birth in September. For the first time, I didn’t have an occupation with which to define myself and it was very strange.
All my life I have wanted to be a stay at home mom. In school I was interested in a variety of subjects and I loved learning but I knew that when I had children I really wanted to stay at home with them, at least until they were all in school. In college I majored in Psychology and minored in English, but during my senior year I decided to go to law school because I didn’t really feel called to go into Psychology. (yes, seriously. It was like Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, I did just wake up one morning and decide to go to law school. I don’t suggest it! Friends of mine were studying for the LSAT and I thought, “I can do that and since I don’t have anything else lined up for after graduation I might as well.”)
During my last semester of law school I became pregnant and decided that since I wouldn’t work once the baby arrived it would be dishonest of me to be out there interviewing for a job that someone else really needs. I was then became a SAHM. And although it’s all I have ever really wanted to be, I still find it strange to not fill in that occupation line with something concrete. I mean, I guess I’m technically unemployed but that doesn’t seem right.
I find it interesting how much I previously identified myself with my work/educational pursuits, but this is what society is so focused on. We want to define people and put them into little boxes, and we do so through their occupation because it is nice and neat. Think about it, when people describe themselves 99 times out of a hundred it seems that they include their profession either first or very near so. And I guess this is because of the focus that society places on success through work. It seems like it’s the only real “success” that matters. Success is easy when you measure it objectively through income, status, and education. So and so is very successful because they just got a new home, a promotion, and you know, he graduated first in his class at Yale. Obviously none of these things are bad in themselves, but we have become obsessed with them. It doesn’t matter how we treat others as long as we’re on top. Sure, his family life is falling apart but he still was able to get that promotion.
Work seems to be the only thing that matters. I guess this is something that I have to get over because I tend to worry a little too much about what others think of me, but when I am at home I do a lot of things that would be work for someone else if I hired them to do it. I am a cook, a cleaning lady, a nurse, a teacher, a babysitter, a chauffeur, a personal assistant, stylist, personal shopper, etc. But to most people all of these things pale in comparison to people who are performing surgeries, structuring mergers, writing books, doing cutting edge research, etc.
I just really worry for my children growing up in a society where what you do completely defines who you are. What’s going on inside a person doesn’t seem to matter much. It doesn’t matter how loyal, respectful, trustworthy, dedicated, charitable you are if you’re not using these things to further your career. This worries me. I care so much more about the hearts of my children than I do about “what” they’re going to become. Obviously one has to be realistic: I know that they will have to be educated and work in some capacity as to make money and care for their needs. But what kind of life is it when your main concern is what your job is?
I guess this post is kind of disjointed, but with all of the hoopla going on regarding SAHM’s I am thinking about this. How can I instill in my children qualities so they are not only defined by their career but by their character?