One of the hallmarks of any small talk situation is the standard question, “So, what do you do for a living?
It used to be a question I was really comfortable with. I was always so proud of my answers. Whether I was “bartending my way through grad school,” “being a teacher’s assistant and leading my own classes at Cal State Long Beach,” or “working in fundraising for a non-profit” I always felt like I was doing something good. Something important.
I lost my job a few days after finding out I was pregnant with our first child and along with losing my job, I lost a HUGE part of my identity. We spent a lot of time discussing what I was going to do next. We wanted me to be a stay at home Mom for a couple of years, and were lucky enough to be able to have that as a viable option, so I felt it would be inappropriate to try to get a job during the pregnancy. So the transition happened a little earlier than we planned, and I was quickly launched into the stay at home life. And I felt completely untethered. Unproductive. Unsuccessful.
After our son was born, when I’d meet a new person I’d always have to face that question, “What do you do for a living?” Without knowing what I was doing, I’d always answer the same way, “I just stay at home with the baby.” I was met with a variety of responses ranging from sad looks at how pathetic my life must be to people that I should have listened to that would push back, “Hey, that’s the most important job in the world.” I nodded, would even voice some agreement, but I always felt like a fraud.
My previous job had been raising money to cure cancer.
Now I was changing diapers and playing peek-a-boo.
So yeah, it felt like I was “just” being a stay at home Mom.
Over the years, I added more kids to the house. I moved from peek-a-boo to crafts and coloring and pretend play. But still….there are parts of me that still feel the “just.” I want to be a stay at home Mom. I know in my heart that it’s what I want for my children. And I want desperately to find a way to let go of the “just.”
So today, I ban “just” from my vocabulary.
I’m not “just” a stay at home Mom. I’m a stay at home Mom. I’ll say it with the same pride I had when I talked about my non-profit work. I’ll beam with same sense of success that I had when I’d hit major goals at an event. I’ll allow in public to show the sense of importance that I feel about what I’m doing in private.
Because there’s nothing “just” about this job.