and what do you do?
It's a question that many people loathe, yet ask anyway. But what if we changed how we answered it? What if, instead of responding with a title, we responded with our actions and impact? We all have sticky titles, ones we aren't too eager to claim, ones we preface with clarifications. I want to be proud of my decision to be a stay at home mom, even when society doesn't think much of it.
As the eldest daughter of a single mom, I was raised to be an "independent career woman," but independent women can also choose to give up their careers. Lisa Miller writes:
If feminism is not only about creating an equitable society but also a means to fulfillment for individual women, and if the rewards of working are insufficient and uncertain, while the tug of motherhood is inexorable, then a new calculus can take hold: For some women, the solution to resolving the long-running tensions between work and life is not more parent-friendly offices or savvier career moves but the full embrace of domesticity.
But the "new calculus" is still measured by a professional metric. Women who exchange a full-time career with full-time childrearing often pursue part-time work as a means of identity and social affirmation. And while there's nothing wrong with multi-level marketing, motherhood is invalidated when women are pressured to have a job in order to feel competent and skilled.
I say I am a freelance writer because it sounds worthwhile and intelligent. It doesn't matter that I don't get paid much and haven't had a commission in months. The title implies I am "more" than "just" a mom.
But I shouldn't have to legitimize my work as a mother by also working a "real" job.
So here's the exercise: Title. Actions. Impact.
What do I do? "I'm a stay at home mom." The title doesn't sound prestigious or impressive. To qualify, all I did was give birth and quit my job. But there's more to the story.
What do I do? I could list my routine actions of every three hours: feed, burp, diaper change. Or I could say: "I devote my days and nights to raising a child who can receive love, love himself, and love others. I attend to his needs to teach him trust, stability, safety. I play with him to teach him joy. I travel with him to teach him the world is bigger than himself."
The hardest answer to give is my impact. It might sound unrealistic to you, or even presumptuous:
What do I do? "I create a safe space for love to flow freely and I empower the next generation to change the world." That is the influence I want to have. That is the story I want to share.
This paradigm isn't restricted to stay at home moms. It's for all of us who have the option to complain or celebrate. We can limit ourselves to labels or we can expand our everyday to something greater.
You probably have a title that doesn't sit comfortably with you. So instead, lead with your actions and impact, and tell me, what do you do?
Inspired by a recent yoga class with Ellen Kaye at Kindness Yoga