You Are What You Do: A Mom’s Identity Crisis

My boys had an interesting conversation with a couple other kids on their walk to school the other day:

OTHER KID: So do you guys walk home from school too?
MY KID: Yeah, mostly.
OTHER KID: Do your parents work?
MY KID: Well, our dad works.
OTHER KID: What about your mom?
MY KID: (pause) Well, she runs Kiss and Ride [the morning drive-thru-drop-off service at the school].
OTHER KID: (clearly unimpressed) Oh. That’s cool.

I was slightly stunned that my kids didn’t think to mention that their mom is a professional writer. When I called them on it, Justin said he didn’t know how to describe what I do, since I work from home and I don’t work for one particular company. It didn’t fit his concept of a job, so he dismissed it.

I couldn’t really fault him for that, since I only work a few hours here and there, and generally only while they’re at school. And even if they saw me working, it would just look like I was messing around on the computer.

But it bugged me. Why? Because while I wish I didn’t identify myself through my work…I actually do. Way back when I quit my job to stay home with my kids, I found it really hard that I could no longer say “I’m an editor” or “I work for Company X.” I remember filling out a passport application and having to list my occupation as “mom.” It seemed so inadequate.

It wasn’t, of course. Being a stay-at-home mom to two young children is a hell of a lot of work. I knew I was performing an important service, but I often felt like the rest of the world didn’t see it that way. And as my kids got older and more self-sufficient, I didn’t really see it that way either. I needed to feel like I was contributing.

So now I get to be a mom, and I get paid to write. It’s very close to a perfect arrangement for me.

And the opinion of a 10-year-old shouldn’t bother me at all.