Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Identity crisis

I get all stymied every time I have to fill in the "occupation" box on a form. The way I see it, I have three choices: housewife, stay-at-home-mom, or homemaker.

I don't like housewife. I think it has a negative connatation and has no real descriptive value, so that's easy to eliminate.

The other two...well, it's more of a challenge to choose. Stay-at-home mom has its upside. It's a handy phrase that people can wrap their brains around. It also seems to be the descriptor du jour. And there's the added bonus of it being so true sometimes that it makes my teeth ache a little. Some of you know those days; the ones where chaos reigns supreme inside the walls of your house and nothing short of a federal evacuation order could induce you to take that show on the road, even to the grocery store. Especially not to the grocery store. But it's an incredibly limited label in many respects, too, like on days where the last place I find myself is home because I'm running all over the place tending to errands that ultimately tend to my family. Or I'm running my child to one of his four weekly activities or trying to do Cub Scouts or whatever. There's nothing stay at home about that. And the mom part...Do people understand that "mom" implies chauffeur and therapist and activities director? At the minimum?

Then there's the third label of homemaker. The drawback to me is that I think it kind of shortchanges women who choose to/need to work outside of the home to apply this label only to non-wage earning mothers. Can't a mother have a career and still make a happy home? Yeah, because I did it for five years. But the upside is that "homemaker" is the one that rings the most true for me because it is what I'm trying to do: make a home, a place of warmth and love and peace and safety.

Here's the thing. Did you think I would have a resolution here? I don't. I told you it's an identity crisis. So my current plan is to avoid any forms that have that blank to fill in until I become a published author and then I can just stick "writer" in there and be happy that my kids know who I am and what to label me. Just plain old glorious Mom.

28 comments:

LisAway said...

I've never liked housewife. To me it says "hard working woman with a man watching TV and drinking beer. I have no idea why.

I like both of the other two, but homemaker is my favorite. But I'm an old fashioned kind of girl. (For example I love the book The Art of Homemaking, including all it's funny-in-our-day semi-sexist parts).

I am a wife in a house, a mother who stays home with her kids and the one who (tries to) make this house a home. How do you pick one over the other? :)

LisAway said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shellie said...

One time when I was somewhere I was asked what I did for a living and I answered "I'm a writer" and they looked at me really cool. It was a great feeling.

Carolyn said...

This is a conundrum for me too.

In my 5 years of working out-of-the-home part of my job as a copywriter was to created those forms, but instead of a blank spot we had choices, so the computer could read the responses, the applicable one for this post would have been: At home.

But I don't really like that one either...

CaJoh said...

My wife had several years where she didn't have a 9-5 paying job. But that didn't stop her from putting all those things she did from PTA Vice President to Church Secretary on her resume.

Don't know why my brain is not working… I'm sure someone can come up with some fancy replacement word for you like Flight Attendant is to Stewardess.

Kristina P. said...

I sort of want to be a SAHM, but without the kids. I'm really working on my husband for it.

myimaginaryblog said...

Yeah, this is a tough one. I usually go with homemaker. It's true that there's a built-in conundrum in that women who work for pay are often also homemakers -- but they can add that to their resume if they want to. Most won't do so (it probably wouldn't occur to me to if I had a paid job) but they do have the option, so I don't think we have to avoid using a label that fits us just because it also fits someone in different circumstances.

Nancy said...

Domestic Engineer? not cozy
Renaissance Woman?

Heather of the EO said...

I think you should put writer/Mom in the box now. Because you're totally a writer and you're totally a Mom. And you rock at both. So you could add, "and I rock."

Josi said...

I have a freind who put Investment broker--she had two very important investments she was putting all she had into it. I personally like, Full-time Mom. I think it sums it up quite well :-)

Luisa Perkins said...

Why don't you just put 'writer' now? That's what I do. Whether you're published or not, you write consistently. You're a writer.

Sara@i.Sass said...

You are funny. Heather said still gets the giggles when she sees you've posted...I like Heather. I've met Heath IRL. So I came I read...like all the posts on this page! I will now get giddy to see what you've poated about. No, pressure. ANd NO, you are not required to comment on mine or read me or whatever...it's all good. Loved the bathroom post. I've never sung but I've been in there when someone is listening to their ipod. Hilarious. And I've been in there when someone has a BAD case of #2 and they are TALKING on the phone while grunting?!?!? No joke. EWE! Just thought I'd share.

Sara@i.Sass said...

Oh I forgot, I like to Write I'm a CEO. When they ask for what company I say...
It's called Cox. (see there is a HUGE Cox communications company on the eastcoast.)
I just let them wonder.

Becky said...

Too bad there's not just a hard-working-mom option. Of course, you could put doctor, teacher, financial adviser - and it would all be true!

earlfam said...

I always just put "Mother." If I'm feeling particularly cheeky and there's a space for employer I list the names of my children.

Rach@In His Hands said...

Hi there....coming over to you from Heather of the EO. She says you're funny and that you rock - two things that I enjoy!
Good to meet you.
~Rachel

Lee of MWOB said...

I'm over here because Heather sent me and now I may just have to come back!! I recently filled out an application for my 4 1/2 year old to attend kindergarten. I put SAHM in that dreaded occupation line. I used to put television producer. I think SAHM is much more impressive if you ask me. The school secretary called to schedule the appointment and laughed saying "Ha, ha, I like what you put as your occupation!" Is she kidding? Has she never seen that before? I think I'll try homemaker next time...

Great post.

Keyona said...

I think Personal Assistant or Party Planner, or Entrepreneur would work! They are TECHNICALLY all true right?

Love your blog (found it from Heather's)

That Girl in Brazil said...

I totally just blogged about this.

http://themisplacedamericans.blogspot.com/2009/01/dona-da-casa-and-coward.html

Pssst. I'm hooked.

Carolyn said...

I like homemaker best too but I can see what you mean about it not being fair. Because even when moms work outside the home, they are still the one who makes the house a home.

Natalie said...

domestic engineer is my fave.

Debbie said...

I've written in homemaker some and I've also written in Mom. I've done "community volunteer" a few times too, just to mix it up. I may try "stripper" next time just to see if anyone really reads those things.

Julie Wright said...

An identity crisis every now and again is actually okay to have. I have them all the time.

Homemaker is the one I'd pick of the three choices. But how many hats does a woman wear . . . no title really does us more justice than the one of "woman." :)

Annette Lyon said...

I've been asked, "Do you work outside the home?" I think they're trying to be politically correct and not pick housewife/SAHM or whatever, but it leaves me w/out the option to say, "I'm a writer." Because I do it AT HOME. I've been an inch away from making a big explantion at that question--more than once--but then shut up and just say, "No."

The Frugal Angel-Guided Psychic said...

I'm stopping over after reading the tribute to you from Heather of the EO.

I'm a psychic, but try to put that in a box and smoke it, LOL. So I opt for the most acceptable, SAHM, and then wait for the look and then the question, "Well then could you volunteer for ....?"

Elizabeth said...

haha...I love this! i have often considered similar things as i would also love to put down "writer". i typically put SAHM and it doesn't bother me in the least. :-) but you are so right...there is no "stay-at-home" about the SAHM! I'm always out and about!

this is my first time here...I am also an aspiring writer...I write fiction, I haven't looked around your blog yet to see what you write but look forward to learning more about you.

Eowyn said...

I prefer homemaker, but domestic engineer is also good. These days arbitrator seems like a good pick. . .

Alison Wonderland said...

Just go with writer, who cares if you're published?