The Question I Hate to Answer

Why do I (still) struggle with telling people I'm a stay-at-home mom?

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Photograph by Tom Kelley Archive

"I star in a burlesque show."

"I am a rocket scientist."

"I am a tightrope walker."

"I am a spy."

This is how I would like to answer the question that plagues me. But that would be a lie. And since I am an honest person, I would have to answer like this ...

"I wrangle household pests."

"I pull out poop that gets stuck in my dog's butt."

"I cleaned out the marijuana paraphernalia I found in one of my kid's rooms."

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So rather than lie or be overly honest, I compensate for my "joblessness" by becoming the grand master of controlling conversations. I can turn them around at lightning speed. Dinner companions beware. Chew well and swallow. You have a lot of talking to do. Over the course of a two-hour meal, I am able to extract pretty much anything and everything from the stranger chowing down next to me, while completely maintaining my mystery. I am able to learn intimate details about this person's life and thoughts without having to divulge one iota about myself. It is a skill. Maybe I would make a good spy after all.

My husband is both amazed and amused. "You talked about WHAT?! He actually told you THAT?! HOW do you do it?" he will ask me on the car ride home.

I don't want to tell him it's not how, but why. That I don't like to talk about myself and the possibility that I might have to mention that I have been a stay at home mom for the past 26 years. Why? Because it makes me seem, well ... boring.

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I don't know why it bothers me so much, but it does. It's not like I haven't enjoyed raising my four kids, or feel like I haven't done anything important with my time. Maybe it's because I care too much about what someone else might think, and that someone else might not think what I have done is enough?

I have a good friend who writes "housewife" in the blank space on the form they give you to fill out in the doctor's office. The space where it asks you for your profession. She sees nothing wrong with the word, so that is what she puts down. I, on the other hand, find the word distasteful. I prefer to use the slightly better "stay-at-home mom," and I am always in search of another way to say it. But can I still call myself a stay-at-home mom since my youngest child has left for college and is no longer actually living at home?

To be honest, I don't have a solution yet—not to the question of what to call myself, nor to the feelings behind it. But I can't be the only mother out there who has these thoughts. What does everyone else say and do?

I guess now I could call myself an RSAHM—a retired stay-at-home mom. Or maybe I will dream up a snazzy new title. How about "Domesticity Architect"? That sounds even better ... kind of fancy, more interesting, more intelligent. I'll try using that the next time I fill out one of those personal history forms—or at the next dinner party.

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