by - February 01, 2011

Almost sixteen years ago I left the workforce for undivided motherhood. Although I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom more than anything, I was surprised to feel a little naked when one of my labels was suddenly sheered away from my identity. How would I answer the question that always comes, "So, what do you do?" Let's face it, the answer helps people know where to catalog us, as if what we do equals who we are.

In a way it's true. We do what we do because of who we are, at least a little. The former does lead to the latter in a one-way path. The thing is, the reverse is not true. Who we are is not because of what we do.

Or perhaps it is. And maybe that's why I find myself on the brink of another identity crisis, because I'm going back to work full-time, and it feels odd.  This time, letting go of my stay-at-home mom status is the same thing all over again -- just in reverse -- sixteen years later. I've wanted to go back to work for some time, and now that it's happening, I realize change isn't always easy.

Why am I letting what I do define who I am? Because I know that's what others will do.

Maybe it just takes time to get used to a new pigeonhole.

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  1. Didn't know you were going back to work full time. That's exciting! What will you do?

  2. "What do you do?" - "I kick butt. I take names" - use that for either "job" as stay-at-home-mom or full-time-employee. :)

  3. It's true that others pigeonhole us, even though we may resist.

    One thing stood out to me in this post, though, was the very American question people ask, "So, what do you do?" My husband grew up in Europe, so we have been over there visiting family a few times. My father-in-law pointed out that in Belgium, where unemployment is very high, people culturally do not ask that question when meeting someone. It would be too presumptuous to assume that someone is "doing" something (i.e., employed). They find other ways to learn about people. The bummer is that I've not stayed long enough to find out what it is the ask in place of the "what do you do" question...wish I knew. Just brainstorming, I wonder if I should switch to a simple "tell me about yourself"? It seems to invite the other person to self-identify and define who they are without narrowing it down to their employment.

    Anyway, you've got me thinking about work and being pigeonholed.

  4. I am currently in the middle of the transition from full-time work to homemaker and soon-to-be-mother. My husband and I married and then moved 2 weeks later. That meant I had to leave my full-time job behind as an educator in a hospital. It was a difficult transition, however I have been thankful for it. God knew that I would need to be home. I am now pregnant with our first child and I have been very ill with "all day sickness" (morning sickness is someone's idea of a joke!). Even now 17 weeks in I spend all day ill. God knows what we need when we need it. Some days I still have to resist pigeonholing myself.

    Good luck in your new job!


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