Don’t Be Defined By Your Job.

The two questions I enjoy being asked the least are: “What do you do?” And: “Written anything I’ve heard of?” Both reasonable questions, but the answers usually provoke a dumbfounded look on the enquirer’s face.

I hate being asked what I do. Often, when I tell people I’m a writer, they look at me as if I said: ‘I dip babies in treacle and sell them on eBay.” Their mouths fall open and the word everyone replies with is: “Oh.” I’m yet to work out why this is. I wonder if any of my writer followers experience the same reaction.

What does the ‘oh’ mean? Is it “I’ve no idea what to say” ? or “Well, that’s not really a proper job is it?”

As for ‘written anything I’ve heard of?’ Well, unless you’re familiar with Garden Gates Weekly or Cats & Rats Monthly, you probably haven’t seen my work. Sure, there’s the forthcoming Mail article but that also gets a sniffy reaction as somehow writing for the Mail is far inferior to writing for any other British national newspaper.

Before I started writing professionally, and prior to my flirtation with teaching, I did nothing. Or rather, I was a ‘stay at home mum’, a SAHM in forum parlance.

If telling people you’re a writer elicits a break out in hives, telling them you chose to give up work to look after your babies causes anaphylactic shock. People, usually working mothers, wonder why you’re dissing the sisterhood with your blatant disregard for the alleged advancements in women’s rights. I say alleged, as I still see Britain being stuck in the 1950s regarding equality of the sexes. Sure, ballsy women can rise to the top, but only if they act like men. How many sweet-natured and feminine CEOs can you think of? If you can think of any at all. They’re all ball-breaking geezers. Anyway, that’s for another post entirely.

Why are we obsessed with everyone’s professional status? Why is having a job deemed superior to looking after your own children? Do either of these positions render the individual more intelligent, more loving, more capable, more studious, more hard-working? Is it possible that these characteristics can still apply to a woman who opts out of full-time paid employment to raise her off-spring?

Unfortunately, I think some women have done their own sex a huge disservice. In the quest for equality and the need to smash through the glass ceiling (titanium ceiling more like), women who opt out of that mission, are somehow letting the side down. This ‘one for all and all for one’ mentality is damaging and leaving countless SAHMs feeling worthless and undervalued.

I chose to be with my children until I felt comfortable with returning to part-time work. This was entirely my choice and was the right decision for me and my family. This does not make me anti-feminist.

This ridiculous concept that women can have it all, is nonsense. There are a few high-flying women out there who wake at 5am, run a marathon, clean the home, take the kids to school, look stunning, chair meetings, secure multi-million pounds contracts, cycle 15 miles home, make a four-course dinner, have sex with their husband in every room of the house in every position from the Kama Sutra and still feel energised enough to read their darlings the Gruffalo before bed! I imagine there may be approximately two or three women like this but the media splashes their smug faces across the papers and soon enough, the other 30 million women in the UK feel like shite. Or worse, their husband’s say: “See. She can do it. Why can’t you?”

If these women do exist, I’m certain they a) burn out, get divorced and keel over aged 40, b) have house-keepers and nannies, or, c) they have a serious amphetamine habit. Maybe all three.

Part of me yearns for the 1950s. Although staying at home with the children was presumed as women were too stupid to have a proper job, or at least, one in which their bottoms weren’t squeezed by disrespectful male colleagues.

However, what if 1950s woman actually enjoyed being a mother and home-maker? I’m sure many did, just as many would have yearned to climb the greasy pole of respected employment. Perhaps both desires were respected.

So, what the hell has changed so much in such a short period of time? There is no more important job than rearing children. Nowhere in the whole world. If you disagree with me, just take a look around. How many fucked up children do you see? How many tots, young children and teenagers have behaviour problems? Surely, something is going wrong somewhere. Actually, I think diet is a considerable and sadly, unrecognised, contributory factor in the soaring rise of childhood behavioural problems, but that’ll have to be for another post too.

This is a subject I could spend all day writing about. It’s sad isn’t it? Whenever someone, male or female, tells me they’ve given up work to look after children, I want to pat them on the back. It is the hardest job in the world to get right, but done properly will produce a well-rounded, loved, secure, content and capable individual. And these are the qualities that should be valued in life, not the professional status on a business card.

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6 thoughts on “Don’t Be Defined By Your Job.

  1. I have to agree, I was a SAHM for 8 years before I went and got a full time paying job in addition to the non-paying one while being at home. I often found that I received a negative response when I said I stay at home with the kids, then when I got the job there was this expectation, even by members of the family, that I do both all the things at home PLUS work. Like I am super woman or something. I miss, terribly, staying at home with the kids so I can write, but I also enjoy the people interaction I get at work. There are plus and minuses to both, but I feel that because for the beginning of both of my kids lives has allowed both to be so well behaved in public (at home when it’s just us and my husband they get a little unruly as opposed to their behavior out of the house, but that’s something else).

    I’m a feminist and I agree that some women can and wish to work and be a mother, but I also believe that if a woman wants to stay at home that doesn’t make us any less worthy than the other. Raising the kids is as hard or even harder than having a full time job.

    In relation to the response you get when you say you’re a writer, I’m not sure. For me, the response I typically get is “Really? What do you write?” or “Cool!” Then a subject change. I think most don’t understand the full extent of what being a writer means in context of the job market, which may be due to the fact that almost every job out there requires writing skills in one fashion or another. It’s one of those mysteries of the universe that we’ll never understand probably :).

    Great post!

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