It could happen in the most unlikely of places. For me it was at the YMCA signing up one of the kids for an activity.
“Occupation?” the young man behind a computer screen asked.
“Uhmmmm…” I stammered. I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to splurt, “I’m a mother, you fool. Isn’t it obvious?! Can’t that be enough?!” I was tired. It had been a long day. It’s May.
The elegantly-dressed woman standing next to me, going through the same exercise, had answered, “Patent Attorney.”
I stood there, feeling strange as the young man waited expectantly. The question was a stumper. I didn’t know how to answer. I could, at the shame of a legitimate profession, say “Writer.” Which is true. But only partly true. Because it doesn’t seem to matter what a mom does to bring income into the home, our primary occupation is “mother.” And, what difference does it make? Why does the YMCA, or my kids’ schools, or the doctor’s office care or need to know what I do as a profession?
“Mom,” I replied as I handed him my credit card to pay for the summer activity. He filled in the blank and moved to complete our transaction.
I wondered, do mothers everywhere feel pangs of uncertainty when hit with the occupation question? Was the beautifully-clad woman standing next to me, the one who had answered “patent attorney,” self-conscious? Was she dealing with her own insecurities as she stood next to me – clearly a stay-at-home mom in all my disheveled clothes, possible un-showered (just sayin’), shoeless kid literally hanging on my shorts begging to go home glory? I wondered if she judged me. Did she think I was judging her? Did she feel less of herself due to a full-time career that keeps her showered and stylish but away from her kids during the day?
I don’t know.
Later that day, I picked up our oldest from school. The stoic teen smiled as he thought about something.
“What’s funny?” I ask, geekishly thrilled at the opportunity to hear about something that makes him smile.
“It’s one of our English teachers,” he said, caught off guard. “He’s just …. enthusiastic.” He paused, still remembering whatever had spurred the smile. “He’s a writer, you know.”
“Yeah,I know,” I respond. “He’s a writer … like me.”
“Mom!” the kid says indignantly. “He’s a real writer. He writes freelance … for magazines and stuff.”
“Well,” I begin to offer sheepishly. “I’ve written a few articles … and a book.”
“Mom – He’s real. He’s an English expert. He’s not like – fluffy.”
“Fluffy?” Seriously, he said fluffy. “I’m fluffy?” I ask.
“Not trying to hurt your feelings here,” he replied. “Just stating the facts.”
Because in his mind, I’m a mother. Everything else is a side-story. In his life, my time isn’t divided, there’s never a question, the answer to “occupation” is always the same: Mom.
There’s something nice about that.
So, as we enter the week after the day where the world stops and celebrates moms, let’s keep the celebration going. Because, whether we stay-at-home or juggle our way to an office, our occupation is the same: Mother. Before we judge each other, before we question our decisions, before we let a blank to be filled like “Occupation” stir confusing feelings, maybe we should give each other a break and realize that we’re all in this together. Knowing that no matter what, our kids see as our primary function in life – loving them as close to unconditional this side of heaven.
Occupation: Mom – the Lord’s bestowing of a unique giftedness and ability to love those kids as no other can. And they need it.
Thanks for walking the road with me.