As some of you know I got a part time job a few months ago. It’s fun, has great hours and has got me back into the workforce. I’m not paying any bills with my paycheck. It’s more like a vacation fund. But, as someone who had their first regular job at 13 until 30, it fills a void. I missed that validation of a paycheck and stating a profession when asked by strangers. Whether we want to or not, we tie some of our identity to our jobs. And, I will admit, I felt somehow less of a person when I said I was a stay at home mom. Even though I knew it was a very valid job I looked at other women with jobs outside the home and felt less; like I was a sell out because I didn’t bring in a paycheck. That feeling ended today.
A few hours ago, while at my job, I listened to a client talk about something that happened to her last night. She was at a parent meeting at a local school. She and her husband were chatting with an acquaintance. This acquaintance asked my client, “What do you do again?” She replied, “I’m a stay at home mom.” She said the acquaintance looked confused and asked, “How many kids do you still have at home?” She said her youngest is now in the 7th grade. Then, some guy sitting behind them, a complete stranger who wasn’t even involved in the conversation, piped in with, “Then you’re not a stay at home mom. You just stay at home.” At that point, a bell rang and the parent meeting was called to order so my client couldn’t say anything in response. My client described the waves of emotions that hit her after this douchey perfect stranger’s response. She said she felt shocked like she’d been slapped and then ashamed because this jerk basically invalidated her existence which she has tied to her job of homemaker.
Just hearing her recount this story, I became enraged on her behalf. How dare he? He had no right. Then, I realized isn’t this what I’ve been mentally doing for years and what many stay at home mom’s do in general. How many times have I been asked, ‘what do you do’ and I respond with ‘I’m just a stay at home mom.” The key word here being ‘just’. I’m not ‘just’ anything and neither is my client. Somehow our society has gotten it into their collective heads that stay at home mothers or homemakers sit around on their ass eating bonbons and aren’t productive members of society. It wasn’t so long ago that most women were homemakers and those that worked outside the home were an oddity. Homemaker was a valid career. And, despite not earning a paycheck, these women ran half the world. They kept the house clean, the laundry done, the items bought and the food prepared. They played taxi and tutor and basically took care of all the family’s needs while the men brought home the paycheck and little else. How did we as a collective get to a place where those jobs are less valid than the majority of the other jobs out there?
I wish my client had known that asshole’s profession. I wish she could have said a sneer, “Oh you’re just a insert generic job title here.” I would have loved to have seen his face fall when he realized that his job isn’t that significant in the grand scheme of things. I would be willing to bet my minuscule paycheck that he’s not out there saving lives, securing world peace or even shaping young minds. I hope to hell he’s not shaping young minds. He’s probably got some whatever job that pays a decent wage and could be done any number of people with a few working brain cells. Deep down he probably hates his job and has his own issues. I feel sorry for the people that live with him. Can you imagine what this guy is like if he’s willing to say such a shitty thing to a perfect stranger? Bottom line is that guy is ‘just’ an asshole and my client is so much more than ‘just’.