I remember vividly, around 4:00 a.m. in the hospital emergency room, as my daughter was struggling to breath and in pain. It had been a terrifying night already, giving her breathing treatments and watching her suffer for hours, wondering when I should seek medical treatment. After getting to the ER in the midst of a major snowstorm and swelling anxiety for my daughter's health, the head nurse asked me to fill out "some forms. She comes back to look at what I finished and asks, "What do you do?"
"I am a Mother."
She replies, "I know that, but what do you do for an occupation? What's your job?" Her tone was filled with resounding irritation.
"I 'do motherhood' for an occupation. Being a mother is my job." I say this with both confidence and clarity, sensing that this, surely, was not the answer she was expecting.
She finishes the interrogation with a dissatisfied and dismissive, "Oh."
I sat holding my daughter and waiting for the doctor to come in as I was caught in a blurry playback of the interaction that struck me with both confusion and frustration. It was clear that this woman was not impressed with my "occupation," nor was she sold on my "job." Exhaustion won out over my defensive state as the doctor came in and I was again consumed with my job as mother, fearing for and caring for my daughter.
I sit here now, years later, and reflect on that night, wondering if this woman had children. I know many mothers work and do the "mother job" and do both well. I also know that staying home to care for your little ones can be a calling of great purpose and an honorable duty. There came a time when my kids needed me more than my work. And the decision was made to care for them with all my energy and time, due to their health issues and all that entailed. It was the right decision. It was time for my mother "occupation" to be full-time... and full-time it was! And honestly? It was the hardest job I ever had.
I have encountered people like this woman many times since then. From time to time, I still get the "But what do you do??" question that triggers the same frustration and confusion. I continue to respond with both clarity and confidence...
"I am a mom."
I have filled out endless forms through the years that ask your "occupation" and I've written: "Mother."
It's OK if people don't know what that really means... because I live it, and I know.
I spent a decade of long nights and blurry days with my chronically sick kids. Caring for them full-time means I'm constantly putting in "overtime." It wasn't easy. There were times I would have loved to go to work outside of the home of unpredictability and tiring medial tasks. I spent my days forging through uncharted territory as a new mom, after 20 years of enjoying a fulfilling career. Nothing prepares you for motherhood. I thought I had long, hard days before children, but, oh, how wrong I was.
Little did I know...
I may have even asked that same question, had I been the one on the other side of the motherhood fence.
For those who are looking to understand more clearly what the "occupation of full-time motherhood" truly is all about, I give you a snapshot.
Here is a job description for stay-at-home mothers:
POSITION POSTING: MOTHER
This position is of utmost importance in maintaining the health and safety of precious lives.
Must be sane enough to delve into the emotions that unfold in the identity quest of each child.
Must have the knowledge and ability to understand all stages of human development.
Must have patience with every and all duties that require repetition every day all day throughout the year.
Must have the ability to put needs of children first, pretty much all the time .
Must be able to endure hardships, trauma, sickness and humility at all times when needed.
Must be able to wipe a child's tears and another child's bottom at the same time.
Must be available at all hours to run to the hospital or doctor with medical conditions that arise or continue for days and weeks, months and years.
Must have effective nursing skills, but no degree necessary. Skills acquired through on site training on an as-needed basis.
Must have an understanding of all forms of communication, ranging from baby gurgles to teenage sighs.
Must have the endurance to stay up all night and function through the day for weeks on end.
Must be willing to host ongoing playdates to ensure socialization of your children.
Must have complete competency in the following areas:
Problem solving on a minute-by-minute basis.
Meal planning and preparing on a need to feed basis.
Programming all activities and scheduling all events.
Tutoring and teaching life skills and academics for all ages.
Home management skills including, but not limited to: House cleaning, laundry and grocery shopping.
Anticipating change of seasons, purchasing and ensuring all clothing articles are fitting and appropriate.
Crisis management skills for any and all issues that arise in the day and night.
Good driving record for transporting children throughout the day to all various schools, events and activities.
Ability to care for additional children when necessary.
Discernment on when to call 911.
Position open for a lifetime...
There are no benefit packages offered. (ie: Sick time, vacation time, personal days, bonuses, insurance, disability, ETC.
Hours of job posted: 24 hours a day. Days open for position: 365 days a year.
There is no retirement package and...well....