Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Most Dreaded Question

There’s  a question people ask in polite, small talk conversation. It’s just an innocuous conversation starter. There really is only so much one can say about the weather when cornered at a party, drink in hand, with nowhere to go. The inevitable question always comes up. When I am confronted with THE question, as a stay at home mom, I am left sputtering, deer in headlights, with nothing to say, when someone asks me THE dreaded question: “what do you DO for a living”?


Sure, I’m being spazzy and giving this question more weight than it deserves. I could easily say: “I’m a stay at home mom” then segue into a charming and funny story of the escapades of my small child or shock them with a good one of my teenage son ( the one about my darling son being on his third car in six months because he has written off his first two ) . But, oh no, I stammer and cough, frantically searching for something interesting to say because now I’m stuck on what do I DO for a living.

Can’t you ask me if I’ve read anything good lately? Food, Politics, religion, Micheal Jackson, Brangelina . . . . Bring it on let’s talk but please, please, PLEASE don’t ask me what I DO for a living.

I can tell you what I’ve done in the past but the list is too long and how do I begin and where do I end? Textile factory worker, waitress, short order cook, receptionist, personal assistant, retail, if it has a pink collar I’ve done it. I’ve been fired, (3 times) laid off (once) quit (once or twice). That’s another blog post . . . but here’s my point: Don’t ask me what I DO because I’m a stay at home mom and I don’t have a paid career of any kind. I’m not on Maternity leave from anything but my sanity (at times) and I can’t tell you what I did (paid work) in my former (work) life because I’ve been somebody's full time mom – with some paid jobs in between -  since I was 19.


stay at home dad 

I know you don’t know I’m imploding when you ask me. It’s just an innocent question to start a conversation but understand that when you ask you bring up all my insecurities of my life spent less time doing paid work than not. The question of DOING something for a paycheque is a polite conversation starter, a nice appy dipped in lemon aioli, I know. You don’t mean to hammer me over the head with that question. It’s not like you will say something like: “You better have a job to tell me about or I will walk away and not like you anymore”

. . . or you might one can never tell.

I was at a party the other night. A nice, civilised cocktail party. There was delicious food, drink and lot’s of grown ups talking about interesting things, which I have to say, got a lot more interesting when the Tequila came out. Anyway, Here’s what I did when I was asked ‘The question’ by this lovely woman: I sputtered ( as usual), fumbling for words. I started quoting the above list of my pink collar jobs while gulping down my martini, stuffing the shrimp cocktail in my mouth so she (the interrogator) couldn’t understand what I was saying. Then I started a fake coughing and choking fit; I made a motion for “water” frantically pointing away to the kitchen while spitting shrimp onto her pretty dress like some sort of raving lunatic as I walked/ran away – bullet avoided.

For future reference, if you see me at a social gathering please keep to the weather, celebrity gossip and baby poop because that’s all my fragile mama ego can handle right now. Thank you.

mom brain


  1. Anita, I laughed and kind of groaned too - this is a very familiar story. You're a funny writer, by the way, which is pretty hard to pull off, in my book!

    People don't know what else to ask, although the 'read any good books lately' question is a great one! I've just decided to pick the most interesting of what I do and let 'em have it. So now I say (and can absolutely justify this because of the blog) 'I'M A WRITER!!!' and I've practiced saying that often enough that I don't wince or cringe or do the eye-rolling, coy-head-on-the-side thing any more either.

    Lots of people are not socially adept enough to find the interesting stuff about being a full-time mom, but any clod will perk right up when he's talking to a writer. And when he gets to the dreaded 'published anything?' question, you can just smile and say 'yes, online.'

    People will believe whatever you say you are, and you definitely are a writer. Among many other things, of course, but this way you make it easy for them.

    I enjoy reading you and will wait for your next post, whenever it comes. Merry Christmas!

  2. Excellent post once again sweet sister! Better than the one I just posted which I was immediately chastised by one anonymous writer who said "shame on you" that I copied some phrases from a book almost verbatim.

    So I added some italics and quotation marks to keep it clean (oops). I just figured if someone else said it so well, why not quote her, but I guess I don't quote people often enough to know the proper way to set it up in my blog post!!

  3. What do you do for a living? Hmmmmmmm great question, you say. "you know, I have done some very interesting things in my personal and professional life, but I get a little weary of speaking of my accomplishments; so lets start with what you do for a living.

    don't let the idiots of the world get you down. merry merry Christmas! http://wwwbeenblogged.blogspot.com/

  4. When my kids were small, I was fond of saying "I'm a single Mom" which would get about 10 secs of sympathy and then, mysteriously, they would have somewhere else to go. I knew that didn't describe me but it was so juicy (and revengeful to my exes).

    One day, I saw the cost of that racket. No one wants to play with a bitter woman who is full of self pity. So I gave it up and began describing myself as "an entrepreneur". What a difference that made. . . people want to play with entrepreneurs and they call you forth to get busy. It's all what we say.

  5. Hilarious post! I would love to go back to the days of not working outside my home. Especially now that all the kids are in school! When I meet a woman who doesn't have to work outside her home I envy her.

  6. It's wonderful to know that there are others that feel the same way about this question. It suspends all brain activity for me as well.

    I agree with Laura HH though SAHM's do rock. So do SAHD's - trust me they totally feel your pain. One of my good friends is one and he tells me how he feels like he's being judged when he tells people that's what he does.

  7. Anita, This is such a great post! I LOVE it!! You really are a very entertaining writer and boy do I ever relate to your predicament. Besides, what I DON't do for a living is so much more interesting than what I've done that I got paid for.
    Super funny Anita..and thanks for the sweet comment on my how to keep house post.

    I can't wait to read more of your posts and do hope you write a new one one of these days too. (Voting with Maria. :o)