The Dreaded Parenthood Question

“What do you do?”

“What’s your job?”

These questions have left me in a state of perplexity recently. The other day, while filling out my personal information on a form in a doctor’s office, I was stumped by the box labeled, “Occupation.”

For years I have had a clear answer to the job question: “I’m a campus minister.” And while that term always needed a bit of background explanation, it was still a clear title. Now that I’ve stopped working for pay, and care for our children full-time, my status has suddenly changed. I don’t have a job in the workforce.

I’m happy and satisfied with that decision, but how do I respond to questions that assume being a part of working society is important to one’s identity? I know the obvious terms that I can use, but they all sound lame and inadequate to me.

Stay-at-home mom (or the acronym SAHM) – This is probably the most frequently used term, but it really bugs me. Most “stay-at-home” parents I know of rarely stay at home. I’m frequently on-the-go, driving kids to and from school, taking my toddler on trips to the park, running errands to meet the demands of our family. One time someone in all seriousness said this to me, “You’re a mom…you must have so much time on your hands.” I didn’t know whether to laugh or slap that person.

Full-time Mom – I’ve used this one on occasion, but don’t like what it implies. Is a working parent like my husband a “part-time parent”? Are there “no-time parents”? Parenting is not merely a task you can take or leave at the punch of a timecard. At best this term is silly, and at worst it’s offensive.

Housewife – Excuse me, but my identity is not solely dependent on being someone’s wife. And housewife? That sounds like a woman who is locked up in the home all day by her domineering husband. Or an upper-middle class society woman who plays tennis at the country club. Again, a poor term. I have never heard someone call a stay-at-home dad a “Househusband.”

Homemaker – A slight step up from the term housewife, homemaker is still a dissatisfying label. I’m pretty sure it was made popular in the 70’s. While I love cooking, I am not choosing to pause on being in the professional workforce for the sake of micromanaging my family’s domestic life. Couponing and keeping a spotless home are not my main priorities. Now if “homemaker” can mean prioritizing the family and home (and not simply the house), then maybe I can get on board.

I suppose I could simply say, “I’m unemployed.” But even that requires more explanation.

In my opinion, we need a better term for the multitude of men and women who care for their children full-time, and aren’t working for pay outside the home. A term that is accurate and honoring.

To get your imagination going, here are some of the duties in my current role:

  • Multi-tasker Extraordinaire
  • Counselor
  • Full-time Human Developer
  • Educator
  • Day-care Provider
  • Referee
  • Housekeeper
  • Toddler Chaser
  • Personal Chef
  • Childhood Development Specialist Researcher
  • Lego Builder
  • Hairdresser
  • Chauffer
  • Band-Aid Dispenser
  • Life Coach
  • 24-Hour Milk and Diaper Maid
  • Storyteller
So tell me, how should I refer to myself in those instances when asked what I do? What term fits best?

How about Queen of the Family and Household? I think I’ll use that next time.

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