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What Do You Do?

Forms are a by-product of becoming a parent. As soon as that child is birthed, there is a form to ensure the child has a name and is duly noted as a citizen, complete with a tracking number. Those of us who braved childbirth in the military system fill out even more paperwork to ensure the child, who is definitely not a part of the originally issued gear, is also tagged in the military system.

As the child's age increases, so, too, do the number of forms presented to a parent: preschool application, pediatrician health questionnaire, sports registration, grade school enrollment, orthodontist ATM fund (my kids' crooked teeth are funding it well). Each of these forms have presented me with the very question you pose:

Mother's Occupation

Sometimes, I write, "Homemaker." I chose that title after I lost the Lieutenant Commander before my name and the USN after it. I figured if it was good enough for the Kennebunkport Kennedys, it was good enough for the Marine Corps Sloans.

Sometimes, I write, "Head Chef."

Sometimes, I write, "Chief Laundress."

Once, I wrote, "Finder of all lost things in the house."

The painful part is when I see a blank for occupation or place of employment is that once upon a time, I could definitively answer the question and be taken seriously. When I left the officer corps and entered the mom corps, though, my street cred went to nil. Stay-at-home mom leaves a cruddy taste in my mouth because if I were home more, it might actually be cleaned. (Note: I never write "Head of Janitorial Services.") I'm too busy buying groceries, schlepping kids to school/practice/play-dates-now-called-hanging-out-we're-not-babies-mom, and volunteering to be home all that much.

My sprouting endeavor as a gardener doesn't feel real enough to put that down in the occupation line yet, but recently I bravely wrote, "Homemaker/Gardener." Every time I answer someone's gardening question, I feel like I am a gardener. Really, I need to cultivate my own image of me so I can project that to others.

And, really, aren't we all more than the paycheck we earn? I am always going to be a homemaker in my mind because I am raising these three kids, cleaning up after all the inhabitants in this house, and generally running this household. I am also a gardener, a burgeoning writer, a community servant. These are important occupations, even if there isn't a paycheck attached to any of them.

In short, I hate pitching myself as a person who walked away from the Navy with ten years towards my retirement to raise our kids because I didn't want to put that burden on my parents. I wanted to be the one who caused my kids excessive therapy bills in adult life. I hate explaining how I have these two degrees and have dabbled in teaching, but I still needed to be here for my family, only to have people look at me with that sad, what-a-waste-expression. I'm excited to be changing my narrative and finding myself in the garden and on the page, but I dread pitching these occupations in an area that focuses on resumes rather than worth.

I'd really like to write on the next form's occupation query, "Does it matter?" At the end of the day, I don't know that it does.


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