Imagine sitting around the table at a restaurant with a group of either friends or family. Everyone is discussing their lives- and by lives I mean work (because what you “do” carries so much weight in relation to self-worth in our society). Well, you see, my stock in what our culture views as highly productive tanked in 2014 with the birth of my first baby. I chose to stay home with her and haven’t been back to my career since.
I used to feel like I was on a level playing field when engaging in conversation with fellow workforce people. Often times now, I feel like a second class citizen– someone who gave up on life to “just stay home.” Here’s the thing: I view what I do now as highly productive and valuable. I have never questioned that. What has made me feel like this role is NOT valuable is the complete lack of questions I receive now as compared to my former working life. I have found that quick way to kill a conversation can be sharing that you no longer work.
What do you ask someone who “just is home with her kids” every day? Surely this mom doesn’t do anything worthwhile anymore. She’s given up on that, obviously … no way does she still have hobbies, things she’s passionate about, or groups she’s involved in. She can’t possibly be a writer, a tutor, an entrepreneur, or a volunteer. When she gave up her career, she must have given up her personality and everything that was important to her– so, what is left to ask about?
Oh wait, there is one thing you can ask her. When does she PLAN to go back to her former career? That’s a good one. Insinuating that what she’s doing now is cute and temporary, but surely she’ll return to something worthwhile. Now, before you go thinking that I am a bitter old woman, hear me out: I know that some people legitimately ask about returning to my former job because they know how much I loved it. And I can sense that from them. But that is not always the case, nor is it appreciated. There is no worse feeling than feeling less-than because you no longer have an official title besides “mom.”
So what can you do when you’re around a mom who actually does work 24/7, but that work is unpaid? Ask her anything about herself — because she still matters.