Hello, what do you do?

I’ve decided to start this blog with a very common question to help explain where I’m coming from. To be honest I didn’t expect my first post to be as serious or as rants as this, but stick with me and we’ll get to splashing in puddles soon I promise!

So how many times have you been asked this question? Or asked it yourself? I know I’ve lost count of both. Given the nature of my partner’s job as a professional sportsman I’m part of a world where what you do is often intrinsically linked with who you are. Of course this is common throughout society…what we choose to do does say something about who we are. But not all that we are, and not even who we think we are, but instead who the asker thinks we are.

The asker builds a quick and, let’s face it, sketchy picture of you based on one or two words used to describe your job. The asker decides if it’s your passion, your calling, a stop gap job, a mistake. They make assumptions about your intelligence, your commitment, your people skills, your lifestyle.

To give you an example…my partner, Andrew, is a professional sportsman as I’ve said. He loves the sport that he is lucky enough to get paid to play. But when his career finishes he has a fantasy of working in a supermarket part time and following our children around (!) the rest of the time. If he is able to carry out this ambition and in the future answers ‘what do you do?’ with ‘supermarket shelf stacker’, the asker will make completely different assumptions about who he is at that moment without Andrew having fundamentally changed as a person at all.

When I had a job I had problems with being asked this…I worked in the arts. I speak quietly, it sounded like ‘arse’. I always had to repeat my answer. I was usually met with blank looks and so launched into a description of the complicated multi-partner, multi-art form project I managed. More often that not (being mostly, which wasn’t much, asked it by men at Andrew’s work events) there just wasn’t enough of the familiar in my answer for the asker to grasp on to and the follow up question, asked with a patronising jokiness, was invariably ‘so do you like cricket?’. Sigh…

Now I’ve stopped working and spend my days playing with Little J, I fit in far more neatly to the social hierarchy. For me this makes ‘what do you do?’ so much harder to answer. Full time mother? Well, yes but I’m fairly sure my friends that work who also have children are full time mothers…you don’t stop being one just because you’re not physically next to your child. And does that make Andrew a part time father? Or when he’s at an away game, a zero hour contract father? And don’t even get me started on ‘housewife’. I’m fairly sure I married Andrew, not the house. I’m also fairly sure I’m still his wife even when I leave the house.

My tussle with expressing myself the way I want to, while resisting society’s pigeonholes has spurred me to to start this blog, along with a desire to create a record of my thoughts and experiences as a new parent. I’ve written more about what I do, who I am and the blog’s title on the about page. I hope this blog will express who I am and maybe if I’m asked again ‘what do you do?’ I’ll be able to answer in a way that doesn’t answer that at all, and instead tells them who I am.

Because ultimately it is a limiting question, a way for us to cling onto the security of stereotypes and therefore it is about as useful for really finding out about someone as sitting down to tea with their shadow.

 

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