What do you do? I’m a mother

GG3Nnj1433443249We go through quite an identity shift when we have children because our world and priorities change forever. Whilst we realise that we are doing an exceptionally important role by being in charge of another persons physical and emotional well-being, in some circles, we are reacted to as if our lives or we ourselves are uninteresting, particularly if we give up our career to stay-at-home.

At certain types of parties and social gatherings the response to being a full-time mum can be less than inspiring, with silence falling after we have answered the question ‘What do you do?’, as if there can’t be anything interesting about us as full-time mums. And it is frustrating because we know the value that we bring as parents to our children, yet it is hard to convey this to another person who has no idea.

Recently I read a post ‘Re-defining yourself after work’ on a great blog called Fabulously 50 & Living with BATman. Elena writes about that party scenario and it set me thinking about those times when we are asked to define ourselves and how we rely heavily on our jobs. But we are so much more than our careers.

Becoming a full-time mum I struggled to know how to convey the value I felt about my new role in some social situations. Once I found myself saying ‘I’m just a mum’ and immediately promised myself never to use that diminishing word ‘just’ in the same sentence as ‘mum’ ever again.

I wish I had watched a talk by Adam Leipzig ‘How to discover your life’s purpose in 5 minutes’ (it is at the bottom of this post). He spells out five questions that he hopes will direct us towards knowing our purpose is in life.

  1. Who are you? (Your name)

  2. What do you love to do? (What do you feel supremely qualified to teach other people?)

  3. Who do you do it for?

  4. What do those people need?

  5. How do those people change as a result of what you give them?

I like it. A short but focused way to get us thinking about what we are good at and what we bring to the world.

More importantly for this post, he goes on to say that in those party situations when asked ‘What do you do?’ the best response to give is your answer to question five, ‘How do those people change as a result of what you give them?’.

So for me now, back being a counsellor and hypnotherapist I answer

I help people accept themselves, learn to know what their strengths are and how to use them

rather than saying my job title.

Returning to motherhood though, as a full time mum with no job title to rely on this would have helped massively, using Adam’s method I could have given a number of intriguing answers

I work with children to help them develop a healthy sense of self and know who they are

I help children to feel valued and important in life

That would have got a different reaction to saying ‘I’m a mum.’ It at least would have got some further questions but more importantly it would have conveyed the value that I know I bring as a parent.

Now just to clarify here. I am not saying that stay-at-home mums are doing a more important job but rather that when we do give up a career, it removes the way we socially identify ourselves, which can leave us feeling a bit a drift, particularly when we have to verbalise what we do.

Mothers are so important, not just to their families but to wider society Click To Tweet

The most important thing, of course, is that, regardless of others, we value ourselves and the massive contribution to society that raising children brings, whether we are a working mum or a stay-at-home mum and whether it seems to be valued or not. Mothers are so important, not just to their families but to wider society and even though there is no pay cheque or prestigious job tittle, it is the thing I am most proud of being.

Have you ever been in a social situation where a conversation has fallen flat once you said you were a mum or where it has swiftly moved onto something else? How did you answer the question ‘What do you do?’ as a full-time mum? Would you change that now or not? I would love to know your thoughts.

So what is next?

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68 thoughts on “What do you do? I’m a mother

  1. This a very relevant post to me right now.

    I feel like I lost my identity in many respects a mother and now..2 years later I am only just starting to figure out again who I am. Before I had my son I was out of art school… but generally was just wasting my time doing very little. Now I feel I have all these ideas, and things I want to explore but find myself stuck in often overwhelming motherhood. I too have found myself frustrated or saying “just a mum” when the reality is I do so much for my son that is shaping his future self.

    I realised too things recently. One that I really needed to place more value on my role as a mother as it is important.. and two find a bit more time to do the things I want to grow as an individual person away from being a mum… 🙂

    Thanks for sharing. I will watch the ted talk 🙂
    Jenna @JMPArtist recently posted…Featured Maker: Honey BeeMy Profile

    1. I really value your words Jenna and I have been in a similar place, with a creative need and little time to be that creative person. That has changed, although it was gradual at first, I am starting to connect to that sense of myself other than being a mother. From reading your comment I guess the things I would like you to know is that from my experience once you have been a mother you not only appreciate the time you get more but also you can be much more focused and determined than before having children. So the time you get, when you get it, will count. The other and most important is to reiterate what you said, that valuing your role as a mother is so important. We are a seriously socially undervalued bunch who put our heart and souls and sometimes sanity into raising the next generation.

    1. That is wonderful to hear. Our role as mothers whilst somehow less easy to talk about in some circles are the most life changing role we will ever have. I have no doubt on that. Thank you for your comment Rachel. Great to have you here.

    1. Thanks for your comment. Our choices are personal and wether we are happy is what counts. It is great though when we can convey the value of what we do to other people. Mothers in general should be valued for what they do.

    1. It was similar for me and I sometimes felt frustrated with myself because I wanted to stick up for the value of motherhood but couldn’t find the words. Thank you for adding to this discussion.

  2. Thank you for sharing this – your post really hits a nerve with me at the moment. I’ve recently quit the career I love because it didn’t allow me to be the mum that I wanted to be. As someone who was very career focussed and defined by my career, I have found it very hard to accept that I have lost that identity and am now “just a mum”. You are so right though…. There is no such thing as “just” a mum and I will definitely use that 5 question technique going forward. Thanks!

    X Becca #binkylinky
    Becca recently posted…Baby B meets Nemo & GiraffeMy Profile

    1. Hi Becca, I am glad it has been relevant for you. It is hard to redefine ourselves internally and even harder (particularly as mothers) to then say it in a way that conveys the value of our role. Good luck with your transition. It takes a little time but it will happen. Thanks for joining in. Great to hear from you.

  3. I love my job. But working outside the home doesn’t mean I’m not a full time mother. I’ve occasionally had the opposite problem – telling people what I do negates the mothering that is central. Anyway, helpful to have other ways to answer. #PoCoLo
    Caz Stone recently posted…CurrentlyMy Profile

    1. Hi Caz, I really appreciate your comment. I can so see what you are saying. You have a way to define yourself but motherhood is the role that is important to you. Great point. I guess then the same applies to you, finding those words that project the value you feel as a mother would be good. Thank you for adding to this discussion.

  4. I have yet to meet a Mom who does not feel her whole life as a person was re-defined when she became a mother. I think it takes us a while to get to achieve some sort of balance between being a mother and being yourself. I love the questions. Stopping by from the Manic Mondays Blog Hop.
    Mariet – Practicingnormal recently posted…Celebrating Stepmom DayMy Profile

    1. Thank you for your insightful comment Mariet. You are right, for many of us our identity takes a while to catch up and it is about balance. And that balance changes too with time. Motherhood is complex.

    1. Hi Ellie. I felt that I was unable to portray the value that I have from being a mother. As if being a mum is not a very important job. It is weird to be dismissed or looked at as uninteresting when we know what we do is very important. Glad you liked the post. Thank you for visiting.

  5. I love, love, love, love this post!! YES!!! I know that silence after you’ve answered that question! And now that I’m home schooling, I find myself leading conversation away from schooling discussions, because it’s just less complicated if the whole “I homeschool” bit does NOT come up… But you’re right. It’s most important that we accept ourselves and we are happy with our decisions. Still, I love the idea of re-wording your title. I could say, “I teach, and I blog about it.” Why not?
    April recently posted…THIS is why people go to Yosemite: PhotoblogMy Profile

    1. Wow April, I like that. ‘I teach and I blog about it’. What a great statement that gives a sense of value to what you do, although I do think that homeschool parents do much more than teach. I think it is an impressive thing to take on because you then occupy multiple roles at once. so lots of kudos to you.

    1. Hi Mackenzie, I know, the value of motherhood is immense but it is often treated as very little. I will look at your about me page. Thanks for adding to this discussion.

  6. Great post. I hate when people say they are a full time mum and someone responds with “oh so you don’t work then?”. I work full time, and am not a mum and I wouldn’t want to swap my full time job for all the work associated with being a full time parent. Anyone who thinks full time mums “don’t work” have never been around children. A more fitting comment would be “oh you work 24/7 for no wages then!” #twinklytuesday
    Debbie
    http://www.myrandommusings.blogspot.com
    Random Musings recently posted…Z Is For ZealotMy Profile

    1. I love that. You made me laugh but so true. Recently there was a video I saw on you tube that did a job interview for an Operations manager (interviewees didn’t know it was actually the job spec of a mother) and they all said it was inhumane and no one would do the job!! Thanks for commenting on The Guilt Free Guide.

  7. Another great post! I went back to work after 3 months and then became a full time mum again at 12 months and I have to say that I do often feel uncomfortable when I have to say I’m a full time mum like the conversation will just end there. It’s like people think there is nothing going on up there if they hear those 3 words or something #twinklytuesday

    1. Hi Talya, It is such a strange thing that motherhood isn’t valued more because it being a loving mother is of immense value not just to our children but to society as a whole. I worked on being okay with it. I used it as an opportunity to let go of needing to impress people and challenge myself to value myself for who I am and what I know I do. Thanks for commenting.

    1. Hi Stacey. These are tough choices at times, indeed sometimes they are not choices but necessities. Thanks for visiting my site and commenting. I would love to hear from you again and how you and Olivia are doing.

  8. This definitely applies in my life! I remember before I left work to stay home with my daughter I was talking about doing it and a co-worker said she could never do that. She would be bored all day and she just would need more to satisfy her sense of “self” (paraphrasing). I can honestly say my sense of “self” is more satisfied as a mom at home with my kids than sitting at a desk in a corporate office. I am proud to say that being a mom is who I am AND what I do. Found you on the #twinklytuesday link up. Thanks for sharing!
    Nicole recently posted…Pattern Review: Sewing Caddy At Sewcanshe.com (and supportive women)My Profile

    1. Hi Nicole. Thanks for your comment. It is such an important job being a mother and yet it is somehow treated as uninteresting or worse ,at times, unimportant. I wanted to be able to convey that importance but never felt I could in certain settings. I am so glad you love being a mom and are proud of it, me too.

  9. What a great post! I’m SO proud to say that I’m a mother. It so very nearly didn’t happen do I want to shout it from the rooftops! That said, I’m still a designer too — and people know that. I’m delighted to have a ‘dual-purpose’ in life and have never felt I’ve lost my identity. Thanks so much for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

    Caro | http://www.thetwinklediaries.co.uk
    Caro | The Twinkles Mama recently posted…113 weeks and 6 days | Death and taxes plus tiny miraclesMy Profile

    1. Hi Caro. Thanks for your comment and hosting. I have always been proud too and surprised in some situations where it is seen as uninteresting when I feel it is such an important job. I am so glad to know that you got to be a mother despite thinking it wouldn’t happen.

  10. Kirsten, you’ve hit the nail on the head with this post. I’ve definitely been there. Hell, I still am now. I think I pushed blogging more than most because I felt I needed to have something that I did that wasn’t ‘just’ a mum. I’ve just watched the video, really great 🙂

    Thanks for linking up to #TheList xx
    Hannah Mums’ Days recently posted…Toddler Bedroom IdeasMy Profile

    1. Hi Hannah, Thanks for your comment. I have had such a great response from this. It is not what I expected and I was actually a bit nervous pressing ‘Publish’ on this one. No one should need to say ‘Just a mum’, but we do. It is such a valuable thing to do. I am glad you liked it.

  11. Yes…this happens to me every time I am out with my husband’s work friends. I am the only stay at home mom out of the wives/girlfriends in the group. Not only do I feel left out of the conversation (due to the fact that the rest of them are all talking about work as they all work in the same field) but I also feel like that because I don’t earn an “income” that somehow this means that I am not contributing. It’s not so much anymore now that I have gotten to know all of them and they have all been to our house and see just what it entails to take care of 3 toddlers, a house, and my husband. Now they all agree that I have a lot on my plate. I always worked up until I had kids and I will be the first to admit that motherhood is the toughest job I have ever had. And no one understands that statement until they have been a stay at home parent. Thanks for sharing with #momstermondays!
    Trista recently posted…How You Know You Have Reached 40 SomethingMy Profile

    1. Hi Trista, Thanks for you comment and hosting. It is a tough job and a massively undervalued one. We shape lives and that is so important for not only our kids but society also. 3 toddlers – Well done you! I always thought that I should have grown another set of arms and eyes in the back of my head at that stage.

  12. Great post and one I can really relate to. I gave up my job to be at home and now when ever people ask me I constantly feel like I have to justify my decision. I even wrote about it yesterday as someone asked me again. Loved reading this and love how a different approach can make a different scenario. I definitely need to value myself more, I really struggle with that. #MMWBH
    The L’s Mum recently posted…Are you JUST a mum then?My Profile

    1. I have read your post and commented. It is such a strange situation to be in. doing something amazing that is not recognised in certain settings. I used it as practice to be okay with myself and not needing to prove anything in anyone else’s eyes.

  13. I found this post really interesting. I love the 5 points. I struggled when I became a Mum for a different reason. I had people who didn’t understand why I would want to be anything more than ‘just a Mum’. Don’t get me wrong, I disagree with you on one point – I believe stay at home Mums do have a more important job, I think the working Mums do what they do because that’s the best thing they can do in their situations for their family, but there is no more important role that being a Mum. We’re raising the next generation. We all do that whether we’re working or being at home all day. I personally feel being at home is much harder than going to work. I’m about to start work again next month but I will be working 3 night shifts a week, deliberately so I can still be at home in the day with the children and they will never notice that I’m not around. This is a choice I’m making for my family, and people *coughs* my Mum, seem shocked that I need to do anything else. In this instance I’m doing it for my babies, to raise the extra funds needed to pay for their education (there are no good state schools near us, I am not against state schools at all, I wish there were great ones near us), but before that I often felt like I ‘needed’ something else, like I was losing my identity. I ADORE being Mum to my little ones but that doesn’t mean that we’re not other things other than a Mum because that’s what we spend most of our time doing. You are a writer, you are an inspiration to others because you share your life online. You are moulding the next generation, and you are still you… in all your former glory, with some new found patience, and skills in negotiation and instructing. Sorry, I didn’t mean to write like a whole post in your comments, but I LOVED your post and wanted to encourage you. You’re amazing!!! You made the best choice for your family as we all do as Mums. Whether we be WM’s, WAHM’s, SAHM’s we are Mum’s who are doing what is best for our family xxx you rock!!
    Alexandra @dontcallmestepmummy recently posted…{Love Letters to our Little Ones} – Happy 18 Months Eden (our first vlogging experience)My Profile

    1. Oh my goodness Alexandra, I am blown away by your comment and find myself slightly lost for words. Thank you very much.

      I am so with you on the value of motherhood and I think that you are doing a wonderful thing by being there for your kids and now working in a way that allows you to still be there to support them.

      For me personally I did need other things in my life than being a mother to keep my mind going. I guess my situation differed because I am surrounded by mothers who work. Motherhood has allowed me to develop certain skills, like a determination to become a writer (which is something I have always wanted).

      I hear in what you are saying, a need for you to express a part of yourself that motherhood does not fulfil and that is great. Our children learn through us and seeing us going out and creating a life that gives us what we need, is a great lesson for them too. I hope your job goes well. I would love to hear how you get on. Kirsten

  14. WOW I love how you answered these and well done to you. I was like so many and felt like I lost my identity when I became a mum for the very first time. Then I realised how much it had taught me and what an amazing massive thing I’ve actually done and it really changed me quite a bit, I think I’m a lot more confident now and I really really hope I can use that positively with our second baby when he/she comes along. I now remind other mums who keep saying “I’m not just a mum” that they are doing something so amazing and hard and that “they are A MUM!” …what an achievement 🙂
    Notmyyearoff recently posted…Pregnancy Diary – Weeks 19 and 20.My Profile

    1. I love your comment. What you have said is so true and of so much value. We do learn as mothers, so much and it helps us not just with having more children but with life in general. It changes us and those skills we learn, we can take into the rest of our lives. Thank you for adding to this discussion.

    1. Good, I am glad to hear that. No one should be embarrassed for being a SAHM or apologise for the choice. Thanks for commenting.

    1. I do that too or even forget to put the linky as I get so engrossed in the content of all these great blogs. Thanks

  15. Thank you for this post. I’m in the same situation. I recently resigned from my 7 year position as a teacher to take care of my daughter. You’re statement about being adrift as a stay at home mom is so true. I love my life as a stay at home mom. As you said, the value in being able to do this is priceless, but most don’t quite grasp the concept of how important it truly is. I’ve been in several situations when the question came up–“what do you do?” And like you, I’ve vowed to omit the “just” in my response and add a few things that I get to do now that I’m home with my daughter. It usually goes something like this: “I’m a writer. I work from home and take care of my daughter…” to which they respond in their awkward and quite sympathetic way, “oh that’s so nice…” I then proceed to continue the conversation, “Yes. It’s absolutely the best. I’m so lucky I get to do things that I love–write my novel and take care of my daughter.”

    I found this works well and really drives home the message that I’m not “just a mom” and that me staying home is not just an option for our family, but the best choice we made for our growing family.

    But like you said. Regardless of other’s opinions, the important thing is that we value what we do. And I do everyday, and this post just solidifies the very strong notion that we made a sound decision. Because now, I’m not just a teacher, and I’m not just a writer. I’m all that and more. I’m a mother too!
    Maria recently posted…Simple Bedtime Essentials to Encourage a More Restful SleepMy Profile

    1. I am really moved by your comment. You are indeed so much. As mothers we are shaping the people we care about most which is scary and wonderful all at the same time. Being a mother is so much more than any job could ever be. I am so glad to hear that you feel more secure in the feeling that you are heading in the right direction. Thank you so much for adding to this conversation.

  16. I really enjoyed this post – with so many comments it’s clear I’m not the only one it resonated with.
    My eldest daughter is about to turn 8 (my youngest is 2) and in the years I have been a mother I have been a SAHM, I’ve worked part time, full time and I now have my own business and work from home.
    During one period as a SAHM I bumped into a manager from my previous role. She asked ‘what I’m up to know’ (as I held my 9 month old daughter on my hip), I ended up mumbling something about ‘just being at home’!! I walked away feeling very deflated and cross with myself. My life was crazy busy at the time, crazy and full – nothing ‘just’ about it.
    That was a long time ago now and I feel like I’ve come along way, I respect myself as a mother and feel grateful that we can support our family. I’ve come to realise quite a few people in the school playground think I am still a SAHM because I’m always around and they don’t know about my business – that’s ok by me!
    Xx
    #sharewithme
    JoyandPops recently posted…A Year From TodayMy Profile

    1. Great to hear from you. It is wonderful when we can be creative and find work that we fit into our children’s schedule too. I am in the same boat as you but I don’t need people to know for myself. I think that being able to stand up and speak about what we do as mothers is so valuable. I wish i had learnt it sooner. Thanks for adding to this discussion.

  17. Really interesting post. When I became a SAHM I certainly didn’t realise how it would affect me in social situations, but it really does. It is so easy to dismiss yourself as “just” a mum as that is how many other people see it. I think it is hugely worthwhile to stay at home to raise my children, and it is damn hard. It’s not the right choice for everyone but it is a shame that those of us who want to do it feel judged or doing so. Great post and you’re right, we have to give ourselves credit for what we do if we want others to. x #sharewithme
    Caroline (Becoming a SAHM) recently posted…Monkey turns 3…My Profile

    1. Thanks Caroline for you comment. I think giving ourselves credit is so important for the value we know we bring. There is no pay cheque to say well done but actually you couldnt pay someone to do it anyway. It is a great but tough job.

  18. I too made a conscious decision to eliminate ‘just’! When I was on maternity leave I had no problem telling people because that meant ‘temporarily not working’. When I decided not to go back to work I was tentative about my role at first I’d say, ‘I’m at home with my son at the moment.’ People would ask me what I wanted to be doing or what I did before. When I decided to own my role (because I love it) people’s reactions changed. I make eye contact, smile and say, ‘I’m a stay at home mum!’ When I had no resistance, neither did anyone else and my responses were always positive.

    Recently a friend asked why I still say I’m a stay at home mum even though I work one day a week. I said to her,if you were doing a biology degree but worked restaurant in the evenings you wouldn’t say you were a waitress. Stay at home Mum is my current vocation.

    #MMWBH
    Charlene recently posted…How early is too early to give your child McDonalds? – The HamburglarMy Profile

    1. Hi Charlene. I love this. This is what I was aiming for, owning the fact that we are valuable in our roles. Don’t get me wrong there is only certain places where I have had a negative reaction, mainly very career focused settings. I didn’t feel particularly good at portraying the value that I felt in those places. I would never back away from saying what I did and I did find some satisfaction in not having to interest those people who clearly found it a bit boring. I was a SAHM and did not need to justify it. But you sound like you have got it covered, that is great. And you know I have been searching for a word that covers what motherhood -certainly not a job- but ‘vocation’ is perfect. Thank you for your input.

  19. I love this post. Just a mum? I struggle with this too. I work from home now and have done for the last 3 years or so. My eldest is 10 and the other day asked me why I don’t work and I had to supress the urge to scream. Working from home means earning money AND the rest of the household chores!! Importantly I want her to know that I work and that I am not JUST a mum. But at the same time being mum is my most important role and doing just that is fine too. x x
    ghostwritermummy recently posted…Introducing My InstacareMy Profile

    1. I genuinely find it tough working from home too because as you said the housework and chores are always becoming. It is hard to keep focused. But I also love it because I can be there for my children too. I make a point of distinguishing between when I am working and when I am doing mum chores to try and help them see the difference. It is a tough balance to strike. I am sure with time your daughter will understand and really appreciate how you were there for her. I think children cant really appreciate what was always there until they are older and they start to realise what advantages they had. Thanks so much for commenting.

  20. I find it quite upsetting that I get suggestions that I don’t do anything worthwhile & that I am not entitled to make decisions about anything because I am not the financial contributor, whilst at the same time everyone comments on how lovely my children are. Maybe that is the worthwhile thing I do? It often feels like there is a tendency to highlight what I don’t achieve (earn money), but what I do achieve (a big role in how my children turn out) is not credited to me. Because, of course, being a stay at home parent is easy & anyone could do it, so there is no such thing as being good at it! Or so I have been told.

    This is a very good post, & addressses very well the issue of being made to feel lesser & like you need to justify yourself because you are a stay at home mum, even though you know you should not feel that.

    1. I really feel for you reading this. Mothering is so valuable and harder than working. We never get away, we cant pace ourselves and I fail to understand why it is not valued by society in the way it deserves. Never believe those words.You are shaping another persons life (or more than one) and you are putting on hold so much for no other reward than love. Mothers are not lesser than anyone. In fact I think it is the toughest thing I have done but the thing I am most proud of. At the very least we need to value ourselves.

        1. It really is disheartening. Receiving a little appreciation goes a long way as a mother, I know it does for me. I am so glad to hear that you can see the importance of what you do as a mother. Thanks so much for replying again. Your comment stayed with me last night as I thought about the difficulties of feeling valued when we don’t receive that support from other people around us.

  21. Love this post. So true and I think so many of us can relate to this giving up our careers to stay home. When we are out in public we don’t want to say I am a mom, because we feel it doesn’t sound as hard as it really is and boy howdy can it get tough being at home 7 days a week with children but rewarding and you wish others could understand that. I have been there so many times. Thank you so much for linking up to Share With Me. Hope to see you again tomorrow. #sharewithme
    jenny recently posted…Letters to him & her ~ #21My Profile

    1. Thanks Jenny. It is tough and so undervalued by society, which I find very strange. I think if we as mothers can hold our head up high and speak about what we do with value then it will gradually change that. Thanks for hosting.

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