Monday, November 1


(Before I get started -- apologies to anyone who commented a while ago on some other posts. I had enabled comment moderation on old posts to reduce spam but I failed to ensure I would be notified of them. Oops! I have read and published them all; thanks for sharing and sorry I'm a lame blogger.)

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming...

A while ago I tagged along with Mark to a small gathering for some medical students and residents. I'm pretty sure I was the only non-medical professional (or soon-to-be one) there. Anyway, we were sitting at a table with three of his classmates, all of whom we've come to consider good friends. Several residents approached and one of Mark's classmates -- we'll call her Jane -- proceeded to introduce all five of us to the residents.

Jane is kind and sensitive. She is one of those people who is always looking out for everybody else. She has always been very sweet to me. I like her a lot.

She started with the other two students. "This is Jim and he's going into cardiology, and this is Jen and she's going into orthopedics. I'm Jane and I'm going into pediatrics, and this is Mark, and he's going into pediatrics too." Then she got to me. "This is Mark's wife Dani, and she's a mom," [slightest of pauses] "and that's an accomplishment."

My gut reaction to this introduction of me was to say something snarky, but the first thing that came to mind was rather crude and not exactly what I was going for in the first-impressions department. So I just smiled and said hello to the murmurs of "nice to meet you" going around.

I do not consider my motherhood to be an "accomplishment," and that word kind of trivializes what motherhood is anyway. Besides, for all I knew, some of those residents might be mothers themselves.

This experience didn't upset me or even ruffle my feathers, but it did prompt a lot of thinking. I assume that Jane's intent was to make sure that I didn't feel bad about being the only one without a "and she's going into neurosurgery" tag line, and "accomplishment" was probably just the first word that came out -- I doubt she considered all the connotations of it that I mulled over that evening.

When I'm in similar medical settings and we're doing the introductions thing ("I'm So-and-so and I'm a third year," etc.), I prefer to just say, "I'm Dani, and I'm not a student; just married to one." I guess my message is Unlike everyone else here, I'm not going to relate to you on the medical level -- I'm here because I'm attached to that guy over there. It seems like a good introduction for the context. I've used this same introduction regardless of whether I was unemployed, at a job I disliked, loved, or, like now, not working by choice. I figure if you want to know more about me we can take it from there.

I understand why vocation is so often included in an introduction. After all, the whole point of an introduction is to get to know a little bit about someone and start a connection. And part of what forms who you are is how you spend your time, and most people spend a lot of time at their vocation, so that seems like a reasonable thing to know about someone. And for lucky people who are on the career path of their choice, occupation is a good get-to-know-you because that choice says something about them. But if you happen to not love or be proud of your job, or if your job title doesn't sound cool or glamorous or lucrative, maybe telling people where you work when you introduce yourself is torture.

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this. I have no qualms about my choice to not have a paying job, even in a crowd of professionals (many and sometimes most of whom are women). In the time I have to myself when I'm not actively meeting the needs of my child, I have my fingers in a lot of different pots, many of which I could use to identify myself. Or I could just say I work in Human Capital Development; that sounds pretty highfalutin, doesn't it? (I know I'm not the first one to come up with fancy corporate-sounding names for mothering. Sue me.)

Anyway. I guess the bottom line is that I don't feel inferior to people who get paid to work (nor do I feel superior), so I don't feel any need to defend or justify or apologize for being "just" a mom.