Sunday, February 17, 2013


At some point we all have to fill out some forms: name, address, phone number, followed by occupation and employer. Ever since I started staying at home, this question bugged me. The easiest answer--homemaker-- rubs me the wrong way. I immediately picture a shapely lady in a button-down dress with a frilly apron, a duster in one hand and a perfect perm being held up with another.
No, that is definitely not me.

Homeschooler? That sounds like I am the one who is being taught.

Homeschool teacher? A bit too pretentious, and this conjures a blackboard, American flag, and a whopping three kids lined up behind desks.

So who am I? And, more importantly, what do I occupy myself with?

When my oldest was just a few weeks old, my mother came to visit. I was in the midst of graduate school in biology, or, more correctly, in the midst of quitting graduate school. I knew even before I had my baby that being gone for twelve hour stretches was not what I was aspiring to do, even if my research was going well, even if I was a very good student, and even if I could find a way to balance motherhood, lab work, stipend for an income and random babysitters. My mother was very disturbed by this. I remember a conversation where she was pushing me to define myself, sort of in the way that those forms want you to describe yourself in one word. She said that she is a doctor, and my grandfather was a veteran. I, fresh from yet another nursing and diaper change, and a whole new mommy brain, which felt like being stuck in honey after high-flying intellectualism of scientific papers, said that I am a mother. My mother laughed, and said that it's something you do on the side, and the kids grow up and they do not need you and you need to be something else.

Almost nine years into motherhood, I beg to differ. It is easy to dismiss motherhood as yet another pursuit, but it is impossible for it not to redefine you in such fundamental ways, that both of your ears are left ringing. On the other hand, those professions and occupations come and go. My mother became a doctor because of a certain degree of family pressure, and while she found what she likes, I often think about how many other things she could have been pursuing, were she not so rigidly defined by being a doctor. My grandfather was an organizer of veterans from WWII, but, I am sure, he would have been much happier if the war never happened, and there were no veterans to organize. Would his life be incomplete without them?

What am I? I was a foreign student, and that defined me for a bit. I was also a very good student. I was type A, always driven, always organized. I still approach any sort of testing or personal learning that way. But life threw enough curve balls already, that I learned to mellow out, let go, and not always strive for an A when B would be just fine, and NOBODY is grading anyway!

I am a life-long learner; just as I audited physical chemistry in college, so I took a graphic design course, and so I read midwifery books, and so I started my Nach Yomi and so I keep on learning alongside my kids. I am also not shy to try something new, push a different button, move out of my comfort zone.

I have been working on my character traits, because there are six eyes constantly learning from me, especially when I am at my worst. When you are home with your kids all the time, you cannot blame others for the way they are turning out. So personal growth is on my agenda.

I can make a dinner in 15 minutes, if need be. I can get the kids out the door in 15 minutes, too. And I can watch your kid if you give me a 15 minute notice. I can also have a friend over, for tea, for a talk, just to drop in. My house will not be spotless, but whatever needs to be picked up (to my standards) will get done in 15 minutes.

I can read a book to one child while nursing another. I can resolve conflicts, chauffeur, grocery-shop with kids in tow, sneak in math, teach aleph-bet, answer questions about foramen ovale and why is Shaul after Dovid (chasing, that is, not chronologically). I can wipe tushies in the middle of the night, chase away bad dreams and soothe a child back to sleep. I can teach how to ride a bike and fly a kite, how to read and multiply, how to apply for a library card and write an apology letter.

Is there a name for all of this? Moreover, as I am filling out yet another form, is there space for all of this?

Most of this falls into the category of conscious motherhood. Yet I strongly doubt that writing "mother" as occupation, and "being my own boss" as employer is what those forms are after.

What defines you? What occupies you? And how flexible are you willing to be with your self-definition when the circumstances change?


  1. All good questions....I know that my role is mothering too, in every way, shape and form, with every breath I take...but I've been struggling, because last year, I was halfway thru nursing school, scoring As all the time. Since we moved, I've been unable to finish nursing school and so that dream/goal has been pushed off, perhaps forever.Delving into the medical world and all those science classes excited me. Clinicals made me want so badly to help others who were sick and weak. Now I'm trying to redefine myself. My youngest is 6 and I do see all my kids growing up and me there something else I should do? I try to look at it positively, assessing myself and figuring out if theres something I can do part-time to fulfill that unfulfilled goal of nursing. Because when you work so hard for something and then stop, it leaves you feeling robbed.

    1. Midwife? Doula? Volunteering somewhere medical? Medical assistant?
      There were a few regrets about grad school, especially the intellectual stimulation, but I found it in other areas of my life.
      I hope something either turns up or you will be able to work it out.

    2. Yes, I am definitely considering CNA or doula. I started teaching Hebrew school and also volunteer in a reading program so I feel like I am giving somewhere, when my kids are busy at school. Thanks for the words of encouragement!

  2. This is something I think about a lot and we have discussed at length. I am still not sure if I am making the right decision but, when I look at my kids, I know I am making the best decision.

  3. I like this post! I have a PhD in psychology, and still teach 1-3 college classes online. But I never list that as my occupation - it takes 10-15 hours a week. There is much more to my life than that! (I have 4 kids ages 1-8 years old who are all home with me. And we move every couple of years, often to different countries.)

    But I agree, "teacher" sounds funny and "homemaker" is more of a bubbe in my mind. Mother describes it best, but mostly to people who know what it means. I think "mother" doesn't sum it up well unless you've lived it yourself!