Emily McIntyre explores the new way of working in today’s world.
Indefinable ‘employment scenarios’ ‘what do you do’ is changing. ( added by editor)
When I was a kid, well-meaning teachers, relatives, and crooning adults asked me what I was going to be when I grew up. This was irregardless of the fact that I didn’t even know who I was yet, much less whether any of the obvious choices–ballerina, concert pianist, writer–would fit, or even end up being possible. And so I gave many different answers, each sincere, each ignorant.
I want to be a vet,” I explained, until a 6-month internship at a veterinary clinic showed me how very unfit I was for the job.
“I am going to be an illustrator!” I answered, buoyed by the success of winning second prize in a national art competition. But my first critique group proved me wrong.
“I want to travel, and write about it!” The reality of life, sucking and pulling on me, and the near impossibility of escaping it in my current state, quickly changed my mind.
The ironic thing is, a decade later, travel, jobs, and school under my belt, married to my soul-mate, expecting a baby, pursuing a freelance writing and harp career, I still don’t know how to answer that damning question: “And what do you do?”Because I don’t fit into any of the categories. I don’t work a desk job, clocking in and out and shuffling piles of paperwork. Nor do I teach at a university, as I had thought I might. I’m not a vet, a ballerina, a famous musician, a travel-writer, or a bank teller.
In fact, I’ve got so many jobs I don’t know how to categorize my time. I clean houses once a week with my mother-in-law, yet I’m not a cleaning lady. I also work as a barista once a week, pulling shots, making turkey sandwiches, and deflecting asinine customers, and yet I am not pursuing a career in coffee. I keep our house relatively clean, make (usually) healthy meals for myself and my darling husband, and occasionally throw a load of laundry into the washer. I view my freelance writing as a job; so many queries sent a week, so many pages by this date, so much research accomplished by Tuesday. I treat my harp teaching and performing career the same way: one day I’ll update my website, the next schedule interviews with new students.
Time spent with my loved ones is even more important than these tasks, and when my husband is home I clear my schedule without a twinge of regret. Fluttering kicks in my belly remind me that before long, another supreme passion will be added, perhaps will supplant, the others. Motherhood.
And all of these “careers” make it very difficult to answer that seemingly innocuous question asked at every party, every introduction, and every social function. “And what do you do?”
I suspect I am not alone in my confused reaction to this question. Homeschool moms in particular can find this difficult to answer. Most people would be happy to class you and dismiss you. The fact that you don’t have an outside job can seem, to those who are entrenched within the small world of business, to negate you as a person. To suggest that perhaps you couldn’t make it in the “big world”, that you don’t have the skills or the talents, or the charisma to succeed. It’s easier to see you that way.
Because the truth is that if you were somehow able to communicate exactly what it is you do, there would be no way to box you in. Simple questions with simple answers do not apply to you. You transcend the petty career barriers.
You are a teacher, a creator, a nurturer, a leader, a disciplinarian, a diplomat, a talented chef, a decorator, a lover, a dedicated friend, and your talents and strengths and abilities go far beyond descriptions.
As I grapple with my always-changing role in life, as I contemplate becoming a mother, I honor you indefinable ones, you homeschooling mothers.
You are a wonderful example of living a life without limits, an exquisite demonstration of productivity and creativity under the craziest circumstances. Those of us fortunate enough to have been raised by one of you will always praise you.
For all you do and are, thank you.
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Published in the Volume 29 Number 3, May-June 2012 issue of Home Education Magazine.