20 May 2009

Strange encounters of the well-meaning kind

My life is a waste land of unrealized expectations and unfulfilled potential.

“My nerves are bad tonight. Yes, bad. Stay with me.
“Speak to me. Why do you never speak. Speak.
“What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?
“I never know what you are thinking. Think.”

Ha ha! Only kidding, of course. I never really had that much potential. :P Must I admit that a few years ago there was a time, or at least there were days, when I could have uttered that sentiment in all seriousness—at least as much seriousness as melodramatic flair can convey?

But really, folks. When I chance upon acquaintances of yesteryear who learn that I’m “at home,” I’m amazed at how hard they work to ascribe to my life some scrap of significance that is quantifiable or comprehensible to them. They’d really like some evidence, for their own sakes as much as for mine, that my (dubious) potential and (ridiculously prolonged) education isn’t being squandered on story hour and finger painting.

The script for these encounters goes something like this:

Well-meaning Person or Persons (WMP): So I understand that you’re living pretty far from “civilization,” ha ha.

Me: Yes, ha ha, I suppose you could say that. Lots of great things about small town life, though!

WMP: So isn’t it wonderful how the internet is opening all sorts of possibilities for mothers to work from home?

Me: Mmm-hmm, yes, it certainly is.

WMP: So what are you working on?

Me: Me? Oh, I’m not working on anything really. Unless you count chasing these kids, ha ha.

[more laughter ensues; generally good-natured on my part, and uneasy on theirs]

I really shouldn’t be so surprised by these efforts to find some sort of “meaningful activity” in my life. Like a high school senior who suddenly realizes the need to repackage herself because colleges won’t be impressed with her extracurricular resume, I used to be prone to a sort of self-conscious glossing over exactly what I was doing with my life here at home. You know how it is: on the all-important transcript, hanging out with friends makes one a “social organizer;” dog sitting for the neighbor becomes “runs pet-care business,” etc.

But it's glamorous!
Can't you see how @@@@@ glamorous it is already!?

Sometimes I still entertain myself by mentally listing the socially acceptable titles people are awarded when they’re paid to do for strangers’ kids what I do gratis for my own (you know the list as well as I do: pediatric researcher, early childhood educator, behavioral development specialist, etc.). Nowadays, though, this little exercise is more to have something mildly amusing to do with my brain while I read Skippyjon Jones and the Dinosaur Bones aloud for the fifth time than it is to assure myself or random passersby that this kid thing is but a temporary aberration in an otherwise brilliant career (and again I say: Ha! Ha ha!).

These blasts from the past, encounters that I used to find rather excruciating, can still be rather embarrassing—but I’m now usually embarrassed not for myself, but for those well-meaning persons who want so badly for me (and for them) to feel like I’m doing something “significant.” Those poor souls must be getting cricks in their necks from straining so hard to overlook the significance clamoring about my knees. Can’t anyone really remember what a workhorse is for, after all?

Undeniably exotic, she’s a real looker but is hotblooded and trends skittish. If you’re looking for a model you can trust with your children, check out her more temperate cousin:

Powerful and intelligent, spirited yet gentle. And check out those lines: she’s a classic beauty, amazingly versatile, turning her hoof successfully to most any task that’s asked of her.


Gauntlets said...

Yes. I love those conversations. Especially when I have them with my reflection.

We like Skippyjon Jones, too, because he eats mice and beans. :D

Rebekah said...

LOL, paragraph above image 2 sounds exactly like my NHS application.

I hate Skippyjon Jones, though. Books requiring character voices are an automatic veto here at you know where (House of Uncoolest Mom Ever).

L. R. Jensen said...

I have to admit, I followed the post until the Skippyjon Jones part. Then I just kept screaming in my head, "They like the book! They really like the book!" You guys were my test run with that. Now perhaps I'll have to buy some for my own children:)

Monique said...

Reb. Mary,


You have no idea how much I needed to hear this today. Thank you.

Have a great day and now I will too :-)

Karen said...

A couple of years ago, a tv news caster mentioned that most stay-at-home moms are now homeschooling. They homeschool to validate their choice of not having a career or other meaningful work.

Gauntlets said...

Karen: Yes. That also sounds about right. . .

Reb. Mary said...

LRJ, Skippyjon is indeed popular hereabouts. "I am...Chihuahua!"

Rebekah, the key is to save the character books for Dad to read. Then it's fun for everyone :D

Monique, :-)

Karen and Gauntlets, sigh.

lisa said...

Yeh..I fear I'm totally guilty of "reassuring" women I meet who are staying home that their career possibility awaits when the kids are out of the house. Funny how you fall into these things even after you've skewered your underlying assumptions about women's role as domestic workhorse.

Me: "Oh, so you are a deaconness?"

Them: "Well, yeh - but I'm obviously not using my degree right now."

Me: "Oh, really?" (Answering stupidly, as if I don't see the car seat on the ground by her husband and bulging stomach).

Them: "Yeh..." (rubbing belly)

Me: "Well, I figure being a Pastor's wife is enough work for me and who knows, maybe when the kids are out of the house..."

Funny though. My husband and I were talking about the kids being grown up and out of the house the other day and I realized how SAD I will be when that day comes...as much as I daydream about being a Grandma, I really like my job at home with the kids :)

Maybe next time I'll try this instead:

Them: "Yeh..." (rubbing belly)

Me: "Well, I'm really happy for you that you've been blessed with children and now you get to stay home with them. It's hard work - but it's the best job in the world."

And by best I mean, Hard - Challenging - Worth It :) even on the rough days.

lisa said...

PS - I'm totally using my degree. Kinda. Sometimes. :)