Tuesday, 1 June 2010

So, what do you do?

I often blog about home education and more frequently about the dilemmas of parenting, staying at home with kids, bringing up boys, and maintaining some semblance of mental health and wellbeing. And of course about the chaos that any of the aforementioned subjects brings to my life.

But, today I was thinking about being a proper grown-up and what you do when you go to proper grown-up places. You know, like work meals and proper events that you can't avoid and where you get introduced to proper grown-up people.

Over the years I've observed these proper grown-up people at proper grown-up events and have noticed that the conversation mostly follows the same polite pattern (unless of course everyone is hideously drunk, in which case it wouldn't count as a proper grown-up event and my conclusions wouldn't apply).

One of the things I've noticed is that the first thing these proper grown-ups say after 'Hi' or 'Hello' or 'Nice to meet you' or 'I've heard so much about you' (very scary phrase)...the first thing they always say after these polite niceties is 'So, what do you do?'


So, what do you do?

This is the phrase to strike terror into every right-minded-stay-at-home-not-employed-as-anything-worthy-of-a-mention-and-certainly-nothing-with-a-salary-oh-god-why-did-you-have-to-ask-THAT-question-mother.

I never used to have a problem with this phrase. In the days when I was a student I could talk about my degree (or just buy the person questioning me more beer until they stopped asking and started talking about themselves...for hours) and in my grown-up working days bc (before children) just being in paid employment - as long as it wasn't in burger king or other fast food depot - counted as a valid passport into the world of grown-ups. The 'Oh I work for...' or 'Oh, I'm a ...' deserved the response 'Oh that must be interesting'. It never was (interesting), but at least you could fake it and in most cases, were expected to.

But now. Well.

So, what do you do?

Talking about home education is fine in certain circles. But, having to explain the whole
'No I'm not a teacher',
'Yes it's legal',
'No, he's only 8 so let's not worry about GCSE exams yet',
'Actually spending time with your kids is not as horrendous as it sounds',
'No I don't get inspected',
'No we're not weirdos',
'No I don't need permission to do it',
'No I'm not religious',
'Yes my children do speak to other children and are perfectly able to socialise',
'No I don't TEACH my children',
'No they are not missing out, well not on the best bits of life',
'Yes I'm sure they will be perfectly able to compete in the tough world of work without spending 14 years of their life being bullied and belittled, even though you swear it didn't do you any harm'

can get a tad wearing after a while, especially if the questions are being fired at you while you're trying to slide unnoticed through the grown-up people on the way to the toilets where you fully intended to wipe off the baby sick/playdough/3-day-old cereal/red felt-tip/warhammer paint from your one-and-only grown up item of clothing before anyone noticed.

And of course talking about home education is the perfect way to attract all those 'My little Jonny is doing SO well at school and just LOVES it, he REALLY does, in fact he was reading Shakespeare at the age of 18 months, so what do your children do?' grown-up people. GRaaAAGHH!

Saying 'I'm a mother' doesn't cut it either. I speak from experience. The usual comment (almost always from those who don't have children and don't ever want to come into contact with them) is 'Oh that must be almost a full-time job'/'Oh that must be a rewarding job' [at which point I want to smack the patronising pillocks in the face and prove how un-grown-up I am]. In the US you can get away with putting 'Mom' and 'rewarding' in the same sentence as long as somewhere in between is tearful poetic content. In England, the land of stiff-upper-lips, well, maybe it's just me, but I'm not using Mum and the 'r' (or the 'j') word in the same sentence until somebody starts paying me what I deserve as a parent. And trust me, they can't afford it.


what I really want to know dear blog readers


What do you do?


shell said...

You've had me in hysterics again
:0). We should all have a card printed which has those HE answers on!!

Firstly, I'm a Mum, but I also sell my own handmade items (mainly sewn).

Carol said...

Sorry....I'm still working on a strategy!

At the moment I seem to be making lots of excuses as to why my intelligent, capable 16 year old is only doing 2 IGCSE's. Why do I bother? Nobody gets it. Why do I feel the need to make excuses?

Big mamma frog said...

Perhaps it's because your intelligent, capable 16 yr old has far more interesting things to do in life than study for IGCSEs!

When ds1 gets to that age it looks like I'll just have to hide him. Much as I'm willing him with every fibre of my body to become super-literate and a keen academic,I might just have to settle for him being able to tie his own shoelaces and get over his hairdresser phobia {g}

globeonmytable said...

I say I'm 'at home' if I don't want a home ed conversation.

I say I'm home educating if I want a job title, but that leads on to PR about home ed and I'm not always in the mood for defending my most alternative decision yet.

Elizabeth said...

2 questions- When you were a paid employee--how did you rate stay-at-home-moms? And when you were employed--how many of your friends were full time moms?

MadameSmokinGun said...

I happily declare with all honesty that I do bollocks all. Educating-my-children-wise that is. And that usually shuts them up. That and salmon vol-au-vent shoved up their front lady bottoms (men included - formidable vol-au-vent shoving is quite effective).

Big mamma frog said...

when I was a full-time paid employee I rated stay-at-home mums very poorly, even when I became a mum and was working full-time. But then I rated motherhood quite poorly and 'children' were never mentioned in the workplace, even by mothers.

Thinking about it, I'm one of those people who hate it when people bring their new babies to the office to show them off. Ewewk! Actually tbh I don't really like children...but I've got used to mine and learnt to be polite about other people's lol.

If my kids chose to go to school and it became financially viable then I would jump at the chance to get back in the workplace, or even do some voluntar work!

When I was employed noone in my office was a mum. For some time I was the only one who had kids and worked fulltime. Of course now, where we live, I am one of the very few SAHMs. It seems that the government funding of nursery care and house prices have encouraged most mothers back into the workplace :(