what to say

For the last couple years, I have been a part time choir director for a local children’s choir. A few years prior, I was the music director at a church. Before kids, I taught choir full time at a public middle school. I have a bachelors and masters in vocal music education, so, given this background, my natural response when someone asks “what do you do?” has been, “I teach choir.”

From my teaching days… let it be known, I never was incredibly inspired when it came to a bulletin board. (But I did love repping my undergraduate alma mater from several states away.)

But something has been gnawing at me for a while now… my babies are small, I have the freedom (that I do not take for granted) to be able to stay home, and especially since my husband has a shift-jumping, work-heavy schedule, I love being able to have my calendar completely open.

(I also love opting to spend the day in pajama pants, napping when the baby naps, and sometimes taking a sip of wine at 4:00 pm, but that’s incredibly beside the point.)

I grew up motivated and intelligent. I knew I would find some measure of success in higher education. This is not a brag, but an explanation. I did well in school. I did well as a teacher. I loved knowing that my hard work was paying off, but as soon as John was born and it worked best for our family to stay home, I found new hard work to absolutely love — I also found confusion.

Shhhh, it’s cool. Mama doesn’t know what she’s doing, but she knows she likes it.

I had guilt for leaving behind the career I had just began, even though I had no desire to start it up again. “I stay home with this kid now, but I’m a choir teacher,” became my response to the many “what do you do” queries. As John got older, my response was occasionally, “oh I just stay at home with this guy,” and a shrug, a brush-off of the infinite parent responsibilities.

Part time choral opportunities arrived, and I thought I finally had an acceptable answer to the “what do you do.” I had an answer that proved I was smart, I was talented, I was so much more than a booger-wiper and kitchen-cleaner and laundry-folder. But I was distracted. I could never fall completely into the choral world, because I was thinking about playdates and snack foods.

IMPORTANT NOTE: this does not mean that all working moms fail at play dates and snacks. This does not mean that all working moms fail at their jobs. If you are a mom who works part or full time, in or out of the home, please know that we have different stories. I would not begin to presume our experiences are exactly the same.

So last week, I decided to stop the children’s choir. The mom I was when John was one month old would be so disappointed in me. “How will people know who you are?!” she would ask, totally rudely, before watching The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (which we were totally into while breastfeeding). I’m sure my answer to the “what do you do”s will occasionally be a shrug and an “I’m just a mom.” But I will smile, and the asker will see that I am content and proud to wear this constant and yet fleeting title.

And sometimes, if you ask me what I do, I might respond with “I clean up a lot of vomit. And my toddler loves to use his whale-shaped training urinal, but he’s crap with aim, so I also clean up a lot of pee.”

Hey, sometimes your work stories are boring, too.

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