I’m struggling. I’m struggling with identifying my purpose, my role, my identity at this stage of my life. I suppose I am at mid-life-crisis age, but that’s not what this feels like. Becoming a purple-haired, bungee-jumping, motorcycle mama isn’t what I need.
I am seeking a title.
My kids are grown, how do I answer “What do you do?”
I used to proudly proclaim to be a wife, a mother, and a teacher. I am still a wife. Technically, I am still a mother, but my children are grown and mostly independent. But I want a title that carries a sense of accomplishment; a response to the question, “So, what do you do?”
I battle a chronic disease that renders me “Disabled” and I’m unable to work outside the home. I’m not ashamed of this, but I don’t want that to be all there is to me, nor the topic always discussed.
Due to this illness, I had to retire from being an elementary school teacher, a career I loved. When I was teaching, I could go on and on about my title of “Teacher.” However, it is obvious that I did not reach normal retirement age before gaining “Retired Teacher” status. I sometimes feel awkward using that phrase as an answer to what I do in life.
After twenty years in the business, I could say, “I am a retired stay-at-home mom.” Is that even a thing? Do I get a plaque?
The title stay-at-home wife seems underwhelming
I could say that I am now a “Stay-at-Home Wife,” but that seems underwhelming. I am also an overachieving “Dog-mom,” but that, too, is a bit unimpressive. Yes, I would qualify as an “Empty Nester,” but that only explains that I have grown children, not what I do with my time now.
What job title can I give myself in this stage of my life?
Something that encompasses my skills, education, and natural abilities. A title that gives me self-worth. A short phrase that piques interest, starts a conversation, and makes me feel good about myself.
I googled everything I could think of to discover a word, a classification, that would explain who and what I am in this stage of life. I excitedly read other articles on this subject, anxious to get to the end and discover the “word” I was looking for, only to find the author aboard the same boat I was in.
No answers. No magic word. There’s an acronym called NEET, which stands for Not Employed, in Education or Training. However, it refers more to a younger crowd and has somewhat of a negative connotation. Besides, someone might get confused if I answered the question, “So, what do you do?” with “I’m NEET!”
What do you call someone who stays at home and doesn’t have a job?
I began my quest by asking my husband, “What do you call someone who stays home and doesn’t have a job?”
He answered, “Unemployed.” This was true, but not the word I was hoping for.
I needed more. Something real. What do you call an over-the-hill woman who spent her life raising kids and working as a teacher but now finds herself at home?
Why isn’t there a word to describe this? Think about all of those people who would use that word as a goal. There would be parties to celebrate earning this title. Business could make money by designing cards, banners, t-shirts, and knick-knacks.
“So, what do you do?”
“I’m a ______!” A word that would describe this stage of life but also makes one feel proud. A word that would also encompass all of the duties for which I am responsible. A description of how I spend my time in a productive way. Something that shows that I am still busy and relied upon.
After days of journaling and soul-searching on this topic, I went back to my husband.
Poor guy. There he was, sitting on the patio, enjoying nature, and I plopped down in front of him with deep, what’s-my-purpose-in-life questions.
Why aren’t there more words that mean active, productive and worthwhile?
I blurt, “How do people find comfort with having the title of ‘Retired’ or ‘Empty Nester?’ Don’t they want more than that? And I’m not suggesting they find a later-in-life career. I don’t want that either. I just want to know why there aren’t other words to choose from that signify still being active, productive, and worthwhile.”
My husband, who happens to be a counselor, responded with, “People have to find comfort that they are more than their jobs. Stating what they once did is merely a conversation starter. A way for a stranger to quickly understand their background. But there is more to a person than just an occupation.”
This clicked with me. I am more than an occupation. I am more than a disabled, retired, empty-nesting, stay-at-home wife. I am more than one word. I am actually several words. I am a friend, a sister, and a daughter. I am the personal servant to an overly spoiled Shih Tzu. Sometimes, I am a writer.
There was no single word to describe me
It was starting to make sense to me why I couldn’t find only one English word to describe what I am or what I do. This stirred up my creativity and I began to have a little fun.
I could obviously use words to describe my daily tasks. “Janitor,” “Cook,” and “Laundress.” I’m a “Caregiver.” I shop for our essentials. How does the title of “Forager” sound?
I could be sweet and call myself a “Smile Maker.” I could be sassy and call myself the “Queen of my Castle.”
The Internet is already flooded with other retired domestic engineers working as “Influencers,” but I influence my family so maybe that title still counts.
I have thought of phrases that will provide and appropriate answer to “So, what do you do?”:
It depends on the day.
I’m a Jill of all trades.
That’s to be determined.
I’m a work in progress.
Depending on the situation, I had fun creating another job title I could use.
“So, what do you do?”
“Oh me? I’m the only employee at a temp agency.”
When I’m given a quizzical look, I will explain, “This means that I have the flexibility to fill any job or duty requested of me on any given day. It’s exciting. I never know what the day will bring. I can be a taxi driver, accountant, event planner, personal chef, nurse, receptionist, counselor, designer, travel agent, social media manager, fitness trainer, and scheduler.”
There is more to me than a career title
Once I stopped searching for only one word to describe myself, the pressure dissipated. I have many titles and there’s more to me than a career title.
Maybe a word will be created someday that will describe an over-the-hill yet vibrant, active lady who loves her family and friends, has many responsibilities and talents, and who deserves to be admired.
But until then, I will work on finding peace with who I am at this stage of life, regardless of what it’s called.
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