Sunday, 12 January 2014

Nothing, just, only

Yes, another 2013 collage. There are plenty more that I'll be adding to accompany posts (me and PicMonkey are fast becoming the best of friends), but it seems to illustrate quite well the whole philosophy behind this one.

Recently I wrote a post about us going for a walk around Dunham, and how I bumped into an old colleague of mine. After exchanging pleasantries (and a few do-you-remembers), he asked me what I was up to at the moment.

My answer: 'Nothing'. I forlornly added that I was 'just' taking care of my 16 month old. 

I was so annoyed at myself afterwards. Why do I do this? Minimise, underplay, trivialise? Because in actual fact I'm not doing 'nothing'. Far from it. I'm caring for a toddler (a full-time and demanding job in itself). I volunteer each week by working in a shop where I deal with merchandise and displays and customers. I write a blog. I write for other blogs and websites. I take care of all the domestic stuff: food budgeting and shopping, cleaning, washing, ironing, cooking.

So in actual fact I'm a mother, a partner, a sister, a friend, a daughter, granddaughter, blogger, colleague. I make stuff. And I make stuff happen.

It reminded me of when I attended a training course a couple of years ago (touch typing - not the most inspiring of things, but bear with me). We all introduced ourselves. I said I was just an administrator. The tutor pulled me up immediately. 'You're not just an administrator, dear' she said. 'You're an administrator and I'd imagine you're a very good one.' She was right. OK, so I was bad at touch typing but my heart wasn't in it and neither was my brain. And that's not putting myself down. In fact it was a smart move: a nice big chunk of time away from the office and the yearly CPD (Continuing Professional Development - how I hated that stuff) box ticked all in one go.

I've read lots of different articles, and listened to several items on the radio, about women being self-deprecating. Generally, men are good at telling people what their achievements are and what they're good at. Women do the opposite. Not each and every one, but it happens a lot. Particularly in the workplace.

It was a good lesson to learn so early in the New Year - that there's nothing arrogant or boasting about saying what you do. It's not bragging or blowing your own trumpet, it's telling the truth. Because being a mum is quite honestly the hardest - but most rewarding - job I've ever done. Multi-tasking, managing my time, keeping my cool, planning ahead. All that with bells on. And I'm proud of that.

I'd be pretty annoyed if someone, on my behalf, answered the question 'What do you do?' with, 'Oh, she does nothing'. In fact I'd be furious. So what makes it OK for me to do it?

So no more 'nothing', 'just' or 'only'. Time for a re-think: there's nothing wrong with saying what you do. It more than stands up to what everyone else does.

Just one of the changes I'm making this New Year...


  1. A male friend of mine who has retired early points out how, in most social situations, we are defined by what we do, ie what salaried job we have. And he says you can see people's attitude to you change if you say you don't work. So he has developed a script for himself outlining all the things he's getting up to, which he can just trot out when asked, without really thinking about it. You could take all the positive things you've listed in this post and develop your own script so that you can just use it automatically when people ask. If you didn't have to try and think on the spot, you may find it easier to describe the fabulous life you are leading - and you are leading a fabulous life.

  2. Hello - thank you for your comment! And nice to read that this happens to lots of us - retired, male, female... I find people often judge others by cars, wealth, possessions and so on too.
    That's a good idea - to be ready to list things confidently just as you would if you were explaining what your salaried job was.
    I suppose my life is pretty good when I count my (many) blessings - it's all down to perception, isn't it? Personally, the simpler life is, the better.
    Thanks again :)

  3. I get this a lot too, add to the no paid job the fact that I'm childfree and the "so what do you do all day" factor is multiplied! Dan always told me off when I said "just" a housewife so now I don't and offer no explanation, it's nothing to do with anyone else after all. I was judged recently, as I mentioned, by someone I'd just met but never mind, I didn't like her anyway!

    1. Hmm, I suspect a lot of it is envy. People either want to work doing something they love (and not many actually get to do that) or be at home. Sadly the latter's not seen as an acceptable choice any more.
      As for being judged... some people are best avoided, aren't they?
      And good for you for not explaining yourself to people. It's something I'm working on...

  4. One of my research projects concerns gender and how women portray themselves. It's interesting how we can almost belittle what we do with 'only' and 'just' for example. I have to agree with you on the CPD front too...I'm goal setting for the year and having review with my two (opposing not singing form the same hymn sheet managers....that would be good for a good blog post) in a couple of weeks...I must remember not to dismiss my efforts!!!

    1. Oh, good luck! I was always good at listing my achievements on paper but not when explaining them to management...
      I always thought I could suggest circus skills or sailing as CPD choices and my manager would have signed them off just to get the whole thing out of the way for another year. I really don't miss the annual scramble to find a bearable course to attend!
      I hope you do yourself justice and don't underplay your achievements x

  5. This post has really resonated with me. I had tea with a really good friend of mine between Xmas and New Year. She was on a flying visit from New Zealand via Germany.....Anyway she asked me what I was up to, and I batted her question away. Then later she asked me again, and I just shrugged my shoulders. In my head there was nothing.

    So no more minimising. I do bloody loads!! Three boys and a husband that works away......I'm a miracle worker!!

    Leanne xx

  6. Wow! I often wonder how people with more than one cope... and with your husband working away you are indeed a miracle worker. Most afternoons I'm counting down the minutes until Jay gets home from work. I think I'm spoilt though!

    You really have to look after children to appreciate how much we parents do. If everyone understood, your CV would only need one word: Parent. It'd guarantee you an interview at the very least!

    S x

  7. Yay, go you! I was cheering you on throughout this post. I remember dreading the "what do you do" question at weddings. Time and age give you confidence and now I stare people down. :-)

    I have to say the way people respond to your choice to be at home says a lot about them, rather than you. I still wobble about how "feminist" it is to be a stay at home mum, but then since it's my choice to do so, and feminism is all about choices, I resolve it that way. Always love stopping by here - I wish I'd known you five six years ago when my eldest was a toddler - I didn't know any SAHMs and blogging would've been such a great way to connect. x

  8. I love the thought of staring people down! Must practice that in the mirror...

    I also often wonder about feminism or how it's been interpreted. I don't think that the reality of it, for many women, is particularly liberating: working, bringing up children, running a home, taking care of other family members. There's nothing freeing about trying to be Superwoman and, in effect, working the equivalent of two full-time jobs.

    I love your comment and it brightened up my morning as soon as I read it. I really appreciate people visiting and offering their views and support. And I agree, the whole blogging thing is a great way to connect. I've found so many like-minded people through it with similar experiences.

    Here's to growing, learning and being that much more assertive when it comes to standing up for ourselves x

  9. Just discovered your blog and really like this post. I became a stay-at-home mom when my babe was born 15 months ago. I never had a passion for a career or a profession - my dream was to not work and stay at home. So I cook, clean, walk the dogs, play with the little babe, have started a blog, learned to sew, started knitting again, and just feel darn good about life right now.

    1. First of all - Hello! So exciting to be in touch with someone from the US...
      Next - good for you! I don't know what the general consensus is over there, but here there seems to be a general attitude where, if you choose not to go out to work during your child's formative years, you're open to criticism from all quarters.
      Despite going to university and graduating, I've never been particularly career-minded. The only difference this year is that I'm not making any apologies for that!
      Great to hear from you, and Happy 2014.
      Sarah x

  10. That's such a positive change. I've retired (mostly!) from my job and whilst it would be easy to tell people I now do nothing I decided that, whenever I was asked what I did, I'd reply 'Whatever I want'.

    1. Oh, that sounds good! And no doubt it makes people just a teeny bit envious of you!

      So interesting how intolerant some people are when it comes to other's choices and circumstances, isn't it? Or at the very least ignorant. I say, be proud of what you do and don't make any apologies for it :)


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