What do you do?

It is cocktail party and open house season. You know... parties where you need to chit-chat nicely with people you barely know. And inevitably people ask, "So. What do you do?"

When I first quit my job (as an "SGML implementation and training strategy consultant") I hated the look on people's faces when I answered, 'I stay home with my son.' That was a conversation killer. People would immediately look for someone else to talk to. Someone interesting. So I learned to stretch the truth...

I started a designing and producing children's sweaters... not very many... but enough that I could claim to be a "children's knitwear designer." After I developed an allergy to wool and I spent more time teaching and less time knitting so I was a "fiber artist and teacher." Then we moved to North Carolina and I was legitimately a "multimedia instructional designer."

When we moved to Georgia I set up a studio and declared myself a "multi-media fiber artist." Then I took on homeschooling Ben. And then I got sick. And I haven't stepped foot in my studio to work on a project in 12 months. 12 months. My studio looks more like a storage space than a workspace. I don't even HAVE a project in the works...

So how will I answer that question? I can't really call myself an artist if I have produced nothing in 12 months... and stay-at-home-mom-who-homeschools gets looks of concern and sympathy. Like I have a rare and possibly contagious disease. Or I am insane. The look is followed by a long sigh and "Oh. I don't know how you could do that. I couldn't possibly do that." And then they look for someone else to talk to.

I need to put my Comparative Literature degree to good use. Come up with a nice, impressive sounding description of what I do... maybe I will tell people "I develop materials that motivate and challenge dyslexic learners."


Anonymous said...

sounds to me like you syou are still an instructional designer


Tina in CT said...

I like your last description.

You could say that you are developing a future leader of the free world.

MoscowMom said...

I know what you mean!!!! Funny you mention our Comp Lit degrees... Anasuya found me today on Facebook! She's a television journalist in Thailand, using her COLT degree to interpret multiple sources, then present them all as a teacher -- to thousands of viewers... Hmm. Not that that makes you feel any better... I KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN. Even saying "I teach high school English" isn't exactly exciting cocktail fodder...!

Then again, K, will you guys be going to any parties this year? Isn't Ian gone? And you're still not completely well... I say, take it easy, drinks lots of tea and cocoa, make gluten-free cookies with the kids and just RELAX.

When I told Anasuya what you are up to these days, SHE was really impressed. So there.

Tina in CT said...

I agree with Tami. You are doing such an important job and shaping a future leader.

Tina in CT said...

P.S. Screw the cocktail party chatter!

Anonymous said...

I guess it is a woman fathe - you just can not win this game. So ignore it, say you do "just nothing" for pleasure and profit.
Some 28 years ago when I started to work here in US, I had 2 types of questions, both unfriendly:
You do work? What happened (or more directly - what is wrong) with your husband? Mostly from women
"Those carrier women"... make your own unpleasant ending (destroying children s life, breaking up the nature and foundation of our society, etc).Mostly from men.
We gave up our personal secretaries too to take care of our children!!!!!!!!!!!! (From women staying home).I never had personal secretary, it is not common in research, so not a good conversation starter either.
Nothing was wrong with my husband, and I had no interest of building any carrier. I just needed money and had good education which gave me an access to research work I liked.
It was hardly a good conversation starter, especially as far as I was concerned.

Katya said...

I'm actually going on Friday (assuming I don't get sick and Ian does come home like he is supposed to). Just got a really cool dress at the local thrift shop...
Although I am not dreading that party too much... most of the people in Ian's office are really nice.

Anonymous said...

enjoy it.
Just do not cut anybodys meat on their plates, stick to appetizers, avoid sit-down dinner situations.