So, What Do You Do?

It’s a question we get asked frequently when we meet new people, I’ve probably been asked it several times in my life and didn’t think much about it, but since becoming the primary at-home* care taker the question, and my answers, seem to have a bigger impact on me then before.

It took me a while, but I usually have the confidence to answer with “I take care of my kids”, without immediately following or preceding it with “I’m a freelance writer and web-designer” or some other long winded attempt to prove my productivity or contributions to society.  I don’t think this is unique to at home Dad’s, but I think guys who stay with the kids do experience unique pressures, or at least I feel pressure from certain gender roles and expectations (I might write more on this later).

The reason I’m bringing this up now, I think, is that I want to state publicly that I want my primary answer to continue to be centered around my kids. We as a family have recently negotiated some set aside dedicated time for me to pursue projects, opportunities to set up meetings and do somethings outside of nap times and late nights. This wasn’t a financial decision, nor an “Ariah needs to get out and do something with his life” sorta of move, rather just a loving supportive spouse encouraging me to pursue things I’m passionate about. And as excited as I am about taking a bit of time each week to pursue these things, I don’t want it to get in the way of being dad.

This is sort of a rambling post, for which I apologize. It’s interesting that I find it hard to write about family and parenting stuff. That’s the important stuff, the truly important stuff to me, and I find it the most difficult to share in public spaces like a blog. I can write with passion about social issues and injustices, but sharing my lessons in parenting seems so difficult at times.

I’ll end it here. All I really wanted to say is that the primary thing I “do” is that I’m a dad. Everything else is secondary. And I’m proud of that.

*It has to be said that 1) my wife is most definitely a “primary” care taker as well, taking care of our kids and taking care of people’s health and well being as a nurse practitioner day in and out [love you, babe] and 2) we aren’t really “at-home” much if we can help it, but “primary at-home-or-the-park-library-pool-garden-bike ride-beach-porch-grocery store-community event-neighbors care taker” was too long.

18 thoughts on “So, What Do You Do?”

  1. Ariah,
    That is interesting when i try to explain to people what I do professionally I always take a deep breath and launch a bit because it is a bit of an explanation. I appreciate your willingness and intention to be so open and honest about your life and the journey through it.

  2. Thanks for the honesty Ariah. Time with our kids is by far one of the most amazing things we get to do as Dads. I love having summers off as a teacher. I continually find myself fighting off little projects, or working on stuff for school, in order to just BE, mentally and physically, with the girls. I can hang out with them, but be somewhere else mentally. We have had some very rich moments this summer. Savor those moments that you get to have. They are some of the finest moments of life.

  3. I appreciate your perspective as the "primary caretaker," as, when we have kids in the next year or two, it will probably be my husband who does the stay-at-home thing with them. We're both a little apprehensive of the stigma that seems to be attached to the SAHD arrangement, but it's what makes the most sense for us, so we'll probably be going against the flow and giving it a try. Glad to see it works for someone else!

  4. I think it is great to explore this for yourself and family, as well as for our society/mainstream culture. What is the response when a woman says she stays at home, or is the primary caretaker of the kids?
    Smiles, "that is sooo wonderful…" things like that. Confusion and at times, aversion, when a man says it. Or at extremes, "You require church discipline…" Or when a woman works, "I'm sorry….that must be hard…." etc.

  5. Ariah, Tanden and I had a long conversation about this very thing just last night. As a mother of young children — I often don't ever even get asked the question. I can be sitting right next to my husband, and they will ask him, "what do you do?" but it often never occurs to people to ask me. Honestly, it makes me feel furious and invisible….. I am proud of my role as a mother and there is no other way I want to spend my time right now, but it is not all of who I am.

  6. Furthermore, I think the "what do you do?" question smacks of wealthy, white male privilege. It is an easy, socially acceptable (though probably usually unconscious) way of sizing up a person's wealth, status, and education. Many people would probably defend their motives for asking by saying that finding out what a person does for a living tells them alot about the person, like what matters to them and interests them. But even then, the question assumes that the person being asked had the luxury of hand-picking what they'd like to do to earn the money for their rent and groceries. Not everyone has the luxury of doing so. Most people just take whatever job they can get, and it says little to nothing about what their interests are.

    Why can't we ask people what their favorite books are? Or how they'd love to spend a day off?

  7. John, it's funny, I didn't get the long story of your work when you guys were over for dinner, so I've slowly learned more via your online presence.

  8. joann, definitely encourage the at home dad. If it makes sense for your family then it makes sense, don't let society and stigma get in the way

  9. Yeah, it's pretty crazy how ingrained these gender roles are. What's interesting too is what it says about what we really think about raising kids.

  10. I have found in a lot of settings that many people (me included sometimes) do not know how to have a conversation without talking about "work" or "what you do for a living." I find it easier often to talk about job related things, how business is going and the like, then to talk about like/dislikes, hobbies, things that people are passionate about, the world, and life in general. I can think of a thousand events I have attended where the primary topic of conversation is related to employment.

    I think that like talking about the weather, often talking about work is the only kind of small talk people know how to do.

  11. I think your right. At times work discussion can be a really interesting connecting point, but often times it's as arbitrary as talking about the weather. I think since it takes up so much of our life though, many people feel the need for it to be a worthwhile discussion topic.

  12. At the same time, I like to get to know people by seeing what their daily life is like. But I like Erin's suggestions of hobbies and such too. I am still trying to find a way to say, "So what is a typical day in your life like?" without making it sound like "What is your way of paying the bills?"

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