Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What Do You Do When Asked What Do You Do?

“And what do you do?”  Oh, how I loathe this dreaded question.
Yesterday I attended a fundraiser with my friend Lori, an emergency medicine physician.  When asked this question she could literally answer with “I save lives and teach other people to save lives.  It’s kinda my thing…you know, helping people cheat death and all.”  I, on the other hand, could honestly answer this question with “I spend a lot of time removing poop from my bathtub and going to Target.”  How is a stay at home mom supposed to answer this question?

I feel like my response to this question must somehow prove that I am a contributing member of society.  It must prove that I believe that in equality for women and that I am not a Stepford wife.  It must prove that I have an identity outside of being a mother and a wife.  It is for this reason that I always have to add that I am a physician assistant although I am working part-time now, even though the reality is that I haven’t worked in a few months.  I must stop myself before going into a diatribe of why I am not working.  “I haven’t worked in a while because my husband is an ER physician and it has been too hard to balance our schedule around our children and since my father-in-law went back to work it has been more difficult to arrange for child care….I am educated….I have a master’s degree….”

It would be even more awkward to explain to a stranger over cocktails and hors d’oeuvres,  “I am a physician assistant but haven’t worked for a while and I really want to be a writer, but a I can’t really call myself that because my only claim to being a writer is having a blog that only a handful of people read and I don’t get paid to do it.”

Maybe “what do you do?” is just a polite conversation starter but it always feels like it is really a judgment of your intellect, your character, and your value.  As a stay at home mom it is hard to answer this question in a single sentence while still staying true to who you really are, what you believe in, and what you are capable of.

Maybe next time I’m asked this question I will answer it like this, “I am a wife, a mother, and I used to be employed as a physician assistant.  But I am so much more.  I am a fellow human being.  I am just as important as you.  I have chosen the life that I lead deliberately.  I don’t get paid for what I do.  I am pursuing a dream and I may never get paid for what I do, but at the end of my life I can look back and know that I tried.  What do you do?”



  1. I usually just go with "I'm not at liberty to say"

    1. Ooooh, that's good. I may have to use that one sometime. : )

  2. Hi Sabine!

    I'm starting a network for Oklahoma Women Bloggers. We'd love to have you be a part. If you are interested, please email me at

    Happy Blogging!