I just came back from an appointment with the Brazilian Consulate where I had to fill out a form with the yet again field 'Occupation'. I never understood this field and still wonder if all these forms we fill out for different purposes - not even related to what we do - add up to some national/global research to access what people do with their lives. I will assume they have a practical reason considering that the consulate official mockingly said to me: "In my 15 years or so with the Consulate is the second time I see someone write 'Mother' on this field." To which I replied trying to play it cool: "Oh really, I wonder why. I do this here (in the UK) all the time and no one thinks its odd". Not satisfied he yelled to the official seated next to him: "Is Mother an occupation in Brazil?!" and the other "Oh no, not accepted." He then told me he would have to correct my form stating 'Do Lar' which poorly translates to 'housewife' (minus the wife part).
I gasp. I am annoyed. Mind you I was there to claim years of contribution in hundreds of thousands of Reais when I was part of the institution called workforce. According to him I am not anymore. I gasp again and look to my almost 4 month-old baby next to me and think about my crazy morning to even make it to the Consulate in time (including getting my 6 year old ready to school, uniform, snacks, teeth brushed, the whole shebang). How is it possible that this is not work? These tasks simply occupy my day, and night!
So I think it is about time we redefine work. I think this may be a great way to end the debate about working moms and the so called stay at home moms. What a weak way to describe them both. First of all, they are both working. The difference being one of the occupations is seen and paid and the other is not. Second, the last thing I do nowadays is stay home. Seriously. But I think that is what the guy at the Consulate thinks I do. I am sure that is what most people think of the 'non-working moms': drink lemonade with feet up AT HOME. Well, not exactly.
I have tried many models. I have worked more than full days (or very long hours). Actually, back when I started and still lived with my parents I used to lie and say I was out with friends when in reality I was working past midnight. After I had my first kid some things had to change and many times I had to tell a VP or my former CMO I had to leave the meeting to pick my son up from day care (being the default parent and all). I saw promotions run past me, after all my night shift of 'work' was not dedicated to the company anymore. I also tried working for myself, making my own hours. This was also a tricky position to be in because, all of sudden, the hours you thought you managed were used to many other things (after all I had the flexible time, right?!). Then I took a job in a different city when I had to commute every Monday and come back Thursday. My non-working life was suddenly up for grabs then! Who could fill my shoes? How selfish of me to leave all of that non-work in house for three days and actually work outside of the house? But when my son asked me for the first time why I traveled so much I realized it was time for a change.
More than change. I realize it was time to embrace all of my non-work activities and transform them (or more like it SEE them) as work. Not in that old sense of work, of something that tires you, something that makes you don't want to leave your bed in the morning. But see them (and myself) as useful, as fulfilling as they are. Embrace. Accept. Be grateful. Content that the time and work I put into my family will pay off in the future.
And I don't have time to think about any other models these days. I may (or not) embrace a different model in the future. I know (or think for now) that it won't be any of the ones I have tried in the past. And I will be happy to speculate when time comes. I honestly believe every woman needs to find their balance (if there is even such thing as balance) and embrace the model they chose. Be happy about it. Find in it the positives that make up for the negatives. When you realize what you are and know the things you don't want or need you have the power. I feel very powerful nowadays.
And let's not spend another second questioning each other's occupation. I know I have to much work and very little time to do so.