In all my years as a mostly full-time stay at home mom, I came to detest the question that would arise within minutes of meeting someone. "What do you do?". I was always amazed at how I'd feel compelled to say, "I stay home with my girls, but I used to be a teacher" OR "Right now I'm at home with my girls, but I'm actually a teacher" - as though being at home with three girls wasn't enough somehow and I had to qualify myself with more. As each daughter left home and began school full-time I detested the question more. At least there is something "noble" about being home with three little girls, but having only one at home part time while she's in kindergarten the rest of the time? There's something inherently shameful about that. (At least there was for me.)
This past year I was able to answer the "what do you do" question a little differently. I could say I was a Master's student and a substitute teacher. And all of a sudden I found my shame in my answer had decreased and my willingness to say what I did increased. I let that settle with me during the year, and as all good therapists in training do, I muddled it over and examined and re-examined it from all the angles.
Funny thing is, I've always been the champion of "your work doesn't define who you are" or "you are more than what you do". Yet here I was, and am, playing for the other team (in my cloudy, murky head). That role of playing for the other team has intensified all year as I knew I couldn't sub as a long-term solution to making an income. The more I knew this, the more I knew that I had to find something more permanent, reliable, and consistent. When I knew this, the fear rose up because I'd have to actually find something, or in reality, make someone find me.
And so here I sit. Midway through July, and knowing that by September, my goal is to be gainfully employed. I read ads and job descriptions and see if I could see myself in them. I know some would be perfect fits. I also know that for every perfect fit there is usually a "full time" descriptor at the bottom of the ad that I know my mind and my weaker parts won't let me do. There is the process of acceptance then. To have to accept your limitations and jobs pass you by because you know you'd crumble beneath the expectations and time constraints that wouldn't allow you the space to breathe and find your way.
But in the midst of all of the hard parts that shine their light onto all of my weak parts, there is still a glimmer of hope. What if I found a job that made me feel alive? What if I could work doing what I felt I was born for? What if I could do something that actually matched my skills and my master's studies? And in those thoughts lies the possibility that there might just be something for me after all. And it's then that I dare to dream a little and expect to not just be satisfied.
On the heels of dreaming, I'm creating my perfect job description.
My ideal job would:
-be half time
-allow me the chance to either bring my girls to school or pick them up at their regular time
- be relational
-build on and utilize the skills I've gained in my first year of my MMFT training
-provide me with therapeutic experience
-possibly integrate my education background with my therapeutic training (training, teaching, etc.)
-cross into areas like mental health, emotional wellness and care, sexuality education, parenting, etc.
That doesn't set the bar too high, does it? Or does it?
It might. But for now it's only July and I've still got time to dream a little. I will dream as I uncover my perceptions and expectations around why the answer to "what do you do?" means as much to me as to everyone else I meet.