Once I get past the name, how do I identify myself? I’m an at-home Mom, only the kids are grown up and gone? I’m a writer, and I published a book and a bunch of articles years ago? I used to substitute at our local school district? People don’t want to know what I used to do, they want to know what I’m doing now. And I just don’t know how to explain myself anymore.
As an at-home mom, I was used to awkward introductions when I told people I didn’t work full-time outside the home. Working mothers and at-home mothers usually formed to two distinct groups and were often quick to put each other down. Even the term “working mother” could cause a problem: at-home moms knew they were working, just not getting paid for it. Since I did part-time work when my kids were little, I felt as if I had a foot in each camp, which mostly meant not fitting in with either side.
Now I’m a middle-aged woman who is struggling to find her identity, and I just plain dread introductions. Especially the part where I’m asked, “And what do you do?” The simple answer is, “I don’t have a job, but I volunteer at the Humane Society.” But that makes it sound as if I have no life beyond the dogs, especially to people who aren’t animal lovers. Yet no one wants to hear a long, boring list of what I do: routine house and yard work, home-improvement projects (I am good with a paint brush, hammer and nails) caring for my elderly mother, writing, editing, researching publishing options, helping my kids with their pets and houses……blah, blah, blah. So I tend to just keep quiet.
I think the problem is that I don’t really know how I identify myself, so it’s impossible to sum up my current life for anyone else. If I were honest, I would say I’m in transition right now, and I don’t know what the outcome is going to be. Maybe I’ll publish another book, and then I can say, “I’m an author.” Or maybe I’ll quit walking dogs (and picking up their poop) for free and just get a job at the Humane Society already. I could even launch a new business. The truth is, I don’t know where this road is leading me. But until I figure it out, it might be easiest to just stop meeting new people.