This afternoon I (finally) received Niamh’s birth certificate in the mail. I am completely bewildered by why it is necessary to list parents’ occupations on a birth certificate. When I filled out the form, I intentionally left the occupation field blank for myself, because a) I don’t know why they need to know, and b) for some reason I’ve never quite relaxed into the ‘stay-at-home-mother’ label.
Tonight was Census night in Australia. Since completing the census form, I’m left feeling like I come off as a right lazy sod. No, I am not employed. No, not even part-time. No, I am not actively seeking work. No, I do not do volunteer work. Yes, in the last week I did some house and gardening duties, but not “30 hours or more”.
Where are all the questions about how many hours I spent settling a crying baby, or how many hours I spent dressing/undressing/changing uncooperative small children, or how many hours I spent waiting in doctors’ surgeries with sick children, or how many hours I spent getting up during the nights to breastfeed a baby/ reassure a distraught child after he woke from bad dreams, or how many hours I spent inventing fascinating things to do with paste-and-paper, or how many hours I spent making faces out of playdough, or how many hours I spent reading Dr Seuss books? Nowhere, that’s where. I got to tick a box which said “Yes, I spent time caring for my own child” (no, not even children), which surely does not differentiate me from millions of ‘working‘ parents who would also answer ‘yes’ to that question.
Excuse me while I feel like a non-entity for a while.
Maybe I’d feel better if the census had been next week, when I could answer could answer ‘yes’ to the part-time employment question and all of the questions which go along with that (I start marking student assignments this Friday, yeehah). But it still wouldn’t validate the way I currently spend my waking hours. This little blip of paid employment will pass, and I’ll be ‘just’ a stay at home mother again.
I fear I’ll be waiting a long time for the kind of validation I’m missing. And that’s why I’m not quite relaxed about the ‘SAHM’ label.
(By the way, I know I’m doing a valuable and important job, and I know that you know that. I’m not trying to solicit validation from you, merely wondering why Society at large seems to have little respect for stay-at-home parents. It’s simply that I find it challenging to shut out the voice of Society when I think about my ‘job’.)
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to start the night-shift!