Occupation: Blank

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!

12 responses to “Occupation: Blank

  1. Don’t like SAHM? Make up a new more fun “job title” :giggle: Household Administrator is always fun, Domestic Specialist… just to name a few. Being a SAHM is not an easy thing by a long shot. I did it for a week while my brother and his wife were out of the country and I was exhausted and looking forward to going back to work so I could relax. I can ignore work for a while and it won’t start drawing on the walls and trying to see if the cat will always land on its feet when being dropped from the second floor balcony. 😯

  2. Aww, don’t feel bad. The person who thought up the questions obviously has no clue about home life (being married to the job seems to be the be all and end all) or the joys, the highs and lows and the sheer joy of catching your children’s “firsts”.

    Enjoy and embrace being a stay at home mum, enjoy not having to to be in the rat race working with sometimes bad tempered, bitchy and downright rude people.

    Shout it from the rooftops – you work harder than most people with paid jobs and know that your family are your number one priority, not a deadline that no-one will remember this time next year.

  3. Preach it, sister! I am right there with you. I hate the term SAHM (though I find “homemaker” even worse), despite the fact that this is what I have been for the last 2+ years. And I had a very similar experience filling out the US census form last year sometime. It made me very uncomfortable, for precisely the reasons you specify. But what’s worse is that “Yes, I spent time caring for my own child” isn’t even asked on the US one. They don’t even care! All they know about me (because this is all they asked) is that not only have I not worked in more that 12 months, but I am capable of working and yet have not even looked for employment. Yeah, great ego boost there. Anyway, sorry to turn this into my own rant. Just wanted you to know you are not alone!

  4. I’m with Kali. You’re an administrator and a scheduling coordinator and a chef and a chauffeur (well, okay, not so much yet… ) and a medical assistant and maintenance chief and…. too many boxes!

    The whole census thing sucks in my opinion anyway. IF the point of it is to determine population by geographic parameters, which is what keeps getting pointed out to us in my area (we use the census to determine state funding for such-and-such projects), then okay I can deal with that, but then they don’t need to know employment and salary and hobbies and so on and so forth. And that’s the ONLY reason I can accept for the gubmint butting their noses into my home in such a manner. Trust me, George W. and cronies do not give a flying fig about my stitching… 🙂

  5. Just wanted to say I’ve had the same experience with the NZ census as well and I agree 100% with everything you say.

    We work d*mn hard and it’s all taken for granted. To get anyone else to do all the stuff we do without payment or appreciation would cost an absolute fortune and the entire world economy would collapse if it suddenly had to be paid.

  6. Let’s face it, it’s an irritating form! I filled in ours because Joel had done the washing up, I ranted and raved over the employment questions too. Joel had to fix me a G&T.:yummy:

    Then we had a disagreement over the last question. Ah, census night, the fun to be had.:drink:

  7. Ah yes, the census. What joy, what fun, what bliss! Not.

    DH decided that I should fill ours in but then I had to ask him a whole bunch of questions anyway. Aaargh!

  8. Melanies Mum

    I think you just have to interpret the thing your own way, or simply lie. What sort of society rates housework more highly than child care?

    Now how would you answer Q21 – Does the person ever need someone to help with or be with them for body movement activities? Or Q22 Does the person ever need someone to help with, or be with them for, communication activities?
    I can certainly think of numerous communication and body movement activities that would require the participation of more than one person. FGS if they mean do you need someone to feed you, wash your behind, and fill in your census form, why don’t they ask that?
    Let’s just hope that the person who designed the questions is not a SAHM, or a M of any kind.

  9. I was left feeling the same way. All studies show kids do best with Mum at home with the kids, but you’re made to feel a loser for doing it! :grumpy: I hate census forms anyway. Oh, and doesn’t *everyone* need someone with them for ‘communication activities’? Pretty pointless having a conversation with yourself! 😆

  10. I totally agree! I always go for “Child Development Specialist” myself. Why is it the most important job in the world is also the most unappreciated and underpaid??

  11. You go always go for the Flylady definition – Sidetracked Home Executive. 😀 Seriously, though, I agree with the other comments. You’re a milk maiden, nursemaid, spit-up specialist, queen of diaper detail… the list goes on and on! Besides, there’s no point in wasting your energy on the idiot census-takers. I’m sure that the questions were thought up by bureaucratic males who hire nannies to raise their kids for them. And they’re probably dysfunctional to boot, so what do they know? 😉

  12. You have the most beautiful children. As a 55 year old mother of three I will tell you that the work you do in the next 15 years at home will be the hardest job you will ever do, and it will be the most rewarding of your life. These ARE the best years of your life, you’ll just be too tired to realize it until you can actually look back on it years later, so enjoy them. My daughter is a SAHM and lucky to be one here in the US. She has 2 boys (Bryce 3 yrs and Tanner 8 weeks). I work fulltime now, but I was also lucky enough to stay home with my children when they were very small and I’m grateful I could do that. I’ve also found women who stayed home and juggled things the homefront able to do most anything and make excellent employees further down the road. The lines on the census aren’t long enough to put, cook, housekeeper, accountant, chauffer, maintenance engineer, gardener, painter, child care provider, teacher, etc, etc, etc