Tuesday, April 01, 2008

SAHM, WFHM, WAHM or what?

Every once in a while when I meet someone new, I get asked that question: "So, do you work outside the home?"

How, exactly, am I supposed to answer that? It's usually delivered in an awkward, trying-not-to-be-condescending-or-judgmental tone that catches me off guard. Some of the people who ask me are hoping to hear one answer; others are probably preparing to be offended at the other.

Technically, I guess the answer is no. I don't "work" "outside" "the home." But is the fact that I work inside the home assumed in the question, since I have a 2.5-year-old to take care of? I'm not sure.

All this is complicated by the fact that I have a work-from-home job. I get a paycheck and everything. But that's not what that "do you work outside the home" question is asking, so how do I bring it up? I know what people are really trying to ask is, "So, do you do anything besides be a mom?"

The answer to that question is definitely "yes." For about seven months now, I've been working as a lexicographer for a certain, um, huge, non-American dictionary entity that shall remain unnamed. In short, I edit the dictionary. Seriously! You've always wondered who did that, and now you know.

It's basically my dream job, because it's in my field (I have a BA in Linguistics), the work is interesting, the hours are completely flexible, the pay is awesome, I work from home on an online database, and my bosses are all the way across the ocean. It's fantastic!

However, there's a reason the acronym WAHM still includes that "M" at the end. Even when I'm working, I still have to be a mom. And shortly after I started this job, Miriam gave up her nap. So you can imagine why it sometimes takes 2 or 3 hours to get 1 hour of work on the clock. It seems like as soon as I get into my dictionary-editing groove, I hear "Mama, I spilled!" or "Mama, I need a little snack!" coming from the living room. So I pause the clock (the Online Stopwatch is a wonderful thing), take care of her needs, re-start the clock, and once again try to focus on the five main senses of "over" as a preposition, and their collective eleven subsenses.

So far, I've worked in B, F, M, and O, and I've managed to avoid any swear words - though I did have to edit "ovariotomy," which wasn't the most comfortable thing I've ever done.

I'd tell you all more interesting stories about my work, but I have Miriam at my knee, almost literally crying for my attention. Your homework assignment: find the perfect answer to that awkward "do you work outside the home" question!


Mikael said...

hmmm.. just say "yes, I work". I dont think it matters if it is outside the home or not. who cares! People ask me what I do and I say "I teach ballet, but that is to keep my sanity"
I never knew you had a "job". But most of us do lately. I think it is good to have something else to do to take our minds off of mom things and put us back into our elements.
But I really can't imagine trying to work with a 2 yr old next to me. I do work "outside the home", and that is because I could never teach ballet with Makenzie tripping over my feet.

Crys said...

Wow Bridget that is a pretty cool job. I work inside my home as well but it is not nearly as fun. I grade college papers and spend most of my time thinking, "They are going to let these people out into the workforce." Only I try not to write that on papers...well usually. I also transcribe although mainly I now just do that for Dr. J and he pays only in kisses. The thing about working from home though is that you are 100% right. What in the outside world would take one hour takes at least three. It is amazing how those things happen. The other thing is a job inside the home doesn't mean that I get any breaks from being the primary one responsible for the home. Dr. J tries to help but you know how these things go. Finally being a mom always comes first so even when I have a deadline and grades have to be submitted or tapes have to be returned I have to figure out how to fit it all in...which sometimes can be crazy! Next time you have an odd word to check you should share :)

Suzanne Bubnash said...

I think an underlying, maybe even unconscious meaning to that question is, "do you work a real job, as in getting paid?" You can spend oodles of hours volunteering grading papers and others assume you do that because you have nothing else to do (I've volunteered in the schools for over 25 years, so I know of what I speak). But if you landed a job as an aide doing the identical work, you'll suddenly find people are more interested in you. There's a respect that comes w/ a paying job that isn't there otherwise. Why it has to be that way I don't know.

Crys said...

PS...I just tagged you. Sorry about that but this one is kind of fun :)


Nancy Heiss said...

I agree--I hardly get any work done. Sometimes my pay checks are as little as $10 (seriously). Rachel just demands attention during the day and at night I am too exhausted.

Like, I should be working now but I also need to fold laundry and do the dishes, so...I'm reading your blog :)

And how'd you land a job like that? It sounds fun--much more fun that what I'm doing now anyway. :)

Bridget said...

That's kind of the "joke" about working from home. It sounds like it's all flowers and sunshine until you factor in the reality of having a kid RIGHT THERE, in and out of the room, while you work.

I heard about the job through the director of Jeremy's PhD program, and I applied. And then I got it. This was while we were in Jordan.

Sarah Rose Evans said...

I say, "I'm a contract editor," or "a freelance writer." It conveys that you get paid, but also that you have the ability to get paid while in your pajamas. That is, you have the opportunity to get paid, if you can find a free moment to punch in on the clock despite the other, more time-consuming job of being a mom.

TNmamaJ said...

because you said Work In The Home and that was a WITH which was pretty cool, then I added in Mom...so WITH'M
which is kind of right too, because you are with 'em ( the babes)
So now you can start the new trend and say , I am a WITH'M. Come on you trend starter! what do you think? Work In the Home Mom. if you want to add "for money." Say WITH'M-FM. sounds like a radio station!

This week I was at a store and a lady was eyeing me. Finally she said "Aren't you somebody's mom?" I said, "yes, aren't you?" I couldn't place her either. As it turned out she was my son's home room teacher for a few years. My identity for many years has really been " Spencer's Mom" I have 3 other children and there are times they get mentioned but its so much more often Spencer because he has a cerebral palsy and so many people know him , have worked with him, or have seen him or know of him. He gets noticed. Recently it has been bugging me when my husband says "mom, will you say the prayer?" because with Spencer being 21 I am wanting my name back! I don't mind Spencer calling me mom or anyone else I birthed, or for that matter their spouses should they want to call me that..but as my kids get older its more odd that people will still say ' aren't you someone's mom?" However you can't blame a teacher for it, after all the time they put in with kids! so . I . am. fine.
AT this point I am sort of a SAHW.
( wife or woman?) Not working outside of the home and not making any money . Is that ok? LOL
it is a cool job you have there, though!


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