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SAHM, FTWM, WOHM and The Dreaded Holiday Question

Have you been to any holiday parties yet? I don’t know about you, but I dread them. I just finished reading a post that Abby Wolf wrote called, “Keep It Real” on The Muse.

Her article talks about the dreaded first question most people ask at a holiday party, “So, what do you do?” She says, “While it may not be intentional, the hidden message is, ‘Hi. Please inform me of your occupation so I can place you into a category for which I’ve already assigned characteristics and opinions.’ It’s a shortcut to getting to know someone, and it’ll often cause you to form an incorrect image of who he is.”

I thought about what she said for a moment and realized I need to know why I hate that question so much, and why I’ve hated it for years.

When someone asks me, “So, what do you do?” I feel an instant wave of panic. I begin scrambling for what to say. Yeah, I know, use the elevator speech, but that’s so last year!

I feel like I am so much more than an entrepreneur, a coach, or a parenting educator. Why should I have to reduce myself to only one side of me. I’m also a spiritual seeker, a lover of nature, a foodie who tries to cook and often fails, a gardener, a-not-so-good-but-I-do-it-any-way crafter and more (when I have time!).

I sat for a moment and asked myself, “Self, what’s the real reason you hate that question?” Then the answer came to me.

A different times in my life I’ve been a SAHM, FTWM and a WOHM. Or for those of you who hate acronyms, a stay at home mom, full time working mom, and a work out of the home mom. I’ve done it all.

I realized that no matter where I am in my professional or personal life, I hate this question. I, like Abby Wolf, knew that people were going to make a judgment about me based on my answer.

As a SAHM I knew some women would wonder, how can she squander all the hard work the feminist movement did to pave the way so she could be taken seriously in the workplace, so she wouldn’t have to stay home?

Amazon’s Good Girls Revolt is a great show. It perfectly nails this period in time. I was younger than the women portrayed in the series, but I clearly remember my single great aunts having to deal with all that crap. Are you looking for something to watch? If so, this is smart and well written. I highly recommend it. But, I digress.

Then there were the holiday parties when I was a FTWM. When someone asked me, “So, what do you do?” I could see the judgment in their eyes when I said, “I’m in PR at a major winery.” I could just imagine their internal dialog, “What about your kids? You’re missing their childhood!”

Then came the holiday parties when I was a WOHM. Women would approach me and ask the dreaded question, “So, what do you do?” When I told them I was an entrepreneur working from home, their body language spoke volumes. Some would unconsciously cross their arms; others had a look of longing on their face. Then they would turn and look at each other, as if a rumble between two factions of the “mommy wars” was about to begin.

After being asked this question for so many years I began to wonder, was anyone really interested in what I said? Or were they more interested in finding someone to judge? Or did they just want someone else to do the talking so the focus wasn’t on them?

I even thought about answering the dreaded question in a ridiculous way, just to see what happened. I imagined saying, “I study unicorns, how about you, what do you do?” I never had the guts to do it, but I’m not sure their facial expressions would have been any different!

I don’t know about you, but I would rather be asked a different question at a holiday party. A question that opens up a dialog of connection. I wish someone would have the guts to be genuine and unique, instead of repeating a worn out ice breaker. Imagine how the party would go if everyone was honest? Imagine how bonded you’d feel if you shared just tiny bit of your real life instead of regurgitating the same professional line again and again.

Do any of you feel this way?
Have you ever used a wacky opening line at a holiday party?
Has anyone ever answered the dreaded question in a creative way?
If you have, please share, I think we’d all love to know what you said!

Happy Holiday Party Season.
Now go hug your kids! 

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