Form-filling. Every stay at home mother who used to have a job must surely bloody hate it. Assuming everybody is asleep or at nursery or engaged in playing with duplo or watching Dora the Explorer on loop (actually this is an enormous assumption but never mind) you probably have a bit more time than those in paid employment to do the form filling. Which is lucky because it takes at least half of the allotted time to decide what to put in the ‘profession’ field.
You can put ‘Stay at Home Mother’ but it isn’t really a recognised profession – it never appears in any drop-down web forms anyway. They often give you the ‘homemaker’ option but self-identifying as someone who is entirely consumed with matters of the home makes me want to cry. Same and possibly more so with ‘housewife’, partly because I am a bit shit at the house-y bits of my job, and who the hell wants to be a professional wife in this day and age? (My apologies if you do, of course).
Then there are the completely made up ones like ‘Household Manager’ or ‘Domestic Engineer,’ but – well, really. Sometimes I plump for ‘not in paid employment’ but that really does feel like my existence is for nowt. At least if you are ‘Unemployed’ (which I have been) you have some kind of potential – you are still kind of waiting in the queue to jump in to the big skipping-game of The Economy (previously known as Society) even if you’re not currently jumping yourself. Apologies for the slightly tortuous metaphor but I’m sure you catch my drift.
So anyway I got a bit annoyed about my lack of job title and decided to have a quick look to see why it might be that I dislike all the available options.
Have you ever got lost in the Harper-Collins Wordbank? You can search for words and it will show you all the instances of the word in the corpus and the sentences in which the word appears. It also does a nifty little ‘word sketch’ that will show you the modifiers most commonly used with the word. It probably does loads of other cool stuff too but I have been too busy obsessing over the words people associate with my profession to experiment.
I won’t bore you with the extent of my search ‘cos I got lost in it for the entirety of my last nap/Dora break. But here are some of the things I found out.
Housewife. Yes, there are a lot of ‘desperate’s but that is probably more about the telly than anything else. Other adjectives range from the depressing (bored, suburban, frustrated, lonely, unhappy, mad), to the hum-drum (ordinary, middle-aged, average), to the frankly slightly puzzling (odd, Japanese, Eskimo).
Then there are lots of specific ages like ’37-year old’. The youngest is 30. I’m sure this is telling but I’m not quite sure why.
Homemaker seems to fare a bit better. People actually attribute positive qualities to them like ‘loving’ ‘spiritual’ ‘happy’ and ‘perfect’ (must be talking about me). There’s a few bland ones like ‘traditional’ and ‘full-time’. There are a couple of worrying ‘displaced’ and ‘confused’s but overall the picture was quite good.
And yet when I hear ‘homemaker’ I still can’t shake the image of an American lady wearing a gingham apron and a watermelon smile and holding a mixing bowl and a wooden spoon. She is lovely, but she is not me.
I couldn’t make it do ‘stay at home mother’ though I did some more searching, comparing ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ and getting more and more annoyed about the different words we use for men and women (‘male’ homemaker appears but, of course, not ‘female’ because that’s the norm). I was fascinated by the results for ‘mother’ but I have neither the space to tell you about all this nor the ability to keep it interesting. You should have a look for yourself if you’re a word geek like me.
My favourite, and the one I might write on forms from now on if there’s room, comes from a book by Lois Lowry. I haven’t read it but I certainly plan to. It is this: ‘cruel and subversive housewife’. I reckon I could knock off the ‘cruel’ and fit the rest in the box.