Thursday, April 4, 2013

Would someone please tell me what my Element is so I can get IN it?

Before you begin, this post is closely related to my last post, which you should also read. Before or after. Chronology isn't super important here, just similar themes of contrasting lifestyles and identity, which is apparently an inescapable issue for me right now...

I am dreading the day that all phones automatically do video, like Skype or Facetime. Preparing for a phone call should never involve makeup or professional dress. I once had an interview via Skype, and I was all worried about what to wear and how I looked, despite being at home. Not to mention I agonized over what background they would see behind me. Should I clean my house for my virtual visitors? My messy bedroom would surely send the wrong message. The kitchen might emphasize my stay-at-home-mom-ness, making me a less desirable candidate in the professional workplace. Should I stage some sort of art background, since it was an art related job? The living room couch could imply laziness. Crap.
 In the end, my tablet didn’t allow Skype to work. The interview was conducted by old-fashioned phone, after a good few minutes of struggling with and apologizing for my lack of technological success. I didn’t get the job. 

Soon I am supposed to have a “telephonic meeting” with the boss at an engineering firm regarding a big mural gig. I already had a real life meeting with him at the office, and man am I out of my element in a high rise full of cubicles and people wearing suits. I was happy to hear the next meeting would be by phone—no Skype or anything—but it feels wrong having no preparation leading up to it. Plus when his assistant’s assistant called me to schedule the call and to confirm my email address so she could send me an email confirmation of the phone call appointment, I did everything I could not to admit the real reason I wanted it to be an afternoon call was because of naptime.  

It is categorically embarrassing to be labeled “homemaker”. Maybe embarrassing is not the exact right word…I am more insulted than embarrassed. Maybe “homemaker” is too old-fashioned, and implies aprons and Betty Crocker and subordination. Maybe “homemaker” suggests too much cooking and cleaning, and since I almost never cook and do the bare minimum for cleaning, it just doesn’t apply. Maybe I’d rather have the office folk assume that I want to have the meeting at 2:30 because I have important business things happening all day except in that specific window, not because if we attempt to have a professional conversation at any other time there will be screaming. 
 I hate filling out paperwork that asks for occupation. “Stay-at-home Mom” is somehow more tolerable than “homemaker”. Writing “artist” is a stretch since I spend less than 5% of my time doing art. “Artist/mom” is just silly. My obsession with the label is just silly too. Silly pride. Eye roll. It’s silly that I mostly love what I do and can’t proudly embrace it. “What do you do?” … “I just stay home with the kids.” Just? Why just

Moving on. I guess I’m just commenting on the incompatibility of the “professional” world with the world of boogars and dirt and mac’n’cheese…accepting, of course, my hotshot business professional mother-in-law, who wears fancy designer shoes and jeans and suits but would rather sit at the kids’ table than talk to the grown-ups. 

After one long day of sitting around her house playing in the yard, I found myself at Nordstrom’s with my MIL and kids. She is a die-hard Nordstrom’s aficionado. (She also has a strangely obsessive affinity for Panera Bread and Starbuck’s iced tea, but that’s beside the point.) Anyway, we had to pick up a business-y dress for a business-y dress-y occasion, but were only dressed for the backyard—or maybe a quick run to the grocery store, which was the original intention of the outing. I had on my gray cargo pants, brown boots (not the hip kind), and long-sleeve T-shirt. My son wore a dirty dino shirt, adidas swishy pants and old sneakers. My daughter, whose hair was sweaty and stringy from wearing a golden Rapunzel wig all afternoon, was clad in a hippie dress and muddy yellow crocs. My MIL was sporting a sweatshirt, mom jeans, and slippers. We were magnificent.

I felt the disapproving stares from the nicely dressed hipster employees all around us, insincerely smiling at my “adorable” children and tolerating our “casual wear”. Little do they know, Slipper Lady probably pays their salaries through her patronage. Some of those fashionable ladies may have been genuinely amused, watching my little hooligans feeling up all the mannequins or going up and down the escalator five hundred times, but were slightly more concerned when their grubby mitts touched all the pricey clothing. Or at least I was concerned. I didn’t want to have to buy that $358 dress just cuz my kid slimed it. 

I guess it’s been awhile since I was in a nice department store (you know, other than Ross) so I may have been hyper sensitive about being out of my element. Which makes me wonder…what is my element? 

Certainly not office buildings and teleconferences and fancy stores. But I don’t feel like “homemaker” is my element either cuz I kind of suck at it.

I’m going with napping. Napping is my element.


  1. First, you don't suck at home-making, you just don't feel fulfilled by it. Home making = creating an environment that is warm, inviting, and comfortable, in which people feel relaxed, safe, and at home. You've got that nailed. Cooking and cleaning might be bonus skills, but I don't think they are core requirements when it comes to making your people comfortable and happy.

    Maybe you need to accept that where you are right now is just another stage. It doesn't define you. You get to grow, and change, and reinvent yourself until the day you die. If hobnobbing with politicians and shopping at Nordstrom's are important to your sense of success, they are certainly within your grasp. Personally I expect you'll do something far more interesting.


  2. You need to write an "Ask Elizabeth" column. You always say the best things. Good to know I'm succeeding in part of "homemaking", although cooking and cleaning do seem at least somewhat important.
    I know this is just a stage, but I have no freaking clue what very interesting things are to come. If you have an inkling, please let me know! Politicking holds very little actual appeal to me, although I could probably come to terms with shopping at Nortstrom's.

  3. You're an artist, in my opinion. Nowhere in the title of 'artist' does it have a specific amount of time that must be attached to it daily, weekly, or monthly. To me, an artist is someone who excels at their medium, which you more than adequately do. It is a gift, and a rare one at that. However, you are also a wife and a mother, but these titles are not meant to limit your person, merely enhance it. They do not make Sarah, as you were not always a wife and a mother. You were a solitary person, first. I'm sure I have a point, but I'm sure it got lost, as whilst typing this, I also have the sweet symphony of my child shrieking in the background.Well hi there, headache. Bottom line: you are incredible no matter what or whom you choose to be, Sarah. Don't forget that. :)

  4. You totally made your point and it's a most excellent point. I suppose I don't have to clock a certain number of hours to claim the title "artist", but it feels a little phony sometimes. It's hard not to be limited by the titles of "wife" and especially "mother", since that's where most of my time is spent, but it's a good reminder not to be defined solely by them. Thanks Jane! :)

  5. I can relate to this entire post. EVERY WORD! I don't like the homemaker label either and I feel so out of place in those fancy department stores. I feel like the employees look at me with pity in their eyes. I feel out of my element for 90% of my day!

  6. Pity or disdain, I think, depending on what I happen to be wearing or what the kids are doing. I really appreciate your empathy!!!

  7. Ha. I used to work in Beverly Hills. We sometimes had to run errands for clients in the really high end stores. Talk about intimidating. The shop girls would follow us, dripping contempt, to make sure we didn't steal! I always wanted to tell them to get a real job...but I suspected they were on commission and earning waaaay more than me.

    If you look, the carpet at Nordstrom's is kinda ratty at the seams. The sales people earn about $10/hr, and have very high quotas ($300+/hr, depending on the day/time) - but no commissions. They have to dress well, but don't get a clothing allowance and their discount is not that huge. All they are really thinking is that their sales numbers are driven by the counter on the door, so BUY SOMETHING. ANYTHING. PLEASE. And don't take too long about it, because I still have to stock and clean this dump because management cut costs by letting our support staff go...


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