A woman named Emily was at the County Clerk’s office when she was asked by the female clerk to state her occupation. Emily hesitated, uncertain how to classify herself.
“What I mean is,” explained the clerk, “do you have a job, or you just – ?”
“Of course I have a job,” snapped Emily. “I’m a mother!”
“We don’t list ‘mother’ as an occupation. ‘Housewife’ covers it,” said the clerk curtly.
I forgot all about her story until one day I found myself in the same situation, this time at our Town Hall. The clerk was obviously a career woman, poised, efficient, and possessed of a high sounding title “Official Interrogator” or “Town Registrar.”
“What is your occupation?” she probed with eyes fixed on her computer screen.
What made me say it, I do not know. The words simply popped out. “I”m a Research Associate in the field of Child Development and Human Relations.”
The clerk paused and looked up as though she had not heard right. I repeated the title slowly, emphasizing the most signifiant words.
“Might I ask,” said the clerk with new interest, “just what you do in your field?”
Cooly, without any trace of fluster in my voice, I heard myself reply, “I have a continuing program of research (what mother doesn’t), in the laboratory and in the field (normally I would have said ‘indoors and out’).”
“I’m working for my Masters (the whole darned family), and already have four credits (all daughters). The job is one of the most demanding I’ve ever had (can any mother disagree?), and I often work 14+ hours a day (24 is more like it). But even though the job is more challenging than most careers, the rewards are more about personal satisfaction than money.”
There was an increasing note of respect in the clerk’s voice as she completed the rest of the form.
As I drove into our driveway, buoyed up by my glamorous new career, I was greeted by my lab assistants – ages 13, 7, and 3. Upstairs I could hear our new experimental model (a 6 month old baby) testing out a new vocal pattern.
I felt triumphant! I had scored a beat on bureaucracy! And I had gone on the official records as someone more distinguished and indispensable than “just another mother.”
Motherhood… What a glorious career! Especially when there’s a title on the door.
Does this make grandmothers “Senior Research Associates in the field of Child Development and Human Relations,” and great grandmothers “Executive Senior Research Associates?” I think so! It also makes Aunts “Associate Research Assistants.”