Inevitably, upon making a new acquaintance, I face that age-old ritual: plugging each other with the question, “What do you do?”
I’ve addressed this issue before regarding what it takes to be willing to call oneself “a writer.” But, interestingly enough, I still stumble through a decent amount of hemming and hawing when I’m asked the ‘what do you do’ question. My response tends to go something like this:
“What do I do? That’s a good question. ‘What don’t I do’ might be even more appropriate.
“I’m a stay-at-home-mom, mostly. But I also write. And I teach childbirth preparation classes. I mean I run my own private childbirth education program. And I do a lot of community volunteer and education stuff. I write about pregnancy and motherhood and childrearing. I’m kind of a Jack Janet of All Trades.”
God have mercy.
Poorly-defined descriptions aside, I do find that the further I delve into creating my professional life, the more certain parts of it resonate with me. At the end of the day, whether it’s through print form, blog form or a public speaking format, I like to encourage people to think…outside their own self-made proverbial box, that is.
I suppose it’s fair to say, I enjoy commanding a room. Not all together different from the satisfaction a surgeon might experience at maintaining responsibility for the goings in within the operating suite, I like crafting group dialog and directing a large group journey into new consideration.
While teaching my Lamaze classes, I love the moment when I offer a tidbit of advice or information and I witness neurons forming new connections. You know the look: a person across the room from you, corners of the mouth turned down, head cocked to the side just-so, eyebrows raised and in coordination with a contemplative nod and verbal, “mmm.” Teaching childbirth classes and delivering keynote speaking addresses on topics like “Modern Day Motherhood” and “Challenges of Parenting in the First Year,” are all about the same thing, really: opening peoples’ eyes and giving them permission to feel what they really feel.
This type of work certainly isn’t all altruistic. There are elements of teaching, writing and speaking which I perform simply for my own benefit: interacting with other adults after a day spent looking after young children; building my name as a community resource and business person; further honing my writing skills in gradual pursuit of the golden pie in the sky known as “making it.”
And, there’s also the education part of things. I am constantly learning from the people with whom I interact and teach. I learn from their questions, life situations and choices made. I learn each time a former student of mine calls with the good news of their baby’s birth–and the ensuing details of what transpired during the course of labor and delivery. I learn about people’s religions and career challenges, marital strife and overt joys.
Certainly, tidbits of my work and life experiences may find their way into my writing–be it in novel or nonfiction form. But it is the inspiration of the human condition that will more likely inform my writing, my teaching and speaking. What more could you ask for in a job?