DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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2 July 2014

Defined by my job

I used to hate being defined by my job. If I was anything, I said to myself, I was not a technical writer for the mining industry, I was much more radical and interesting than that. But the truth was that I was indeed that kind of writer and slowly but surely, it made me unhappy. It seems that many of us are defined by our job. What is the first thing many people ask each other, especially men, when they meet for the first time? What do you do? God forbid you should say you're a mother and wife working at home. That's not acceptable, they want to know your commercial value. Mother and wife = zero. 


But I'd like to dispute that because even though I don't get paid for the work I do, I save a lot of money by taking charge of my home and home producing much of what we need here. We don't get paid, but the value of the work we do is significant. We might not earn money in the conventional sense now, but we save money and the work we do here in our home, allows us to live this slow and gentle life.


Now I want to be defined by my job. If someone asks what I do, I could say I am a frugal housekeeper, a cook, baker, a preserver of food, seamstress, knitter, gardener, chook wrangler, cleaner, maintenance woman and oh, I write about it too. But that's not the important part. The significance part of this work isn't the writing, it is the housework that us keeps warm, fed, comfortable and alive. That's the significant part of the equation for all of us but only the commercial value is generally acknowledged as being important. pffffft


The simple work of every home is often work that's been done over the centuries that has been modified for our modern times. It's still the same work, it's nothing fancy, we are carrying on the traditions of our great grandmas and grandpas. And I'm proud that I do that. I am surprised and saddened that so many look down at the work we do because it's honest work that gives us a good life. Isn't that what everyone is aiming for? If you've been reading here for a while you'll know I don't care much about what other people think of me. I want my family and friends to love me but if someone I don't know questions what I do with my days and gives me a disapproving look, who cares.

Hettie catching the last rays of sunshine yesterday afternoon.

Some people in my position would describe themselves as a writer or author and although I sometimes do descrbe myself as such to people when I'm out in the community working, I am foremost a wife, mother, mother-in-law and grandmother. And I write about those important roles. I love the terminology of all of it too. I say I'm a grandma and some people are surprised I'm comfortable with the term. I'll take ten helpings of grandma, gardener, cook and knitter over one helping of technical writer or author any day. Because that is what I am now, I have moved from valuing myself as a commercial entity to believing that my true value is in the simple, ethical qualities I bring to my family and the hard work I do in my home. The life I live now is the golden prize that is available to anyone who wants to claim it and do the work, at any stage of life. I doubt you can put a price on that and maybe it can't be defined by a job title.

52 comments:

  1. That's so true! And I read a sentence in a book today that went something like this:
    "The pleasure I get from having a cup of hot herbal tea or watching a kitten play is in no way less profound or significant than the pleasure from some exciting travels or career moves."
    And if the simple things bring the same level of happiness and gratification as expensive and complicated things, then it makes sense to go for the simple, peaceful and down-to-earth kind of life rather than the rat race and consumerism.

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  2. Yes! I so agree with you Rhonda! I love being a wife, mother, mother in law, and grandmother. I am a good friend and neighbor. I care about people. I cook, clean, sew, bake, knit, raise chickens, garden. I am a home keeper! And I am proud of it!

    Deanna

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  3. Thank you for this wonderful post. That was just what I needed. I get those questions all the time, even from family and when I say, no I am a housewife, I get frowned upon. You have time enough, don't you want to work ?? I work a lot, in the home. I bake, I crochet, I knit, I am a gardener and an administrative help ; )
    I am a volunteer too. I help at a repair club once a month. I do textiles, the blog and the financial administration. After the Summer another volunteering job at a meeting center in our little town is waiting. I love doing this and am so much happier than I was, when my husband and I had two incomes. My husband is on disability ( he has Aspergers Syndrom, an autistic disorder) and we live on that one income, but we are so happy. Being together and being able to volunteer together and enjoy the little things.

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  4. Bravo! It's women like you, Rhonda who have given me the courage to say "I'm a housewife" with a true sense of contented satisfaction and inner peace. I am so delighted to hear you say that your role at home is more important to you than recognition as an author. (although it is well deserved recognition). As I get older, I care less and less about people's opinion of me or my role in life. It is so liberating! I lay down at night with the knowledge that my day has been fulfilling, productive and a blessing to my family. What more could I ask for? I feel privileged to be living this quiet, simple life. Thank you for another corker of a post! :) love, Tina xxx

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  5. Hear hear! I agree with all that you say. Being a Wife, Mother, Granny, Homemaker, Friend, Volunteer etc are what is most important. Making a comfortable happy home, not wasting resources, keeping happy and busy is what it's all about. Nothing can take the love and care away from what you are doing. You and your family and the wider community are the richer.

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  6. We are not defined by what we do, but who we are inside. Love is the defining factor for each of us....I think.

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  7. Awesome post Rhonda. I have my first child on the way and will be staying home to raise them in the early years. This is not a very popular choice in my social circle. I have been trying to think of how to frame "my job" to others, and found this post helpful.

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  8. I am too a wife, mother, nana, mom-in-law--and I love all of my roles. I also have other roles. I am milk maiden, gardener, cook, house keeper, grounds keeper, poultry farmer, cowboy, lead farm hand--there are many roles I perform. I have learnt to ignore people who like to look down their noses at how we live our lives. We are virtually stress free--we live on a 960 farm so there is bound to be stress associated with a working farm. But we live a very simple life, proud of the fact that we raise or grow alot of our own food. That we are raising our beef with out hormones, and raising them on pasture. We are trying to live our lives without plastic, new products that made in China, not being a consumer of crap. All of basic needs and wants are being met with our two hands. There is no price tag on your life when you are living it the way you want and you happy and content.

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  9. Always love reading your posts, they are simple but inspiring.
    I work outside my home but I believe that first of all I´m mother, housekeeper and grandmother.
    I love cooking for my dear ones, knitting, gardening or looking for tips to make things work better at home.
    Thanks for your support!!

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  10. Hi Rhonda,

    I think this need to define ourselves is a cultural one. When you meet new people in France, for example, it is is considered very rude to ask 'what do you do?' You are more likely to be asked what book you've read recently, or how you spent your Summer.

    The most disturbing label we are all given at the moment is that of 'consumer'. In a single news item last night this word was used about half a dozen times. It makes my blood boil!! In some ways, it's entirely accurate in describing the current culture in Australia. But perhaps it's also a way to brainwash people into thinking they are not human beings anymore, but consumers, and therefore they act accordingly?

    Perhaps a good response to 'what do you do?' could be 'lots of things, but they don't define who I am.' Perhaps instead of worrying about how we are defined by others we should focus on surrounding ourselves with people with similar values, and feeling good about the choices we've made :)

    Madeleine.x

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    1. Oh yes Madeleine, it's entirely cultural. The opening question in Korea is more likely to be How old are you? The oldest people get the most respect.

      The funny thing is that the older I get, the less I am asked. I put that down to people not expecting an older person to do anything. Maybe I should move to Korea. ; - )

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    2. I agree with you, Madeline X. I truly dislike that question, "What do you do?". I'm American, but you know what? It's an annoying question that mostly Americans ask each other. I think the standard, "How are you?" is enough, and then I try to move the conversation forward with what I'm currently interested in or have done recently.... One of my early arguments with my husband - who fretted over my considering a career change later in life - was that "My job isn't who I am, it's ONLY what I do, and only a part of that is important, too."

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    3. Just had to add my 2 cents- I hate the "consumer" tag too! What's wrong with the word "person"? The worst case I've seen of it so far is that certain Australian hospital networks are beginning to refer to their patients and their families as "consumers" (i.e. of the hospital system). And then we quantify people's suffering solely in terms of the loss of dollars value to the economy, rather than the loss of social capital etc (also tricky if someone who's not in the workforce e.g. an adolescent suffers, then it doesn't matter?)

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    4. And here is two cents more: I personally like the term "client" - because the term implies protection for people using your products and/or services (according to what I found on the internet) - which is something I wish all providers (that means each one of us, almost everyone provides something to or for someone) would undertake for the general well being of all- both living and non-living components of our planet. This is a matter of who we are - our character, not what others think we do- our reputation. And application of the Golden Rule, too.

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  11. That has always been a stumbling block for me because how I earn money and what I consider myself 'to be' are two different things. My sister recently told me to get over it because no one judges me the same way I judge myself. Nowadays when someone asks me "What do you do?" I often counter with "For money? Or my vocation?". Add motherhood and home duties into the mix and it can get rather convoluted. I guess I'm a 'slasher': artist/art administrator/educator/mother/homemaker

    The funny thing about people asking what you do is they are usually (and I'm being cynical here) trying to gauge your status and income so they can compare what you can afford to what they can afford. Living the simple life we're usually not interested in those material status symbols so they're competing in a game we're not even playing. If I'm in a more positive mood I would say they are merely looking for common ground and interests :)

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    1. Hi,

      I don't think you are being cynical when you say people are trying to gauge your status and income. When my kids attended play group I was asked by a couple of women 'what does your husband do?' I was completely horrified to think that 1. I wasn't of interest as I clearly wasn't working for money at the moment and 2. if I wasn't judged to be in the same social strata I wasn't worthy of their time. My then-husband had a job in a high-status occupation - but I wasn't interested in befriending women who cared about that!

      For me the solution was to change playgroups - I went to a Rudolf Steiner playgroup where everyone was valued, no matter what you did or how you dressed.

      Madeleine.x

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  12. I have to say, it's odd but I just published a post this morning on how I have to be careful to ensure that my children choose careers which they enjoy, and not because they earn money, which is something many parents (here in the U.S. at least) stress about. I'm not certain if that's a universal stress: be something GREAT that makes MONEY. PS I'm not trying to push my blog - I know there's rules about that - but I truly, truly just published a post which is along the lines of what was posted here - career? or self? or both? ... it's just a coincidence...

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  13. Rhonda, your posts are so warm and inviting and encouraging ... thank you so much. Have given our two girls a copy each of your book "Down to Earth" and hope that it will help to make their lives so much more beautiful and easier.

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  14. I love being in the life roles I have, I am very grateful to be a woman, wife, mother, grandmother. homemaker, home educator and the various branches that come out from these!

    I do find in my own opinion and experience that we, as homemakers, seem to think that the whole world does look down on our position but I offer some food for thought. Many people that I meet or know when finding out what I do are generally positive and will comment things like "you must be very busy" or "good on you" I have not personally come across really negative comments, unless it is to do with educating my children at home and mostly that is due to the other person not wanting that sort of responsibility in their hands, and that is fine, we were all made differently with a vast ocean of skills, abilities and talents.

    Sometimes, because we are human, some people take others lives as an attack on their own, maybe through jealousy, fostering stereotypes or to validate their own positions.
    I think what it boils down to is quite simply, Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

    Focussing on our job and making it an honest art form of it is so satisfying and I believe is the highest form of thankfulness for the life we have been given!
    And you are right Rhonda, it is honest work. So whatever your hand finds to do today, do it with might :)

    Blessings

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    1. Michelle, I really like your statement "some people take others lives as an attack on their own, maybe through jealously..." . It really opened my eyes up to a situation in my own life, which I hadn't resolved until I read your words. Thank you for that. I feel better.

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  15. I calculated my worth to stay at home in terms of the $ value.
    We unschool our 3 children (much better than a private school education because it is one on one learning) and I grow our own organic veggies and make our own condiments etc (yogurt, cheese, bread and bake all gourmet wholefoods for our family). Anyway I save our family $1800 per week. So in fact I am better paid than most people I know - by paying myself to stay at home. I think it is the most important job on the planet for our children and family. : ) and it does have a $ value even though no money actually changes hands. The worth in your job is how you view yourself. My worth is really much more than my contribution of $1800 per week : )

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    1. Wow Narelle, that is a huge saving!

      I like the way you term it - paying yourself to stay at home. Fantastic!

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    2. That is a great perspective. Bravo! I will keep that in mind. Although I am not a stay-at-home (anymore), I've realized that, similar to you, a stay-at-home parent can save oodles of money and ultimately provide a richer life for his or her family.

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  16. I think we are finally taking back our role as being worthwhile. As a young mum I strived for what I do now, but didn't know how and was confronted by conflicting ideas about what a wife and mother should and shouldn't be. I look back and realise now what i missed out on by not embracing my home making. I do now and love it. It feels so right! I do sometimes ask what people do as a starting point for conversation not to guage peoples status. People growing food and cooking and knitting etc get far more time from me than someone making loads of money in a paper pushing job. Love your post today as usual,Rhonda.

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    1. I ask women if they work "in the home" or "outside the home." That gives me a little more insight on how to continue the conversation, if they don't use that opportunity to focus the topic of discussion. "What is your favourite thing to do?" also gives them an opportunity to further define the direction to of the conversation. Their answer might be anywhere from job related to a dream they hope to pursue. I have learned much from listening to "self employed" people discuss their experiences.

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  17. What could possibly be more fulfilling and rewarding than making your home a place you feel happy and settled. You are so inspiring, Rhonda. And there is Hettie...hello sweetie!

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  18. Hi Rhonda

    I just retired last week (a little bit sooner than expected but due to a recurrence of my cancer from last year and figured it was time!) and I can't wait for someone to ask me what I do so that I can say 'I'm retired :)'.

    Already I am loving not living to a time clock and spending some time doing what I want to do. I have set myself a little routine (I guess it's hard not to when you have worked for so many years), Monday was cooking day when I made (for the first time ever) sausage rolls (a slight deviation on your recipe but delicious if I say so myself), some soup & some meals for the freezer. It felt so satisfying to look in the freezer and see what I had achieved that day.

    Thanks as always for your wonderful blog

    xx

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    1. Congratulations on your retirement, Judy. You can work on your recovery now as well as fill the freezer. xx

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  19. Wonderful post, RJ! Where I grew up (in some remote areas of Canada), it wasn't what you did that mattered, but how you did it. People were valued for making an important contribution to the community, not for how much money they made. What on earth is a chook wrangler?

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  20. Love today's post, Rhonda! Lucky for us, our friends admire what we do - it's just people at work or strangers who raise an eybrow. I do feel sorry for them as they have not yet discovered the true meaning of life.
    All the best
    Frances

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  21. Awesome Post Rhonda thank you for sharing have a blessed day

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  22. It is a beautiful post and I can see where you're coming from. As a teacher in a subject that keeps my mind wondering, I asked myself the same question… does my job define me? While I love being a wife and a mother, I had to aster: yes, for a big part. But I am happy about that. I knew I was going to be a teacher since I was very little, I've sort of always known. And of course it's hard sometimes and you get in a rut but mostly… it is a very fulfilling job. I still glow when people ask me what I do and I can answer: I teach. The last day of this school year, the mother of a boy, struggling with a huge form of dyslexia, came to me with a box of chocolates. I teach French to her son and he made it this year, and made it well enough. I said thanks, but that it was not necessary. She corrected me: it's not my gift, my son bought it with his own money. You made a difference this year. He gained confidence. I know that and he knows that. It's nice to see him that way. So please enjoy your chocolates, because it's all he could give and he loves you so very much…
    I stood there, tears in my eyes, and I realized: I'm a teacher. I make a difference. I love this job…
    So if I'm defined by my job, I'm glad...

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  23. Perfect post as today I officially move into the prestigious title of 'homeschooling mother' as well as the many other (non-commercial-value) titles I have been bestowed (wife, mother, frugal housekeeper, and so on...)

    And I couldn't be happier, nor care less about what other people think about that.

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  24. I agree entirely Rhonda. I still get asked what I do and I tell people I'm a wife,homemaker and I care for my 93 year old Dad. I get strange looks and comments like "Oh I couldn't do that" Well its what I choose to do and I'm where I'm supposed to be.
    Blessings Gail

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  25. I'm not usually asked this question these days but have been in the past. I guess I'd answer I'm Co-CEO @ Wenham Industries. Then when they inquired what WI was I'd explain that it's a very precise business of nurturing 4 delightful young males to become the best they can be and also to provide support for our other CEO. Or something or other...

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  26. You speak to my heart and I love rereading these encouraging posts! I'm finally coming to the place where I am able to speak joyfully and unashamedly about my new career as wife, mommy and home keeper. It is a joy to bless my little family with all my new "talents" :)
    Sarah in Virginia USA

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  27. My genealogy research has shown me repeatedly how in the past men whose wives died remarried almost immediately, particularly if they had young children. They simply could not function without a wife and mother at home. When I first moved to Britain, most shops and certainly all banks kept, well, bankers' hours. Having a strict boss it took me ages to check out various banks and to finally find one that worked for me. Trying to cram every errand in to Saturday between 9 and noon made me really wish for a wife at home! I love it when you talk about re-creating the lives our grandparents had. In my rebellious teens I wanted nothing to do with my Mom, but as I approached 30 I wanted to be just like her. And now as I'm approaching 60 and have been retired for a few years I find myself striving to live just like my Grandparents did! Amazing!

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  28. This is a lovely post, thanks Rhonda. I defined myself by my paid job until relatively recently (about 18 months ago) when I realised that a lot of this was down to my own ego and wanting to be viewed as a 'success' by other people. However, that 'success' basically involved working on a treadmill doing a job I hated to pay for an expensive lifestyle I got no satisfaction from. I found it can put peoples noses out of joint and make them confused and even angry when you decide to start setting boundaries and step away from the culture of one upmanship, climbing the career ladder, not having a family life, taking work home, socialising/networking with colleagues all the time etc. This blog has helped me massively in having the courage to set those boundaries when it seemed like the whole world around me thought I was a lunatic. I read something on one of your posts once about being proud to call yourself a homemaker and now, although I am still working full time (as I work out the details of my exit strategy) when people ask me what I 'do', now I say "I am a homemaker, crafter, singer, IT specialist, auntie and wife". Note- I say homemaker first! Thanks again for providing the inspiration to keep believing there is a different way. I know I can get there...one dishcloth at a time :p

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  29. Rhonda, I love your new photo! Your face radiates the peace that you have found at home. Also, I love the neckline and trim of your blouse. Did you make it?
    Best wishes, Chicago gran

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  30. Amen!! I love this post! I am going to have to add "chicken wrangler" to my list. I love what I do knitting, sewing, cooking, cleaning, gardener, mother, wife and the list goes on. One time a doctor ask, "what do you do sit on the couch and watch TV all day" when I answered I stay home. I did let it bother me at one time but not anymore. I am happy and so is my family and that's all that counts.

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  31. Beautiful post and ever so true! I am a retired Registered Nurse but, more than that, I am a loving mother of three and grandmother of nine. THERE lies the true joy in my life!

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  32. You are so right! We should not be defined by what we do or earn, but how we treat those we meet along our way. I do believe this and yet...recently having no paid employment has been difficult and not from a merely financial standpoint. Your blog (and a few others in similar vein) are really useful - thank you.

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  33. Such a wonderful post Rhonda. Staying home and raising our children is the most difficult, yet rewarding work I have ever done. I do wish it was more valued in our society.

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  34. Isn't it funny that just this morning I was writing my own blog post on this!
    I hate the way that society seems to degrade the homemakers and not appreciate them at all. I face constant pressure from people in my community and family to leave my children with strangers all day so I can go back to work.
    But if I say I want to stay at home with my kids, I want to be the one who raises them, then I am labelled "lazy". I value my children more than any career.
    I love having my home welcoming, clean and orderly.
    I love having dinner bubbling away and fresh bread on the counter for when my man gets home.
    I love to look after people, to care and nurture.
    And for someone to wholeheartedly care about you, I think that's pretty special and important.

    It was wonderful to read your perspective, thank you Rhonda! :)

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  35. I was so fortunate to always have been self employed during my 'career' years. I had the luxury of always being home when the kids were out of school, and being able to drop by the house at any time during the day so no playing hooky! Even then I used to tell people I was a full time mom and had a little business on the side! I am a big believer in letting people enjoy their own biases on their own time. I simply do not have time for them! I have too much fun to let them mess up my day!

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  36. I just love reading your posts -- they state, very eloquently, what I feel. Your confidence in your beliefs is so refreshing and you are undaunted. I think the job of homemaking and child rearing is so undervalued these days. When I was a stay at home mom, those of like mind were looked down upon because we weren't juggling a family and a career. It was suggested that to be a success you had to be a working woman -- when I would reply that I WAS a working worman -- in my home and for my family I would get sympathetic smiles. That is a time and a position that I would never trade and I felt so blessed that I was in a financial position that I could make homemaking my career. I think the mindset is changing some here in the US and I hope it does because I certainly found nothing more rewarding.

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  37. Well, I’m probably going to set the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons here, but as I read through all those comments, I wondered why so many people have a chip on their shoulder about what other people might think of their ‘role’ in life? And as for defining myself, or defining other people – the whole concept is foreign to me. I don’t know anyone who defines me in any way – I am what I am, and it isn’t a matter of caring or not caring what other people think – that doesn’t even enter my mind!

    I don’t mind people asking me what I do, or what did I do when I was in the workforce. I see it as them being interested in my life, not judging me. The same when they ask me what my husband does/did. I often ask people the same question, and again, it is motivated by a natural interest and curiosity about how other people live. I love hearing what people do with their lives, whether it be at home or at work – one can learn so much about the world just by hearing about someone’s job for instance. When my husband worked for a pathology company, I was fascinated when he told me about the scientists and how they test blood samples to find out more about patients, and our friends were also intrigued.

    The only times I get annoyed about people’s attitude to me is when I’m asked how many children I have. Why do people always assume everyone else has children? When I reply that I don’t have kids, I could get one of several responses: “Why not?” in which case I say “That’s none of your business” or “So why did you have children?” which is met with stunned silence. If somebody can ask why I didn’t have kids, I don’t see why I can’t ask why they did have kids! A second response to my not having children is “Oh, how sad. You’ll be sorry when you are older and there is nobody to care for you”. Now that makes me really mad. My answer to that is “I have worked in nursing homes with women who have children, grand children and great grandchildren, but have seen few or none of them for years. So don’t tell me I’ll be missing anything”.
    Just a different viewpoint on the topic.

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    1. I don't think it's a cat among the pigeons, Gina, if that's your experience I'm sure people will accept it. However, your first paragraph seems to contradict your last paragraph.

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    2. LOL I guess you're right!

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  38. Bravo Rhonda. Exactly how I feel about staying home with my children. It is so good to read a fresh perspective such as yours every so often and remind myself why I am doing this.

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  39. Your words Rhonda has also described my journey from leaving the workforce and entering into motherhood. Now that my girls are into school I felt "I no longer had an excuse to stay home". But over the years I have come to understand that staying home is deeply nurturing of my family, myself and my community. I am now at peace with my decision to stay home. My hubby has always been supportive of this which has been a great blessing. Thank you for your posts and thoughts, it's great to journey along with others who have similar ideas and passions so that we can encourage one another.

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  40. Thank you so much for this post. I really needed it today. Your writing has given me so much encouragement. Thanks, Jeannette

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