Monday, September 13, 2010

Did you really just call me a HOUSEWIFE?

            “So what do you do?”
            I’m…overwhelmed by the magnitude of the question. My mouth hangs open, my eyes cloud over, and I’m sure the poor person I’m meeting for the first time is wondering if I’m going to start drooling. He looks marginally embarrassed, as if he’s asked someone incapable of tying her own shoes if she’s a brain surgeon. His eyes frantically search the room, but he can’t seem to catch somebody’s – anybody’s – attention. He’s not going to be rescued.
            Luckily, this is when the neurons in my brain start to fire again.
            “I’m a personal assistant.”
            “Really? That’s great. Who do you work for?” His words rush out; he’s thankful that I can actually hold a conversation.
            “My children.”
            “Excuse me?” He’s sure he must have heard that wrong. It’s loud in the room and he leans a little closer to me. I hope he doesn’t move any farther into my personal space. The baby spit up right before I left to join my husband at his company get-together and I didn’t have time to change my shirt, not that I could have put my hands on one that didn’t need ironing if I had found the time. My scent de jour bears no resemblance whatsoever to Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds, but I’m pretty sure you couldn’t see the dried-up spot on my white blouse unless you were actually looking for it.
            “I coordinate daily education functions along with extracurricular activities, healthcare needs, and dietary requirements. I also provide counseling services and fashion consulting. I’m in charge of facilities maintenance as well. Believe me, it’s a full-time job.”
            “It sounds tough.”
            “It certainly is challenging,” I answer, “but my job is not without its rewards.”
            “Who did you say you worked for again?”
            “My children,” I announce clearly.
            “Oh. Then you’re a....”
            My eyes narrow as I dare him to say it. I wait. I wanted to see if he was smart enough to climb out of this hole or if he was going to dig deeper.
            “…mom,” he says with a wide grin that makes him look younger and less tired.
            Good answer. I grin back at him.
            “It’s nice to meet you,” he says, shaking my hand. “I’m here with my wife. She’s a mechanical engineer.”
            I nod toward my husband, who was working the other side of the large room. “Project manager.”
            He leans in closer now, close enough that I could see that he had a small orange spot on his tan polo shirt. “I’ve been wondering what to say if anyone asked me that ‘what do you do’ question.”
            I laugh. “So you’re a…dad.” I point to the orange stain that is proof positive. “Strained carrots or sweet potatoes?”
            “Probably both,” he admits.
            “I don’t know why our job doesn’t get the respect it deserves.” I shake my head sadly. “I’m always so defensive when anybody asks me what I do.”
            “I usually lie,” he admits. “But I’d like to borrow your answer from now on, if you don’t mind. I’m tired of having to justify devoting my time to raising my children.”
            “You’re preaching to the choir, my friend. By the way, please call me Vicki. Sometimes it’s nice to be known as someone other than Peter and Alex’s mom.”
            He laughs. “I’m Roger aka Ashley and Megan’s dad.”
            “It’s really nice to meet you,” we say at the same time. And I, at least, sincerely mean it. Maybe I wouldn’t fuss so much the next time my husband asked me to attend one of these boring business evenings. He still owed me, though.