When someone asks my husband what he does for a living he has an answer right away. He’s a publicist. It’s a word most people know even if they don’t really understand what it means. More important, his title is a noun, a thing, an identity. What he does is largely who he is.
That is not a bad thing.
When someone asks me what I do, I can never answer. I am a mom and I own my own business. For many of you there a two jobs that you do as well. You may have a noun that is your first job, but your personal business also feels like part of you.
I am in the Cosmetic Industry. You may be as well.
If you have quit a full time job, like I did you may say, “Before I started this business I used to be…”. You get the picture.
I was not sure what to answer to the question, “what do you do?” because my job was not a simple noun. I used to know what I was-a writing teacher, then a Literacy Specialist. The second title was most appealing because people wanted to ask about it. The second title meant I had an advanced degree and I thought that gave me an identity. I stood very tall when I was a Literacy Specialist. I helped people and I knew stuff-I was a specialist after all. Never mind that I hated it and wondered what in the world I was doing most days.
When I had kids and started my own business (that does not involve any of my degrees but that I love) I was all of a sudden unsure of “what I did.”
Part of the reason for my identity crisis was that I was able to work my job almost seamlessly around my family so that I was never quite sure when I was working and when I was being a mother.
As I have built this business I have met as clients some incredible women with impressive jobs. I have met women who research cures for Cancer. I have met women who work on Capitol Hill. I have met doctors and lawyers and students studying to be both. I have met stay at home moms who recognize that while some day they may go back to a traditional job, for now their work at home is the most important job in the world. I have met many women and they can all answer the question, “what do you do?” with a very impressive noun. They are sure of their identities.
I never was. Then a funny thing happened. When we were getting ready to move to New Jersey I had a day where I spent the bulk of the waking hours packing my family of five while taking care of two very sick members of said five. For the morning and early afternoon, I was mom.
Then, in the evening I drove to a work appointment with a woman who lived in DC. She is a Capitol Hill Staffer. You should know her boss. They do important things where she works. I found myself in awe of this young woman not only because of her job but because of her life as a single city girl-an identity I never tried as I got married fresh out of college. As I sat marveling at this woman and all the things I thought made her more impressive than me, she said something that caught me off guard. She said, “thank you”. She thanked me for coming. She thanked me for making her comfortable enough to talk about her appearance and how she wanted to change it. She thanked me for recommending all the things she would need to “feel better about herself during the day”. She told me she had been to other Professionals and they had not given her the same level of care or information that I provided.
This amazing woman who does important things thanked me, for helping her. I was stunned. It occurred to me driving home that it does not matter if I don’t have a fancy Noun for my job. Helping people is part of my identity-whether it is as a mother or as an image consultant. I know exactly who I am. And my job, while it’s not curing cancer or making laws, is important because I help women feel better about who they are. If I know one thing for sure it’s that a woman who feels good about herself is unstoppable.
So if your industry is service, whether it’s makeup, clothes, dishes or whatever, you bring people something they need and sometimes it may just be a friendly face. No matter the product, service is what you provide and that is who you are-someone who serves. What is more noble than that?
Even if you can’t think of an impressive noun, what you do is impressive.
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.