Forgive me – this is yet another guest post rolling for the 3rd week but these posts that I came across are just too good not to share. Like Issy Martin’s piece resounding with me so much, I can see myself in it. Our roles are very much similar except that she is a solution focused hypnotherapist while I am a writer and recruiter but like she pointed out, our roles are too many and we just can’t list them down.

I hope you enjoyed her post as much as I did. Please hop by her website here to read more of her work.


This question never used to bother me before I left the workforce to have a baby. Then I had another baby, and then another one, and before I knew it, I was 6 years into parenthood and hadn’t technically returned to the workforce. I had done lots of other things (as well as bringing three little people into the world). I had nearly completed a Masters Degree, a diploma, and multiple postgraduate courses. My husband and I had renovated a one bedroom flat into a three bedroom home. I had trained with and volunteered for a national family support charity. I had set up a business, ran a busy evening practice as a solution focused hypnotherapist, and was neck-deep in co-founding another venture. But I hadn’t technically returned to the workforce. I’m not even sure what that means anymore. I seem to be working harder than I have ever worked, wearing more hats, getting less sleep.

That simple question, “what is your occupation?” arguably a relic from a bygone era of lifelong careers, never fails to reduce me to a spluttering puddle of self-doubt. What am i? Well here goes, although my answer unlikely to fit in the two inches the typical form allows..

I am a mother.

I am a homebuilder and homemaker.

I am a wife.

I am a homeschooler (thanks to COVID-19).

I am a journalist.

I am a writer.

I am a blogger.

I am a solution focused hypnotherapist.

I am a business owner.

I am a co-founder.

This list isn’t extensive. The occupation ‘mother’ in itself can be subdivided almost infinitely – into taxi-driver, cook, cleaner, playmate, procurer, coordinator, party planner, crafter, music teacher, and so on.

These roles occupy my every waking minute (and a good deal of my sleeping minutes too). They are my occupations. Yet not one of them alone seems to adequately answer the question ‘what is your occupation?’

When I am asked to answer this question in order to buy a house, get a mortgage, register a business, and pass through customs, I tend to scrabble through my collection of occupations like a lucky dip and bring out whatever comes to hand first. It’s a completely irrational decision-making process. And one that I come out the end of feeling a bit worse than before I went in.

Why are we still asked this question? Who wants to know? Is there a wrong answer? On a recent trip to Beirut for a wedding, after a quick toss-up between journalist and writer, my irrational decision-making process just so happened to spit out ‘writer’ – something I was hugely relieved about when my Lebanese friend explained what happened if you said you were a journalist. Presumably there are other answers that would raise eyebrows and lead to further questions, depending on who was asking: pickpocket, tax evader, fly-tipper, wine-drinker. Who knows? Although it’s tempting, I’ve never explored enough to find out, for fear of being hit by yet more life-admin.

So I wanted to reach out, to all those who are between occupations, starting new occupations, juggling multiple occupations, making do with one occupation until the next occupation comes along. You are not alone. Many of us grimace as we condense our whole selves into a 20 character box. Embrace the fact that your multiple roles and areas of value spill out and over the edges. Being occupied by many different things is entirely natural. After all, as the poet Walt Whitman reminds us, “you contain multitudes.”


If you enjoy the guest post above, here are some of my carefully curated guest articles that you will enjoy:
Guest Post: Adventures in job hunting: I got an actual apology!
Guest Post: “Are You The Professor?”
Guest Post: Long Duration Flights by CHAPE
Guest Post: Why My Greatest Achievement As A Goldman Sachs VP Was Quitting

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67 replies on “Guest Post “What is your occupation?”

  1. Thanks Kally,

    God is so AMAZING to have created women like You and your Guest, Both of you place being a mom first (well after God-FIRST), which is the way it ought to be.

    Like you when I was working and someone inquired “what do you do?”…. I too had to pause and ask (and resist the temptation to ask do you REALLY have the time to to know ALL that I do?)… then having overcome that temptation, I’d pick one of my responsibilities such as “I’m in Management” . or “In Sales”, or is “Purchasing”; with a hope that it would be sufficient.

    Women ARE (and can be as the two of you evidence; Spectacular! …. Awesome! …. Incredible: YOU GO GIRLS!

    God Be with you,
    Patrick

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think this is an important topic, Kally. It’s time for the world to stop putting people in boxes and descriptors. If I was to boil down everything I had ever done work wise, it would be (visionary) problem solver.

    As for the mum’s of the world, even if they were coming back into the workforce, I have always given them serious consideration because I know what they are capable of. Even most of the executive teams I have had over the years have either been all women, or the majority.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Unfortunately, in my part of the world – Asia – ladies are still very much expected to get married and rear children. Hopefully, that will change in the next generations if not this one.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I do see that often re the Asian region. The pressure it puts on women, and also couples, is enormous. The Equal Opportunity Act was introduced here in 1985. However, there are still many issues and the debate re women in senior positions rages on. However, we do have many women in key roles. Change will come.

        I know many people would find this unprofessional, but when I get asked for my business card, these days I say I haven’t got one, but I am easy enough to find. It hasn’t been a problem. However, I realise most people wouldn’t be able to do this. Imagine having a business card that was like a portal that could show people what you do – now that’s something that would excite me.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I have always despised the question “What do you do for a living?” I am a firm believer one shouldn’t never be defined by their job, no matter how hard you work to obtain the title (I worked hard for mine, just look at my career journal pages). My favorite question to ask is “What did you eat today?” This question can tell you a lot about a person and be a great ice breaker. You and your readers may enjoy this post on the topic
    https://reallifeofanmsw.com/2020/02/25/brussel-sprouts-meet-relationships-2/

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing!.. what is my occupation, one would ask??… a human being being me, of course… “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” ( Oscar Wilde)… 🙂

    Hope all is well in your part of the universe and all your tomorrows are filled with love and happiness…. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As a retiree (from paid employee) but not from being a volunteer, I waiver between still calling myself a librarian or a writer. I seldom self-identify as a retiree (except in the previous sentence) because that is not how I see myself and I devote too much of my day to either volunteering for the USS Midway Library or working on some type of writing. Kally, let me know if you might be interested in expanding this idea.

    Liked by 1 person

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