A few months ago, when a mother was picking up her children from school, another mother rushed up to her. She was fuming with indignation. “Do you know what you and I are?” she demanded.
Before the mother could answer - she blurted out the reason for her question. She had just returned from renewing her driver’s license at the County Clerk’s office. There while asked by the secretary to state her “occupation,” she had hesitated, uncertain as how to classify herself.
“What I mean is,” explained the secretary, “Do you have a job, or are you just a...?”
“Of course I have a job, I’m a mother!”
“We don’t list ‘mother’ as an occupation. ‘Housewife’ covers it,” the secretary said emphatically.
The mother forgot all about her story until one day she found herself in the same situation, this time at the Town Hall. The Clerk was obviously a career woman, poised, efficient, and possessed of a high-sounding title, like ”official Interrogator” or “Town Registrar.”
“And what is your occupation?” she probed.
The Mother responded “I’m...a Research Associate in the field of Child Development and Human Relations.” The clerk paused, ballpoint pen frozen in mid-air, and looked up as though she had not heard right. The mother repeated the title slowly, “I’m...a Research Associate in the field of Child Development and Human Relations” emphasizing the most significant words as the clerk wrote them down in bold, black ink on the official questionnaire.
“Might I ask,” said the clerk with new interest, “just what do you do in your field?”
Coolly, without any trace of fluster in her voice, the mother replied, “I have a continuing program of research (what mother doesn’t) in the laboratory and in the field. I’m working for my Masters (the whole family) and already have four credits (two sons and two daughters). Of course, the position is one of the most demanding in the humanities (any mother care to disagree?) and I often work 14 hours a day (24 is more like it). But the job is more challenging than most run-of-the-mill careers and the rewards are in satisfaction rather than just money.”
There was an increasing note of respect in the clerk's voice as she completed the form, stood up, and personally ushered her to the door.