Thursday, July 21, 2011

Awkward Conversations

Why do dental hygienists always try to talk to you while they’re cleaning your teeth? Can’t they see that it is impossible to answer their questions while you’re mouth is wide open and they have metal tools scrapping away at your teeth? Here’s a conversation I had today while at the dentist:

(After discussing that I moved here in March after my husband got a job.)

Her: So have you found a job yet?

Me: No, right now I’m volunteering.

Her: Oh, okay.

(Approximately ten minutes later)

Her: So what kind of work are you looking for?

Me: I’m not. I’m happy volunteering on farms and learning how to grow food.

Her: Oh.

(Awkward silence)

Not actively looking for work has made me aware of how many aspects of our society center our identity on what we do and how much money we make doing it.

One of the first questions you ask someone when you meet them is, “So, what do you do?” I’m guilty of it, too. We all are. I’ve found that many people, like my dental hygienist, simply don’t know how to respond when your answer is not what they expect.

It’s okay for a mother of young children to be staying home and not working, but somehow my volunteering five days a week, growing food for my family in a community garden, cooking healthy meals for us each day, and generally keeping our household in order, all while creating time and space to nurture myself and my relationships with my husband, friends and family, is not okay. I’m not meaning to begrudge stay-at-home moms in that last statement; in fact, I hope to become one of them in short order. But it does seem to me that people are more comfortable with the idea of a woman staying at home when she has children. Without children people assume that I am a unempowered housewife who missed the feminist revolution. I get a lot of confused looks and blank stares while I explain to people how I’m learning to grow my own food in order to better provide for my family.

And that’s when they politely change the subject.