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handshakeAs an at-home mom I’ve hated that moment when I meet someone new at a party, or some other social or professional gathering, and they ask me, “What do you do?” I’ve hesitantly answered, “I’m a stay-at-home mom,” and once I used the J-word: “I’m just a mom.” Ouch!

These answers were unsatisfying for me and my new acquaintances. Potentially interesting conversations ended prematurely as the generic job title I share with millions of other women left me feeling painfully ordinary and uninteresting.

“The world does not live and die by the categories of at-home mom, working mom, and alpha mom,” says Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira, author of Mama’s Got a Fake I.D. “These labels come in handy for marketers…but in real life they aren’t useful.”[1]

Rivadaneira suggests that mothers take their cues from God, who chooses to reveal himself in myriad ways, and answer this standard question more creatively.

She suggests using the “I’m a mom and a _______” approach.[2] For example, “I’m a mom and an activist.” Or “I’m a mom, a runner, and a writer.” This gives your new acquaintance two or three windows into who you are as a whole person, not just one role or part of you. It also gives them the opportunity to ask a follow-up question about whichever aspect they resonate with or find most intriguing.

Rivadaneira also suggests using a grammatically ‘active’ approach to your answers by focusing on verbs.[3] So rather than saying, “I’m a mom, a student, and a dancer,” you might say, “I raise kids, study theology, and go salsa dancing as often as possible.”

As moms learn to describe themselves in more creative ways that reflect their beautifully complex identities, Rivadeneira says they move “out of mom anonymity”[4] and are “seen and known as both fully mom and fully something else.”[5]

I can’t help but think of how great it would be if fathers also came up with better ways of describing themselves that included their passions, as well as their work, and affirmed their love and commitment to raising their children.

How would you like to answer the question “What do you do?” more creatively?

            [1] Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira, Mama’s Got a Fake I.D.: How to reveal the real you behind all that mom (Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, 2009), 127.

            [2] Rivadeneira, Mama’s Got a Fake I.D., 128.

            [3] Rivadeneira, Mama’s Got a Fake I.D., 129.

            [4] Rivadeneira, Mama’s Got a Fake I.D. 129.

            [5] Rivadeneira, Mama’s Got a Fake I.D. 128.