What Do You Do?
My kids are grown and on their own, and I don’t have a job.
I attended a business networking reception with my husband a year or so ago. Drinks in hand, we all gathered in small clusters, most people meeting one another for the first time. The conversation focused on the lovely venue, beautiful spring weather, current events, until, all of a sudden…… I felt uncomfortable and tense and nervous. My husband noticed me shifting on my feet and the anxious expression on my face. And there it was – the dreaded question directed at me from across the small group – What Do You Do?
So – What Do You Do? I worry about what I don’t do. I compare myself to others and judge myself against their responses – and the important imagined lives they lead. Self help books and gurus preach that everyone needs a passion and a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Without a real and regular job, do I have a passion? Am I a contributor? Do I consider myself driven and independent, even if I don’t earn money on my own? Am I interesting enough? Do people question what I really do all day?
I can easily tell you what I used to do. At one time, I had a fairly nice career in Human Resources. I taught training seminars, interviewed job candidates, made decisions. I was busy and productive and contributed to a company’s bottom line. After our sons came along, I made the decision to leave my career and be a full time mom. Not once did I regret my decision and felt blessed to be able to have that choice. Back then, What Do You Do? prompted the reply that I stayed home with our small children – or teenagers. I knew I was working hard at the task of raising our boys. It seemed a valuable and meaningful way to spend my day.
And then one day “my job” was finished – our sons grew up and moved on. Now what?! For a variety of reasons, I did not seek other employment – and sometimes questioned if that was ok. I had a number of discussions with myself and worked through my What Do You Do? issue. And I figured out it doesn’t matter what I do. If I am happy and fulfilled and energetic and engaged and my relationships are thriving – then all is well and good. I discovered it is absolutely fine if what I enjoy doing does not provide an income – and I have no need to apologize for it. I finally came to understand What Do You Do? is not about me. This is not a contest or a judgement. It is simply an icebreaker, a tried and true and safe question to initiate polite conversation.
So – What Do I Do? It works for me to mull over my response-of-the-day when I am heading to a dinner party or function. Research shows mentally rehearsing what you will say in anxiety producing situations helps to calm nerves and relieve stage fright. Then, when THE question comes my way, I am set, ready, and comfortable. And what I’ve learned is most people welcome the chance to discuss golf, exercise, pets, books,………