At least three or four times this past weekend, while meeting other guests at a wedding in the UK, I was asked: “What do you do back there in America?”
Each time, I struggled with my response, unsure in which order in to present the many roles I have.
“I work in public relations,” I explained to one guest. Oh, he said, somewhat dismissively. “And do you have a family?” was his next question. Would the answer have been better received if I’d said doctor or hair stylist? People rarely understand what I do. Yes, I could have emphasized my seniority, my expertise, the influence my function has in day-to-day business. But somehow it always ends up misconceived.
“I’m a Mom,” I tried, the next time. “That’s great,” responded another guest inquiring after the ages and genders of my kids. “And do you work too?” was the next question. “Yes I do,” I answered without offering further qualification or detail. “That’s nice.”
“I’m a blogger,” was my next response when asked. “Oh,” responded the guest. In her 60s, she was rather ill-equipped to process this information or understand where it fit into the picture in front of her of a forty-something woman. “I also have two kids,” I added, which seemed to soothe her.
“I’m a working Mom,” I declared to the next person asking. It struck me immediately that, while this is a badge I proudly display in the US, it seems to be less of a self-anointed label elsewhere. To me, the phrase neatly packages up my life, blending together the demands of career, housekeeper and parent, broadly encapsulating the daily dichotomies of these roles. But when uttering this description in the UK, admittedly not in the company of peers of my age and circumstances, it felt like it lacked the aplomb that I usually attach to it. Was I playing it down? Or perhaps I usually over-emphasize it? Maybe I’ve become over-attached to the label, finding cheap comfort in it?
So, what do I do and how to really describe it?
After some thought, here’s what I cam up with: what I do is create energy, I distribute energy, I receive energy.
Somedays, this energy gets everyone up and out the door, dressed, fed and happy, and me on my way to my work, eager to perform, write, manage and hopefully to mentor, affect change, produce results.
Other days, I feel like any energy I had generated is steadfastly sucked out of me, every which way, like an undercurrent eroding the sand.
And then, there’s the presence of my family and friends, simple conversations, random meetings and moments which restore, creating a new rush of new energy, filling up my reserves so that there’s plenty to fuel all of my roles and to be amply shared with those around me.
So that’s really what I do. But it doesn’t quite lend itself to the abbreviated chit-chat with the person seated next to you at table 9 at a wedding. Ah well.