A continuation of the journey that began on January 1, 2010, recorded in "a year of getting up to meet the day." After 365 consecutive sunrise outings in that year, I couldn't bear to give up the dawn. This blog (no longer daily) will be informed and inspired by the rising light of the morning sun.


Friday, February 4, 2011

who are you? what do you do?

sunrise:  6:51

Maine has no monopoly on the snow market this year, but I will share some pictures of this magical frozen morning nonetheless.  The temperature was down around zero, the air was sparklingly crisp, every twig twinkling with a crystalline coat. 

The newspaper reports about the economic impact of the snow, I know it causes trouble, but it's also glorious, and so much fun!


I've been thinking lately about how we define ourselves in the public forum.  How do we find our selves in the course of a lifetime, and how do we present them?

When you meet someone new at a party, what's the first thing they ask after you exchange names?  So - what do you do?  It's so nice to have an easy answer - "I'm a doctor." "I'm a teacher." "I'm a neuro-physicist."  But a lot of people don't have a ready category for what they do - entrepreneur, maybe, or world explorer.  For me it was a struggle for years when I was raising my children, because I was never happy with any of the labels:  Housewife?  Blecch.  Homemaker?  eh.  Stay at Home Mom?  well...I didn't stay at home ALL the time.  Full time Mom?  sometimes worked.

Once I tried "career mom" on a bio page.  When a woman heard that I had written a few things for publication over the years, she said, "That doesn't sound like a career mom."

When I told people I was a mom, I usually got a nice pat on the back, "Good for you!" they might say.  Then the conversation drifted away.  Once the reaction was dramatically different, and it's an illustrative tale.

J and I were at a rehearsal dinner once, for a wedding where we only knew one person.  When we arrived at the crowded restaurant, the mother of the groom greeted us with great warmth.  Who are you? Nice to meet you.  What do you do?

There was that question.  I tried something different this time:  "I'm home with children," I told her.

"OH!!" she cried and put a hand to her chest.  She gave me an uncomfortably long embrace as she exclaimed over the wonder of it all.  "That is SO incredible.  You have GOT to meet my daughter!"  And she disappeared into the crowd.

J and I were baffled and wondering what in the world made motherhood such a hot point for this woman.  But, why not?  How flattering, at last, to have such deep appreciation.  She returned with her daughter.

"Honey, this is Robin, and she WORKS WITH HOMELESS CHILDREN!!"

oops!  So THAT was it.  I suppose working with homeless children does sound nobler, but I had to explain that the children I worked with had a very nice home, actually.

Evidently, the woman's children told us later, their mother is a bit wacky and does things like that all the time.

So now I can't define myself as a mom any longer, and I am getting more used to answering "I'm a writer" without hedging and qualifying my answer.  Choosing a label for ourselves can have a pretty powerful impact on how the world receives us, as I discovered.  So far no one has embraced me with abandon when I say I'm a writer, but at least it leads to a few follow up questions.

Still, maybe I ought to think about working with homeless children.


  1. I have a dear friend who has had trauma related to her work in the past (and as a result is not working at the moment) and also has had trauma related to infertility. She has shared with me how difficult meeting people can be now, as the first two questions everyone asks are "where do you work?" and "do you have kids?" this has in turn made me more aware of the questions i start with when i first meet people. i question why it is that i need to 'categorize' people. can i be more creative in my conversation and possibly avoid causing hurt or frustration?
    thanks so much for this post and your thoughts (and- always, for the photos!)

  2. I hope your friend finds her happiness and fulfillment - sounds like a difficult time. Thank you for your thoughts. **Robin