In the first few seasons of The Late Show, Stephen Colbert did a recurring skit, then a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.JC
For decades, I’ve dreaded having to answer the question “What do you do?” or to fill in the blank for “occupation” or “profession” on forms.
Usually, those questions are about earning money and the truth is that I have earned very little money over my lifetime.
What I’ve been used to be called housewife, a term I never liked because it sounds like you are married to a house, not a person. I do sometimes choose the homemaker option from lists that don’t allow me to insert a customized response, although that term also seems too centered on the inanimate. I prefer the term caregiver as more reflective of my role as a daughter, spouse, mother, and grandmother. I think it is unfortunate that the current usage of caregiver has focused on the paid or unpaid work of caring for someone with medical needs, although I’ve dealt with more than the usual share of diagnoses among the generations of family involved.
I will often add volunteer, if I’m given the option. I’ve done many things as a volunteer that others are paid to do, such as church music ministry or facilitating a spirituality book study group. I did major committee stints when my daughters were in school, including a site-based decision making team, curriculum planning committees for music and gifted education, and high school honors program planning, for which the teacher participants were paid, a fact they tried to hide from me as they felt badly that I was spending a lot of time working on these things for free. I also spent a lot of time fighting fracking and advocating for action on climate change, although the vast majority of people doing that are volunteers, with just a few people who are paid to be community organizers. (We laughed when the fracking proponents accused us of being paid by George Soros or whomever, which we certainly were not, all the while knowing that some of them were actually being paid by fossil-fuel-company-financed front groups.)
In more recent years, as writing has become an important part of my life, I’ve wondered what to do with that. Should I list myself as a writer on forms? Is it disrespectful to the people who actually make a living as writers to call myself that? To date, I have never been paid to write, although when my chapbook Hearts is published in the coming months, I will make (a tiny bit of) money. On social media, I tend to list myself as poet/blogger. Most poets and most bloggers earn little-to-no income from those activities, so maybe that is a better descriptor than writer?
Or, now that I’m 62, maybe I should just give up and list myself as retired.
But retired from what? The caregiving, volunteering, and writing still go on…