“What is your occupation?”

This question never used to bother me before I left the workforce to have a baby. Then I had another baby, and then another one, and before I knew it, I was 6 years into parenthood and hadn’t technically returned to the workforce. I had done lots of other things (as well as bringing three little people into the world). I had nearly completed a Masters Degree, a diploma, and multiple postgraduate courses. My husband and I had renovated a one bedroom flat into a three bedroom home. I had trained with and volunteered for a national family support charity. I had set up a business, ran a busy evening practice as a solution focused hypnotherapist, and was neck-deep in co-founding another venture. But I hadn’t technically returned to the workforce. I’m not even sure what that means anymore. I seem to be working harder than I have ever worked, wearing more hats, getting less sleep.

That simple question, “what is your occupation?” arguably a relic from a bygone era of lifelong careers, never fails to reduce me to a spluttering puddle of self-doubt. What am i? Well here goes, although my answer unlikely to fit in the two inches the typical form allows..

I am a mother.

I am a homebuilder and homemaker.

I am a wife.

I am a homeschooler (thanks to COVID-19).

I am a journalist.

I am a writer.

I am a blogger.

I am a solution focused hypnotherapist.

I am a business owner.

I am a co-founder.

This list isn’t extensive. The occupation ‘mother’ in itself can be subdivided almost infinitely – into taxi-driver, cook, cleaner, playmate, procurer, coordinator, party planner, crafter, music teacher, and so on.

These roles occupy my every waking minute (and a good deal of my sleeping minutes too). They are my occupations. Yet not one of them alone seems to adequately answer the question ‘what is your occupation?’

When I am asked to answer this question in order to buy a house, get a mortgage, register a business, and pass through customs, I tend to scrabble through my collection of occupations like a lucky dip and bring out whatever comes to hand first. It’s a completely irrational decision-making process. And one that I come out the end of feeling a bit worse than before I went in.

Why are we still asked this question? Who wants to know? Is there a wrong answer? On a recent trip to Beirut for a wedding, after a quick toss-up between journalist and writer, my irrational decision-making process just so happened to spit out ‘writer’ – something I was hugely relieved about when my Lebanese friend explained what happened if you said you were a journalist. Presumably there are other answers that would raise eyebrows and lead to further questions, depending on who was asking: pickpocket, tax evader, fly-tipper, wine-drinker. Who knows? Although it’s tempting, I’ve never explored enough to find out, for fear of being hit by yet more life-admin.

So I wanted to reach out, to all those who are between occupations, starting new occupations, juggling multiple occupations, making do with one occupation until the next occupation comes along. You are not alone. Many of us grimace as we condense our whole selves into a 20 character box. Embrace the fact that your multiple roles and areas of value spill out and over the edges. Being occupied by many different things is entirely natural. After all, as the poet Walt Whitman reminds us, “you contain multitudes.”

11 thoughts on ““What is your occupation?””

  1. Hi Issy,
    Good to meet you here. I agree with Kally. This is so relatable and so well written. Nice job. I remember well the feeling much of what you describe, when raising my 4 kids 6 and under and juggling my career THANKFULLY NOT IN COVID. None the less, my husband was a trader on the floor of the S.F. stock exchange for years and I was lucky enough to be a stay at home mom for many years to do the most important job we could do and that was to raise our children. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t sexy and he got all of the accloids because everyone was so interested in what he did. I disappeared but like you said as the V.P. of our families it emcompases many titles. I was lucky enough my husband was home at 2.:30 p.m. and could share the duties. I managed to keep my prepostnatal piece of the business alive and brought it home and had babies and moms in exercise classes, baby massage and monthly pot lucks. It gave me a sense of my of my own independence and that I actually had a corner piece of myself left just doing that 2 days a week. My babies were in classes with me and when when they started to crawl, they all had to go down the hall where I had child care in a room down the hall. Later when my husbands business came to a screetching hault in 1987 with the stock market crash, I had to pick up the pieces and built my buisiness up in 1 month seeing clients at 5:30 a.m. .. Sometimes 8-10 a day. I yearned for those old days as I managed between all of the juggling. I admire you and what you are doing as an at home mom. You will always be able to go back into your field so remember that. You don’t get time back with your kids and work will always be there. It is the hardest job I’ve ever done but the most rewarding and I would have traded it for anything. Keep a window for yourself daily as you move through your day. Visit me sometime. ❤️ Cindy


    1. Thank you Cindy for your kind words, and great advice!! And thank you too for reaching out – I’m new to the blogging community so it’s wonderful to connect with other bloggers. Will definitely pop over to your blog! 🤗 Issy

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are so welcome Issy. I just couldn’t resist a mother to mother chat at such an important time in this crazy mixed up world we’re living in right now. It’s a fun community and you will most certainly enjoy it. See you there. ❤️🤗 Have a good weekend. Cindy

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this article Issy, and a lot of it resonates with me, having raised a family and returning to work, wearing a million hats.

    I too trained as a solution-focused hypnotherapist (and a massage therapist) many years ago, but never felt confident enough to ask someone to pay. I then trained to become a mental health nurse or would use elements of my hypnotherapist training at our Mental Health Day Hospital. As you can imagine, the patients benefited from it and they loved being in a light trance-like state.

    I’m glad I came across you blog and I look forward to reading more.


    1. Thanks so much for reading my blog and reaching out! I wrote it after years of being asked this question and it’s really awesome to connect with people who have also found it a challenge! I’m so pleased to hear you have enjoyed using solution focused hypnotherapy in your role as a Mental Health Nurse, it’s such a valuable tool – your patients are lucky to have you! 😊


      1. Yes, sometimes it takes us years of scratching our heads without actually writing anything. I’m also glad that you’ve chosen to blog about things that mean something to you.

        Nice to meet you Issy and I’m looking forward to reading more. Caz 🙂


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