“And… what do you do?” The Financial Planner was filling in the forms. We have been thinking it is time to get serious about our finances for years and now we finally are. The guy had already discussed my husband’s occupation. Much head nodding and respect. And now it was my turn. The field for my occupation was empty, his pen hovering over the space. I hesitated, and he filled the awkward pause with a mumble about how being a full time housewife is job in itself. I hadn’t said anything yet. I never use that term to explain what I do. Never have. I’ve always put my profession in the box. Wife is my marital moniker. Not my profession.
My profession has just slipped out of my grasp.
Teaching. Being sick, I haven’t been able to do the required number of hours in the classroom to maintain my teacher registration. So now, I can’t even say “I’m a teacher”. I know I am bleating, but it is one of those owies that still stings. I have the qualifications, the experience, the boxes of treasured thank you notes from my students, a cupboard in the garage that holds the last vestiges of my classroom souvenirs. According to our registration board, it is not possible to teach well if you have been out of the classroom for as long as I have. Except that I never really left it. I’ve been relieving and doing part time roles wherever I can during that time. It’s just not ‘enough’. I would need to do spend thousands of dollars I don’t have to re-train; if I want to use that degree of mine ever again. Relief teaching was a flexible and chronic-illness-friendly way, for me to contribute to to our income and to society. I worked when I could. It is such a shame that this is now out of my reach. I miss it.
I looked at that financial planner and searched my brain for something he could put in his box. I explained that I can’t teach at present, but I do write. That my income is small, and comes from bits of writing I do for various places and the board from our two home-stay students. I didn’t tell him that I am a full time housewife because I am not. If I were, I might not have needed to brush the crumbs away from the table before he sat down with his folders, papers and questions.
He wrote ‘housewife’. I imagined he thought ‘…and not a very good one’.
I wondered why that question and his answer made me feel so bristly; why I feel shame about not being able to list my profession. I thought about all the lofty housewifely achievements I don’t manage and felt guilty about the state of my home. I felt that sinkish feeling you get, watching the well world go about it’s business and wishing you had the words to explain just how much hard work it is, dealing with being sick. Dealing with being sick and all the expectations from self and others. Dealing with being sick and losing your sense of purpose, your profession, your image, your income, the defining characteristics of your well self.
The things that make you feel good about yourself. It can leave you feeling a bit shit.
What do I do?
Put Dealer in that box, Mister.
The Dealer, dealer, deal, deal with, make a deal, deal with it. Dealer. The Dealer.