What you do vs Who you are

14 Jul

A few months ago I we were having parenting month in church. I always attend the adult service and I was quite tempted to move to the youth service for a month. Then my soon-to-come brood of four jolted me back to the reality of how much I needed to hear this, if only to forearm myself. Never mind that I had not even found the father to the happy brood :-), step of faith anyone? I guess it also helped that the church made it interesting by minimizing the preachy, theoretical part and bringing real life parents to discuss their experiences; the good, the bad, the ugly. And there was a lot of ugly. Needless to say, my number 4 is still weighing in the balance; number may have dropped to three. To be fair, I will not entirely blame the downward spiral of that number on the well-meaning folk at church, it could also be blamed on my friends who all think I must be out of my mind for wanting four children. They just don’t get it, especially the ones who already have a tot or two. Which makes me wonder, do they have a point? What am I missing? Am I being overly ambitious here??

Anyhow, parenting is not really what’s on my mind this morning. Rather it’s something I picked from a couple of the parents at church that has stayed with me for the last few months.

One thing that stood out for me as most of the ladies spoke is that many of them had left work for a couple of years in order to raise their children. In their respective families, they had all come to the conclusion that they wanted to be more involved in their children’s early development and thus one parent, in all these cases the ladies, had opted to stay at home to achieve this. Note that none of these ladies was coerced into leaving their jobs. Neither were they working boring, can-5pm-get-here-already jobs. These were fantastic, brilliant women making big contributions in the corporate and NGO world. However, they all felt a strong conviction to stay at home and make sure their kids learnt their most important foundation lesions from them, not from the nanny.

Sounds all very nice and noble, right up there with Mother Teresa right? Well this was until they started whining about everything that is wrong with being a stay at home mum. I exaggerate a little 🙂 but after a while the sacrifice they had made started sounding losing its appeal.

Most of these ladies complained of how their social lives had changed because of their lack of an 8 to 5 engagement. They no longer got invited to some events. After all, what contribution can a stay at home housewife possibly make? When they did get invited to parties, all people asked for was a business card. It was like your pass to whether the conversation moves past “hello”. Most shared that at parties the first, at best, second question they get asked is, what do you do? To which they brightly and with pride in their voices reply, “Am a stay at home mum”. Immediately the reactions of people change. They start fidgeting, looking to the next person to talk to, who will have something ‘worthwhile’ to say. What could I possibly discuss with a housewife? What can she possibly tell my corporate, upwardly-mobile self? Very predictable. Two ladies actually admitted how much this affected their self esteem. They felt unwanted and worthless, people were defining them as such at every turn. 😦

That first Sunday when I went home I was not a calm girl. I was in such internal turmoil. And I was inwardly apologizing and asking for forgiveness. I’d checked guilty in all the boxes.

Many times I had defined people by what was on their business cards. So if it read assistant anything I would move on to look for their boss. After all, si he has more to offer? No business card? It’s been nice meeting you. Stay at home mum? Like really, you don’t work? Oh ok, we’ll see you around. CEO? Oh such a pleasure to meet you, when can we do lunch?

And I judged myself. And judged some more. And felt like the worst person on earth. I kid you not, I really could not believe how utterly selfish I had been, how inconsiderate. Worse still, I cried because I knew without a shadow of doubt, that I am those women. Yes, I would leave my job to take care of my family if I could afford to do so (Digress – this revelation shocked me even as I thought about it, I have never thought I would stop working for anything, ever). I might become these women in a couple of years :-(. And I will have no right to complain because I will be getting a double dose of what I have served many……

As if to further compound the lesson, Carole Mandi wrote an article along a similar grain a couple of months back. She talked of our need to associate with “important” people. We define people by what’s on their business card, the plaque on their tables, the title on their office doors, the car they drive, the neighborhood they live in, etc.

We never really want to know the person; we just want to know what they do. A typical conversation will not reach into its 3rd minute without someone asking, “so what do you do?”. If heaven forbid your “what-do-you-do” does not quite meet the other person’s expectations, the conversation quickly fizzles out and they move on to those that they feel are more worth their time.

What do you do?

Carole gave a fantastic example of lady who when faced with the ”what do you do” question always responds with, “at what time?”. Brilliant, right. Why so? Because as human beings we do so many things in our 24hours a day, why should we be defined by only one of them.

At any one point you are playing wife/husband, mummy/daddy, daughter/son, friend, lover, CEO/Salesperson/Engineer/whatever day job, counselor, student, neighbor etc. Why must you then be defined by something you only do for 8 hours? How can a human being’s worth be defined by 8hours of their day? Other than the 8 to 5, every other role is a full time job and will count for more at the end of the day. Jobs can be changed easily, but friends and family once hurt cannot be replaced just as easily.

So I guess what am trying to say is the last few months have really challenged me for the better. I am trying to see people, like really see them, not see what I’d like them to be or how they can help me move forward. In talking to different people I have learnt a lot, because everyone has something to offer. Am getting better at it, though sometimes it is very hard. Sometimes the bias comes subconsciously, and for that I am constantly praying for help from above, and trying to be more perceptive to what I can change.

A job is a good thing, but it should never be all that defines. Most importantly, it should not be the yardstick we use to measure people’s worth.

Love and peace my lovelies!! 🙂

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9 Responses to “What you do vs Who you are”

  1. unconventionalblogger October 6, 2014 at 8:46 pm #

    I have no idea how I find Kenyan blogs. This one though is by far the most interesting I’ve come across. I’m a lazy blogger and I’ve always wanted to write on the subjects you’ve touched on, but I really don’t know what happens. You’ve written about them better than I could have ever written though… so I should just share them 🙂

    In as much as you were not going for inspiration, I am inspired. To get out of bed and look for a job. Don’t get me wrong, I took the post from another angle. I just recently cleared campus but I’ve been home for the past month or so. I have no kids, so literally no excuse. I should go out there and make something out of myself for my future kids.

    Good reads Carole… keep them coming..

    • not-so-little Miss Random! March 30, 2015 at 2:40 pm #

      Hi Unconventional blogger, I am so happy to read that you were inspired by my little musings.

      Did you find yourself some gainful employment? How is that going?

  2. Odhiambo September 7, 2012 at 8:50 am #

    You might be suprised to find that the stay-at-home mom has more to offer than once thought.
    Though not guilty in judging people on what they have, i’ll never do so as character builds personality not the other way… 🙂

  3. Jane Ngige (@jayngige) July 16, 2012 at 2:59 pm #

    good one sis! i have this colleague who always likes to randomly throw in conversations like “i know the kenya vp” or “i hang out with (local celebrity) all the time” – like its a really big deal. all am thinking at the time is “… so how are these unsolicited conversations gonna help me?” and does he ever tell them that he hangs out with Jane? 😀

    • not-so-little Miss Random! July 18, 2012 at 11:13 am #

      I know such people, and am always like, so this person is the VP/CEO bla bla bla, WHO ARE YOU? Name dropping is so annoying…. good day sista!!

  4. Kenyan Brutus July 15, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

    ahhh how refreshing…away from plagiarizing US president’s personal letters

    Who we are vs what we do? Interesting seeing this just as i have finished reading a social psychology text on identity and how human beings relate to each other, men apparently are more likely to identify themselves with what they do (am a soldier in the KDF) while women are likely to identify themselves in relation to others (am a mother of 4 -kids-whose- sire- am- yet- to- find 🙂 etc etc.

    Also apparently men and women who grow up with siblings of the opposite gender tend to start by defining themselves by gender. ‘ I am a woman, girl etc) for females who grow in predominantly male households. Am not sure how only kids without siblings find their gender identity but I can imagine that might have something to do with them being such prima-donnas! (had the unfortunate experience of dating one)

    The warning really is that people who tend to build their identity around a single thing (my job, my car , my kids) etc are more prone to depression and emotional instability only because this makes them vulnerable in case the job is threatened or the kids grow up and leave.

    I think the parting shot for that chapter was for us not put all our identity in one cognitive basket 🙂

    Since I was a little boy, I have always tried to find my identity in things that I (hoped) the worked cannot easily take away. My character, my morality even my sense of humor. I drive a relatively nice car, live a relatively good life and yet I would be terrified to have those things define me, reason? they are fleeting and can, in a milli-second, all be gone. Then who would I be then?

    I don’t want to go looking for ropes and firm branches ati because I have lost my job or my business has collapsed.

    4 kids? why?… how…? do you know the cost of university tuition these days woman?

    • not-so-little Miss Random! July 18, 2012 at 11:20 am #

      Hey Brutus, reading through your comment (or was it a blog post 😉 ) I feel like we should’ve written this together. You make a lot of sense, and the dry humour is not lost on me as well :-). I never quite looked at it from this angle – the men versus women relation – but now that I think about it its so true, every lady I know always starts with am a wife, mother of 4 adorable brats (apart from me, I refuse to be locked into a small box).

      How do you feel about guest blogging here one of these days? I will let you choose what you prefer to talk about, anything and everything is acceptable here (well, within reason). Hearing about the prima donna you dated would not be a bad idea either 😉

      About the kids….. er, my mind is made up, 4 it is, 3 at the minimum. Why else do I wake up at the crack of dawn to make money??

      • Kenyan Brutus July 20, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

        Hey Carole,

        What an honor this is to share in your ‘random’ world :-). Odd really because am the least random person you will ever meet. Would love to guest blog and yes will get on with putting together a series of articles that I will run past you.

        My rather sorry love life might be blogged at some point (or I imagine some ex will write a Miguna-kind of expose some day) At this point however, I prefer to keep it to myself 🙂

        Still dont shika the 4 kids thing but I guess each to his (her) own 🙂

    • not-so-little Miss Random! March 30, 2015 at 2:39 pm #

      Hi Brutus, How are you? It’s been an aweful long time. I am at a loss of inspiration at the moment and remembered that I was once promised a guest blog :-). Ready to deliver, Sir? You can email it to me on elorac84@gmail.com, no pressure 🙂

      Thanks, Carole

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