"What do you DO all day?"

A few months ago, when I was picking up the children at school, another
I knew well, rushed up to me. Emily was fuming with indignation.

"Do you know what you and I are?" she demanded.

Before I could answer--and I didn't really have one handy--she blurted out
the reason for her question.

She had just returned from renewing her driver's license at the County
Clerk's office. Asked by the woman recorder to state her "occupation," Emily had
hesitated, uncertain how to classify herself.

"What I mean is," explained the recorder, "Do you have a job, or are you
just a...?"

"Of course I have a job," snapped Emily. "I'm a mother."

"We don't list 'mother' as an occupation. 'Housewife' covers it," said the
recorder emphatically.

I forgot all about her story until one day I found myself in the same
situation, this time at our own Town Hall.

The Clerk was obviously a career woman, poised, efficient, and possessed
of a high-sounding title, like "Official Interrogator" or "Town Registrar."

"And what is your occupation?" she probed.

What made me say it, I do not know. The words simply popped out. "I'm...a
Research Associate in the field of Child Development and Human Relations."
The clerk paused, ball-point pen frozen in mid-air, and looked up as though
she had not heard right. I repeated the title slowly, emphasizing the most
significant words. Then I stared with wonder as my pompous pronouncement was written
in bold, black ink on the official questionnaire.

"Might I ask," said the clerk with new interest, "just what you do in your

Coolly, without any trace of fluster in my voice, I heard myself reply, "I
have a continuing program of research [what mother doesn't] in the laboratory
and in the field [normally I would have said indoors and out]. I'm working for my
Masters [the whole darned family] and already have four credits [all
daughters]. Of course, the job is one of the most demanding in the
humanities [any mother care to disagree?] and I often work 14 hours a day [24 is more
like it]. But the job is more challenging than most run-of-the-mill careers and
the rewards are in satisfaction rather than just money." There was an
increasing note of respect in the clerk's voice as she completed the form, stood up,
and personally ushered me to the door.

As I drove into our driveway buoyed up by my glamorous new career, I was
greeted by my lab assistants---age 13, 7, and 3. And upstairs, I could
hear our new experimental model (six months) in the child-development program,
testing out a new vocal pattern. I felt triumphant. I had scored a beat on

And I had gone down on the official records as someone more distinguished
and indispensable to mankind than "just another..."