The first day of German 101, and we were learning how to introduce ourselves and say what our jobs were. In English, I would say I'm a stay-at-home mom. In German, the word is Hausfrau. The only time I have heard that word used in English is derisively. To me, the word is laden with condescension, and an image comes to mind of a woman in a frumpy housedress and apron, her identity consumed in cleaning and making '50s-style gelatin molds. In other words, the very worst stereotypes of a housewife. So I said I was a Hausfrau and a Redakteur (editor) because I didn't know the German for writer.
I think that I have such a negative reaction to hausfrau because it, and its English equivalent housewife, say nothing about my interests or my personality. I'm not really domestic. I don't sew or do crafts or even decorate at all well. I'm an okay cook, but not a creative one. I'm simply someone who believes that my child is best served by my being her primary caregiver.
So the stay-at-home mom moniker best fits this part of my life. But I see the primacy of child care as only one season of my life. As Katrina gets older and goes to school, I plan to go back to editing and writing on more of a full-time basis. Therefore, I continue to see myself as a writer...in fact, it feels closer to who I am than SAHM does, because it indicates at least some of my talent and personality.
Perhaps because it took so much time and pain before we had Katrina, or merely because I was older, I don't often think of being a mom as part of my core identity. I still look at her little face sometimes and just marvel that she's here (and at how beautiful she is, and how smart, and how friendly and fun, how she's just the best little kid anywhere. But I'm not biased or anything.). On the other hand, I don't know what I would be doing now or who I would be if she had not been born. Motherhood--and particularly mothering a little girl whose personality is so different from my own--has stretched me and shaped me in ways I could not have imagined.
Identity is a slippery thing. Here I am, having trouble labeling myself as "just" a mom--a hausfrau--and yet being a mother has had a profound effect on my personality, my way of thinking, and, yes, my identity.
Mein Name ist Jennifer. Ich bin eine Mutter.