What am I today?

October 25, 2006

“And one man in his time plays many parts,” says Jacques in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, but, methinks, not half as many parts as a woman plays. It often strikes me that I don’t know what I am. As a wife and mother (my vocation, perhaps), I have been all of the following, of course, at one time or another…

    cook
    baker
    kitchenmaid
    chambermaid
    nursemaid
    laundress
    nurse / carer
    teacher (all subjects)
    teacher’s assistant
    research assistant
    seamstress
    accountant
    travel agent
    receptionist
    packer
    cleaner
    chauffeur

That is to say, I do not employ anyone else to do these jobs for the members of my family, but tackle the work myself. Some of them I do as well as a professional would (I believe I know more about geography than most employees of travel agencies). In other cases (accountancy or sewing, for example) I am pathetically amateur. I loathe the term “home-maker” though there are times when I am obliged to use it when filling out forms. This encompasses the job of gardener, which gives me great pleasure, and interior decorator, which doesn’t.

Regarding my husband I have other, special roles, depending on what he needs at various times:

    handyman’s assistant
    proofreader
    translator
    accompanist (on the piano)
    shorthand-typist
    navigator (in the air too, not just at ground level!)
    secretary

Come to think of it, practically all of the above jobs could be categorised under service industries, which is an interesting realisation, when perhaps I’d rather be is a creator / builder of something. I suppose having been a mother makes me that, however.

So what’s my real identity? My husband’s muse?! Some of my friends know me as “the photographer”, others as the keeper of journey logs. A fellow pupil at a painting class once told me gushingly that I ought to give up everything else I do and concentrate on painting. I think my father would have liked me to be known as a musician; I had the qualifications to begin a career as a singer but decided against it. When I was young I had vague ambitions to become a broadcaster but because I was too vague and shy, instead became a language teacher, first full time and later, after a longer than average maternity leave (14 years, was it?), part time. Now I do not do that any more, or at least, no more often than once a week, unofficially.

My mother told me recently that my role in life was simply to be a good friend to everyone I know. Which can be exhausting at times.

By temperament and inclination I am a poet.

The question is, I suppose, does it matter what I am, so long as I do whatever I try to do in the right spirit?

One Response to “What am I today?”

  1. emma Says:

    I’m writing this in bed, tapping the screeen of Peter’s new PDA, which will force me to be briefer!

    I think you’ve forgotten a favourite role: student!

    I’m excited about my upcoming secondment to have 6 months as a ‘housewifee’ – starts in 3 weeks’ time.

    Love Emma


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