One of the transitions I've had to make with our move to Paris is the shift from working to being a stay-at-home mom. I had been working full-time for nearly ten years before the kids came along. And I worked all kinds of schedules for another decade after that -- three days a week, four days a week, five short days -- and often ended up at the kitchen table with papers to edit or conference calls to conduct while the kids did their homework. But except for three months' maternity leave for each one, I never stopped working all together.
Those first months in Paris I was so busy trying to keep my head above water that I didn't really miss the rhythm of work, just the paycheck. And when I took on a short-term technical editing assignment, I did enjoy making my own money again, although I couldn't quite shake the feeling that all that work was cutting into my free time.
And now? The reality is that our time here in France is limited and since we're not strapped for cash and it is oh so much easier only having to deal with one work schedule when it comes to long vacations and days off, not having a regular job feels like the right thing to do. And I can't say that there's anything in particular that I'm pining to do careerwise. My professional reputation is well-established back home and I'm not at all concerned about having to justify a gap in my resume when the time comes to return. And I stay plenty busy and don't have a lot of time for eating bon bons.
The only thing that really bugs is how to answer the question: "what do you do?" Actually a young man who recently stayed with us asked, "do you just walk around all day?" To which of course the obvious answer is "No, I ride the metro and the bus." The real problem is that there is no term that seems right. The word "housewife" sounds too much like Donna Reed; even the French femme de foyer seems to suggest that I'm spending my time getting manicures and whipping up dinner parties for my husband's business contacts. Blogger sounds ridiculous, writer presumptuous, and domestic engineer, well, let's just say whomever dreamed that up didn't have me in mind.
I don't know that there's an easy answer here, but do me a favor. The next time you're at a cocktail party and you ask someone "what do you do?" and you're confronted with a long pause, figure out how to shift the conversation. Better yet, find another opening gambit. This blogger-trailing spouse-mother-expatriate-observer of all things Parisian will thank you.
Now if you'll excuse me, my hiking group is waiting for me at Gare du Nord.