On the rare occasion that I get a chance to go out at night and meet new people, I find that the same question is always asked. “What do you do?” It is probably one of the most common ice breaker questions and sadly my reply is often the conversation ender. It seems that stating you are a stay at home parent is equal to you saying you have the plague. People can’t get away from you fast enough.
I was not aware that my decision to stay home with my kids suddenly rendered me stupid and boring. That it somehow erased all of my schooling and every philosophical, political or religious conversation I have ever had. That my life experiences include nothing more than changing diapers and wiping snotty noses.
Maybe people are scared that I will bore them with stories of teething and potty training. I can understand that. Those topics bore the heck out of me too. Yes, I talk freely about them with my other parent friends, but that is similar to you talking with your co-workers about TPS reports. Is that a topic YOU would bring up at a party? If not, then why do you think I would?
I am much more than a SAHM (for those not in the know, that means stay at home mom. See, we have our little acronyms too.). I attended a liberal arts college, which provided me with conversational knowledge on a wide variety of topics. I am equally at ease talking about the downfall of Germany after World War I, as I am talking about the evolution of Proboscidea or why you should avoid certain typefaces in marketing campaigns. I can also commiserate with you about idiot employers/coworkers and banter about why my sports team is better than yours. Just don’t ask me about grammar, because I am a bit shaky on that topic.
My point is that we are too quick to stereotype people before we get to know them. If you say you are a lawyer, I don’t automatically think you are a jerk. If you say you are a doctor, I don’t automatically think you will talk of nothing other than various diseases and open heart surgery. The whole point of ice breaker questions at a party, is to start a conversation that will eventually lead to finding common interests. To occupy time and get away from your normal, everyday conversations. To maybe discover a topic you had never thought of before, but now find extremely interesting.
So the next time you are at a party and someone says they are a stay at home parent, be sure to ask them what other interests they have. Perhaps what they studied in school before becoming a parent. But also don’t bore us with every detail of your job.
If you are a SAHP and out at a party, remember to leave the kids home both literally and figuratively. Do your best to read the body language of the person you are talking to and keep the conversation lively. Don’t forget that you did exist before kids and your mind has not entirely turned to mush after surviving colic.