I had a lovely night out tonight at Word Soup, Preston's premier live literature event. Well, that's what they call it, and it's true!
In the interval a young woman at the next table turned her chair round to say hello. She didn't want to be sat on her own. Mel was a journalism student, 20, who was live-tweeting the event.
She was very friendly, although I guessed we didn't have a great deal in common. Then she asked me a question. A question I'm still not used to answering.
She asked me 'what do you do?'.
In the past I would usually say 'I'm an accountant', sometimes I would say 'I work in accounts'. I would use the latter when I suspected the questioner would ask me if I would prepare their accounts. 'I'm not that sort of accountant' I'd say. 'I work in industry' I'd have to explain. 'I manage an accounts department'. It's easier not to say 'accountant' sometimes.
More recently I was able to say 'I'm on maternity leave', then 'I'm an accountant' or whatever.
Now I'm a stay at home mum. That's what I am. It's what I've always wanted to be.
So why do I feel awkward saying it out loud to people? I'm not ashamed, or am I?
Perhaps I associate 'stay at home mum' with 'housewife'. It's a connotation that makes me uncomfortable because of the negative way these roles are portrayed by the media. The stereotypical stay at home mum sits on her lazy fat backside all day watching Jeremy Kyle.
This is not what I do. Unless Presley and Cash are both asleep, I am looking after them. I'm feeding them, washing them, reading to them, playing with them and cuddling them.
I'm doing an important job. There's no job more important than raising children. What I really mean is there's no job more important to me than raising my children.
Back to tonight. I said 'I'm a stay at home mum'. I followed it up by saying that my boys were two and one so I had my hands full. I think I said this to justify my existence. Mel, as it turned out, loves babies. She also looked genuinely surprised when I said I was 39. She said I was the youngest 39 year old she had ever seen.
I knew we'd get on.
Am I on my own in feeling slightly strange when I have to say out loud that I'm a stay at home mum? How do you answer the question 'what do you do?'?