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It’s one of the most common questions I get. And I know how I used to answer the question—how everyone answers the question—as if we’re being asked what job position we hold. I can tick off my recent labels (or, more to the point, what I did): customer service representative, office clerk, editor, sales representative, barista, tutor, counselor, cashier, etc. The common factor of all these labels, of course, is that they came with a paycheck. Now, what do I do? Well, I’m unemployed.
As my husband enters his second year of medical school, I enter my second year of unemployment. He is one of thousands of students to attend a medical school in the Caribbean and I am one of the many spouses to be included in this journey—a journey that has ultimately proven less relaxing than anticipated.
Getting my hands on a work visa in the Caribbean turned out to be almost impossible; available jobs were few and highly competitive. So I, along with so many others in my position, adopted the responsibilities of the stay-at-home spouse to a busy medical student.
What’s wrong with that?
Absolutely nothing. But there is still a stigma that surrounds the traditional housewife role. When I get the “What do you do?” question and try explaining my role as a housewife, I’m met with the expected eye roll and accompanying “Oh give me a break! You live in paradise and lay on the beach all day!” Why does labeling myself a housewife also tack on the obligatory labels: lazy, spoiled and pretentious?
Because everyone wants and has been led to believe that being the spouse of a doctor is synonymous with oodles of wealth and carefree living. And a second, more concerning misconception is assuming being in medical school is the same as being a practicing physician.
After running into this unintentional (yet irritating nevertheless) series of misunderstandings time and time again, I’ve made it a point to lead conversations about what exactly it is that I do in a positive and often enlightening direction. And when my half of the conversation is met with an impressed “I had no idea,” I know I’ve succeeded.
So what do I do?
Well, right now I am a housewife, which entails an awful lot. Beyond cooking healthy meals for my family and keeping our home organized and tidy, I am a primary source of support for my husband while he wades through hours of lectures and mountains of notes; I play the role of patient so he can practice his bedside manner and blood pressure readings; I maintain our finances so he doesn’t have to add to his concerns; I wake up before sunrise and go to the gym with him so we can stay healthy physically as well as mentally. In the community, I volunteer with children and animals; I’m an active member in multiple school-related organizations and even serve on the executive board of one; I lead a book club; I’m on a kickball team. I keep a detailed and regularly updated blog. I paint for recreation and minimal income. I’m a photographer. I’ve just begun knitting this year. And I’m a friend to a lot of other people in the very same position.
So ask me again, what do I do, and I’ll tell you: wife, chef, maid, counselor, advisor, pseudo-patient, financial accountant, trainer, trainee, volunteer, board member, reader, writer, athlete, painter, photographer, knitter, friend.
I do a lot and it’s important to me that others recognize this as part of my role in a marriage with a medical student. This is not the easy, lazy life popularly portrayed by the media. It’s hard work and creating my own labels is helping others to understand that as well. I hope everyone in my position takes pride in the work they put forth and can create their own labels.
Guest Post Contributor: Allison Gray
Read more at…AllisonAwayFromHome