“Why did I never know you have a Masters in architecture?” Why, indeed. The woman asking had a degree in urban planning. She had known her acquaintance for years. Their children played together and went to school together. They had spoken to each other every single day for years. But she had no idea that they had this common interest.
Six years prior, they would probably have learned this about each other the first time they met. They would have talked about urban theorists, perhaps tossing about opinions on Jane Jacobs. They would have compared their career paths and what the hell one can do with that background in this market.
But, now, they stand, waiting for pickup time, and chat about their children. They chat about their husbands’ jobs. They talk about politics and weather and celebrity sightings. But, they never talk about themselves. Not really.
We can tell each other about night wakings and compare picky eaters. But we cannot ask about our pasts. To ask is sensitive. “What did you do?” implies you are no longer who you were. “What do you do?” puts the respondent in the awkward position of saying “I’m just home with the kids.” We avoid the topic altogether. Even those who are still working in paying jobs are clandestine, quiet about their careers.
We check our identities at the door. Someday we will find them again, but not right now. So careful to avoid shaming other mothers, we lose who we are. But, I am holding that claim check tight, baby, and I intend to pick that identity up again one of these days.