On a recent visit to the hospital for my wife (she’s fine, don’t worry) I was struck at how often she was asked “…and what do you do?”. Receptionists, triage nurses, doctors, everyone seemed to want to know what she did. For a living, I presume, is what they meant. She graciously answered “stay at home…”, “raise children…”, “homemaker…”. After we got home, it hit me that if she was to actually make a list of what she does, in my opinion, it would look something like this:
- Homeland Security- I’m gone for 10hrs a day for five days of the week. She’s got her finger on the def-con threat level. She’s closing the windows when the teenagers are walking by. She’s keeping the hawk eye on the kids when they are playing out front. She’s battening down the hatches when the storms roll in. She’s locking the doors when everyone’s down in the basement working on projects. Without my wife, our house would be overrun (mostly by our own children) in a matter of hours. I know I’m the one who will grab the baseball bat to go investigate the bump in the night. But without my lovely-looking-lieutenant patrolling every day, this captain would be dead in no time.
- Project Management – Jen works with pre-order, in flight, service ready, in use and service outages – all at once, without a manager running reports for her and without any subordinates to delegate workload. (I know only my telecom friends reading this one will understand what I just wrote).
- Crowd Control – Are there such things as female bouncers? If not, my wife is the first. You could never call her rough or aggressive, but by necessity she must be firm enough to keep two boys and two girls(one rambunctious one!) under control. She lays down the law and beats back the rioters, constantly.
- Internal Medicine – She diagnoses (don’t worry, she only uses WebMD), writes prescriptions, fulfills them and administers them – all 24x7x365. Dr. Quinn didn’t even do all that! She’s up in the middle of the night giving the Tylenol to the headache victim. She’s the one inspecting scrapes, bruises, bumps and moles. She’s the one working with doctors and lawyers to keep her clients healthy.
- Arbitration – If there’s a dispute, she’s in the middle of it within moments. Only recently have the children begun actually trying to solve problems between each other before pulling in the third party. Our kids have even been known to plead their case with each other in a whiny voice, while looking at Mom or Dad the whole time! You couldn’t possibly pay her enough for the kind of holistic middle-man services she renders.
- Guest Services – We’ve “joked” often about opening a bed and breakfast one day. Jen has all the skills. She cleans, she cooks, she smiles, she greets and she doesn’t lose room keys (that’s my job). She manages three bedrooms, a sleeper sofa in the living room, a fold-out cot we used to have and an entirely separate queen bed we used to have in the basement. Plus all couches, loveseats and kitchen seating. She dusts, scours, sanitizes, scrubs, vacuums, windexes, launders, dries, folds, organizes, fluffs, snaps, crackles and pops! Again, the house would be episode 1 on the next season of Hoarders if she ever quit for a day.
- Personnel Management – Hair cuts? Check. Sliver removal? Check. Band-aide application? Check. Education? Check. She’s got a headcount of all her peeps and knows each one intimately. She maintains all of their paperwork, ensures their shot records are up to date, confirms they are earning, saving, giving and spending their money wisely and makes sure they are well rested, have clean underwear on and change their socks after each ruck march. These little soldiers don’t know how good they’ve got it.
- Culinary Arts – The food is ridiculous in our house. Ridiculous, as in ridiculously good. New entrees, healthy alternatives, well seasoned, always hot and guaranteed to be delicious. She never takes short cuts in presentation either.
- Food Services – No, this one isn’t a duplicate. She catalogs, inventories, purchases, organizes, cleans, cooks, presents, serves and cleans up food at least[!] three times a day! And this is just the raw materials we’re talking about. For the artistic and delightful spin she brings to food preparation, go back and read “Culinary Arts”.
- Handywoman / Misc repair – This girl has been known to unclog some pretty stopped-up drains, change light bulbs, paint several rooms, hang shelves, mud, tape, paint (she’s painted a lot!), fix furniture, create and install miscellaneous decorative fixtures and much much more. I know it sounds too good to be true, but Jen is what infomercials are made of! But that’s not all…!
- Receptionist – If the phone be ringing, Jen’ll stop singing. Ok, she doesn’t sing a whole lot. Just a catchy way to say that Jen manages the telecom in our home. I’m the data guy and you can come see me for all of your IP needs, but Jen’s the traditional voice services applications engineer. If you need a number, see Mom. She rarely uses an address book and speed dial to her is seeing how fast she can dial in one of the dozens of numbers she has memorized!
- Lawn Care Specialist – Yes, she even mows, weed-whacks, trims and edges! Not all the time and never because I’ve asked her to. I prefer that she doesn’t as I’m always afraid the neighbors will think I’m some kind of putz who can’t even mow his lawn, but she insists! 🙂 Imagine how good things would look if we could get grass to grow!
- Administrative Assistant – Bills, checkbook, calendar(a whole separate post could cover her calendar management skills!), coupons, mail management, maintaining the right amount of creamer in my coffee, getting my coffee to me when it’s hot. You know, basic secretary stuff. I know, I sound like a pig now. I’m kidding about the coffee/secretary lines. But I’m not kidding about Jen’s mad crazy administration abilities. Just try to penetrate the fortress of her organization. You’d have better luck getting into the Black Gate of Mordor.
- Ambiance Coordination Manager – Sounds like a cool title, eh? Well, it IS! Respect it. We come home to candles, fresh baked cookies, banana bread, freshly washed clothes and linens and good smelling plug-in air fresheners all the time. Left to me, the the house would smell like garbage in here all the time (my kids just laughed harder than anyone when they read that last line).
Thanks, honey. For being the Jill-of-all-trades in our family. You truly are indispensable. And these are only temporal physical things you bring to the table. They aren’t even the true and lasting, eternal things that we truly love you for. Just want to honor you and make sure you know how much we appreciate what you do.
Oh, and next time some 18year-old-looking kid with “PhD” printed on his white lab coat, disinterestedly peers over his clipboard at you and says, “…and what do you do?”. Nicely, but directly tell him, “Everything. And you?”