It surprises me how little paperwork is involved in bringing a new person into the world.
One day you are pregnant, and the next that bump has suddenly become a citizen, a consumer, a tax rebate (or liability), a future voter, a Medicare number.... considering how much paperwork is involved in opening a bank account for this new person, the forms required to acknowledge their arrival on the planet is relatively bereft.
The forms themselves are relatively simple. Name, date of birth, gender. That’s pretty much it. What stumped me this time round was when I got the bit that said 'Mother's Occupation' on the birth registration form.
Five years ago, after the Blonde Bombshell was born I reverted to my occupation at the time - I was working in clinical drug trials - and I think I put 'Health Researcher'. I had every intention of returning to work in the area. I was full of good intentions first time round.
Two years ago, after the birth of the Curly Mop, paid work was a distant, vaguely blurry memory. I cannot remember what I listed as my occupation on the birth registration form. Maybe something helpful like 'Domestic Goddess' or ‘Trophy Wife’. The concept of returning to paid work was an unpleasant thought. If I ignored it, maybe it would go away.
Now, with the very real possibility of my being out of the workforce for a decade (if I wait until Baldy Baby is in full time school before returning to full time work) the label I give myself has suddenly become very important. Partly because it is the label the rest of the world gives me. Perhaps because I am also very afraid that once I am out, I will find it too hard to get back in.
Sidenote: a few years back when working in Canberra we were researching working Mums and Dads, and looking at the impact of their work on their health. I interviewed a wonderful mother of three, in her early forties, who was working on the registers at a department store. Turns out, she had two university degrees but after taking almost ten years out of the paid workforce to raise her kids to school age, she found herself practically unemployable.
That scares me.
So there I was sitting in my hospital bed, staring at the forms. Mother’s Occupation. What was I when I hadn’t worked (for money) in years? Is Stay-At-Home-Mum an occupation? Am I a Health Researcher if I haven’t done it in years? Should I just leave it blank?
So I put Writer. Why not, I thought? I write, therefore I am a writer. You don’t need a degree (though I am working on that), or an income (though I have earned a few dollars with my reviews) to claim an identity.
In all honesty, it probably makes little difference what I wrote on the form, unless one day distant descendants look me up on ancestry.com. Surely it doesn’t make any difference to the sudden legality and existence of my former-bump. I wonder why they even bother asking, except to remind poor, exhausted, floppy, bleeding new mums that they have lost one of their former identities.
But even though it felt a little bit naughty, claiming this new identity on such a formal and enduring document, it also felt right. Now I just need to back it up with some formal and enduring publications.