Last night, we were at a barbecue. It was a nice laid back affair with some good friends who are our neighbours. There were some people who we didn’t know and a few who we did.
The conversation was convivial and mostly fairly light. It was lovely to get to know some new people. I do wonder sometimes if people might not want to engage with us once they know that we’re moving away – after all they’re not likely to get to know us any better. Although it turns out that I can be wrong about that. I had two remarkable conversations last night.
The conversation stopper
A Quaker friend of mine warned me recently that being a full-time stay-at-home parent can be a conversation stopper. I experienced this for the first time at the barbecue.
Man: What do you do?
Me: I’m a homemaker.
Man: You build homes?
Me: No, I’m a stay-at-home Dad.
Man: Oh. [He is silent for a moment, then turns to someone else and asks them what they do.]
It was strangely satisfying though. I found myself thinking that if he couldn’t think of anything to say then perhaps we wouldn’t get on anyway and it was better to leave it there.
I also found that although I like the phrase “homemaker” it did roll off the tongue slightly awkwardly. I don’t know if that’s because I’m not used to saying it or because it is a bit odd. But I don’t like some of the alternatives like “house husband” and “stay-at-home-Dad” and everyone with kids is a full-time parent, no matter what other work they do.
But I don’t have a better alternative yet, so homemaker I am.
The conversation starter
There was a woman at the barbecue who hadn’t meant to be there. She was visiting another neighbour and before she knew it the children had hopped over the gardens to get some food. We didn’t know each other. But chatting to her, I learned that she lives around the corner from us and she and her family are in the process of moving to Geneva. And hers was the second local family I’ve heard about moving with us this weekend! It’s as if there’s a measurable migration between south-east London and south-west Switzerland.
Not only did we have lots to talk about Geneva (the woe of finding a suitable place) we got chatting about all sorts of other things too (our children, coincidences). And by the end of our conversation I don’t think either of us had found out what the other “does”. Which only went to show that it isn’t the be all and end all of conversations.
So tell me, what phrase would you use to describe my situation? Are there any other parenting conversation stoppers?