From across the crowded room, my husband winks at me. Holding a glass of wine in one hand and letting the other one hang by the thumb from the pocket of his trousers, he turns his attention back to his colleague, who must have said something amusing to make him chuckle. Funny and quick-witted, my husband doesn’t miss a beat and comes back with what I assume is a clever reply, which makes the small group gathered around him laugh out loud.

He’s in his element.

Social gatherings are his domain and he shines here. Always knowing how to break the ice with people, he immerses himself in social events like a fish in water.

The wink he gave me was a reassuring nod to me. On the opposite side of the room, I shrink into a corner and avoid calling attention to myself. Quite content to pass unnoticed, I busy myself with my drink and whatever food I have on my plate. Neither encouraging nor discouraging anyone to engage in conversation with me, I, too, immerse myself in this room. But more with the tapestry decorating the walls than with any person present at such meetings. I fade into the proverbial wallflower.

Unlike my husband, I’m not big on social events. It’s not that I’m shy or unsociable; I don’t like attending these things. Don’t get me wrong, I may be a homebody but I do enjoy dressing to the nines from time to time. A little makeup, a fancy updo, and a pretty outfit are enough to call forward the girl I use to be . . . before the marriage and the kids. And, like magic, the sparkle reappears in my husband’s eyes, as he recognizes, once more, behind the wife and mom, the girl he fell in love with in his youth.

I do enjoy going out—it’s the meeting new people and the same inevitable conversations I dread.

They all start out promising. Some polite greetings, small pleasantries, then they all take an abrupt turn to a dead-end and come to a screeching halt. The culprit? A conventional little phrase I’ve come to expect and despise. The instant this phrase is uttered, the pleasantries stop, and the awkwardness and discomfort begin.

“What do you do for a living?”

It’s a sure question at such events. Unavoidable, like death and taxes.

I cringe inwardly every time I hear them. I’ve learned to have a drink in my hand at all times to allow me to take a big gulp and buy a few precious seconds to come up with something interesting to say to keep the conversation going. Of course, I never do. An internal debate ensues about whether or not I can lie. Maybe I can pull off a typical movie response in which the main character disguises the truth in a funny manner.

“Oh, I am actually the CEO of a small company. Only three employees and a dog,” I imagine myself saying with an amused grin. But that type of line won’t hold water in a real conversation, so I resign myself to the truth.

I am a housewife,” I answer, flashing my best smile. It never works.

The people on the receiving end of this always stare back at me as if I just told them I dress up as a clown for a living. They give quick replies along the lines of how wonderful it is to be with children, then excuse themselves from the conversation. I don’t blame them. I know I am the odd man out. In this room filled with career-driven individuals to find an anachronism like me can be disconcerting.

Even in my circle of family and friends, I am the only housewife and my status still elicits frowns of disapproval from loved ones who think I am wasted by staying home with my kids.

Silent glances full of judgment are thrown my way as I am perceived to be dependent, vulnerable, without ambition, weak, and most of all in settings such as these, uninteresting. Not capable of entertaining an intelligent conversation that won’t involve diapers and feeding schedules. A bad look for a modern woman.

But whether I’m at a family event or a room full of strangers, I don’t let these assumptions bother me.

I know I am more than what these people make me out to be.

I am my husband’s confidante, ally, and friend; my children’s protector and security blanket. I am the holder of their memories, the keeper of their secrets and the weaver of their happiness. I am the pillar on which they stand and the glue holding our household together. I am the caregiver, the boo-boo kisser, the playmate, the partner in crime. I provide a cozy and nurturing house for my children and a safe harbor in which my husband can seek refuge from the outside world every day.

I am his wife, I am their mom, and home is where I shine.

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Tania Lorena Rivera

Biologist by training, homemaker by choice, mom to two daughters, wife, hobbyist writer and photographer.