Friday, June 8, 2007

Up In Arms!

I'm fighting mad all because I met a lady in the elevator today who casually said, "You are so lucky you don't work." Why do people assume that if you don't get paid, you don't work? This is a comment that has bugged me forever!!

When I was a stay-at-home mom I worked my tail off, as every mother does. I was lucky that I had the choice of 2 paychecks or 1, but we chose to go without some things so I could do other things. I was continually asked to take other people's kids here or there, provide childcare, or get a child off to kindergarten because I didn't work. The insinuation was that I was probably bored out of my mind (if I had one) and I'd love to do all the extras for their kids, because they were busy with important, paycheck worthy enterprises.

I was happy to help out from time to time, but I was working, too. I was doing a summer school (for my own kids,) I was planning activities (for my own kids,) I was tutoring (my own kids.) When you don't get paid for it, somehow society sees it as less valuable. It seemed presumptuous of me to compare my stay-at-home activities to actually working. When other people organize activities for kids, tutor, or plan educational field trips, and get paid for it, it's called a job. They are working. Why, because it was for my own kids, was it somehow, "not working?"

Even now, because I don't work, I receive suggestions of things I could do for others who do. "I work, so I'm wondering if you could run my mother to the doctor." "You know, she works, and someone needs to take her car to be inspected." "Since you don't work, could you tend my kids while I work?" No acknowledgement that I may be working on something that is occupying my time, and is important to me.

Every day I am a writer, an on-call day-care provider, a bookkeeper and an editor. I don't get paid for any of these ventures, and I don't have a boss who has bestowed the titles on me. Can I say I am a designer? Or do I just "play around on the computer?" I often take the phone off the hook when I have something I'm working on. When I explained this to a woman who was trying to get hold of me, she said, "I've been searching all over for you and the whole time you were just sitting there paying bills?" Would she say that if I'd been doing the same thing, but being paid for it? Then I would be at working and she would expect me to be unavailable. Ironically, she was calling to ask if I'd be able to do some research for her, as a favor (since I don't work.)

We've traveled a lot. We've been "over the pond" (as a friend used to say) 25 different times to England and Europe, plus we've lived there. There's a lot we don't know, but there's a lot we do know from experience and study, and we know how to find the rest and who to trust for suggestions. We've never used a travel agent so we have learned how to research places, hotels, scenic drives, train schedules, etc., on our own. It's a natural expertise to have developed. Consequently, I have helped many people plan trips to places we're familiar with, and I love it when I'm asked.

A friend of mine was planning a trip to England, and I spent hours pouring over maps and books, and put together an itinerary for her, including hotel suggestions, restauants, addresses, phone numbers, emails, maps and more. It was fun and I got excited about the trip, as I always do. When she was thanking me, she said, "You know, you're good at this. You could do it." I responded, "I do do it!" She went on, "I mean, you could do it for real: you could get paid." (Dee suggested I send her a bill and have her as my first client.) Why doesn't it count because I do it for free? If you enjoy your work, isn't it still work?

It has always made me mad that a person is judged and valued by the amount of money they make. I know I'm ranting! I just want my work to be as valuable as work that is paid to be done. I don't want to have a job and a boss or a paycheck. I just want my work to be accepted as real WORK! I have to simmer down. After all, it was just an idle comment in the elevator. I don't think I need armed guards. I need to take a l-o-n-g, s-l-o-w deep breath. It wasn't personal...I know I shouldn't be so sensitive. I'll work on it.

12 comments:

Walker Family said...

I sometimes feel this way too. There are many two income families in our neighborhood and I am very grateful that I can be the one to stay home to work. I've found too as I get older, that I get busier--more people to serve that need a little help, more things that need to get done which don't with little ones around. Just because we're not paid doesn't mean we don't do as much or even more!

Bev said...

I think you're completely correct.

Right now I choose to work at home, but that does not mean I am not working!! (tho' it may mean I'm not getting paid)

Gramafolly said...

As a stay at home mom and also an out of the home worker..I would say working out of the home is the way easier job than the staying at home. I only went to two quarters of school at the U and yet I feel educated and capable of doing anything anyone set before me. As Nick says the best education you can get costs $2.00..It is a library card.

kenju said...

Amen! As a SAHM for many years, I agree with everything. I did a lot of school volunteer work back then, and often worked harder than I would have in a job!

Stie said...

I've done both as well - and would not trade my SAHM status for anything. But I'll tell you - getting paid for your work doesn't mean it's a guarantee that you'll be appreciated. I've worked for good bosses, bad bosses, shady bosses, and everything in between. You are not automatically revered just for receiving a paycheck.

In terms of how others view us SAHMs, it does frustrate me. I'll be at my husband's company parties and women who work with him will come up and ask what I do. When I tell them I stay home with the kids, there is usually a round or two of "REALLY?" and "Wow, I could NEVER do that." But then they turn their heads away - as if I've got nothing more to offer. And that gets me mad.

Bottom line - we can't win at anything. No matter what we do, there will be people who admire us, people who despise us, and people who are indifferent to our great contributions. It's what YOU think that matters (but it's so hard not to get mad).

Whatever Dee-Dee wants said...

I completely agree with you! I went from working 40+ hours a week to working for my dad 3 days a week. People think I am lazy and I don’t do much because I work (get paid) only 3 days a week and because I work for family. People don’t realize I don’t slack off just because I am working for family, I take it just as seriously as I would any other job. I have had friends or sisters ask me to baby sit or run an errand for them while I am suppose to be at work. They don’t like my answer of “no I am working”
Now that I don’t work full time friends and family assume that I have all this FREE time on my hands. The truth is I am WAY busier than I ever was when I worked 40+ hours a week. Besides taking care of the house (cooking, cleaning, paying bills, doing laundry, etc..) I have numerous things I am responsible for and find it hard to find FREE time for myself.

mama jo said...

hey, after reading your earlier blog...you don't have any time at all...actually, i know this for a fact that you are running like crazy...but, i know i would buy your kits if you went into business....

Joy Des Jardins said...

I hear you Marty....and I totally agree. I'm working at home at present, but that doesn't make it any less of a job than if I was working outside of my home. I like what I'm doing...and getting paid for it. I had my share of working out in the corporate world...I don't think I could do it anymore...in fact, I'm sure of it.

When I was raising my four kids it was insanely busy, pluse we ran an advertising agency out of our home...so it was doubly crazy. It was important for to be available to my kids and all they were involved in.

Mothers have full time jobs all of their lives...and it's the hardest job around...but by far the most rewarding. I wouldn't have missed a moment with my kids.

Now I feel if I want to make a little money right here at home....I've earned that right. And I get to work with my daughter's website for women, BlogHer....it's a great gig.

Peter said...

I think maybe you took offense to this lady's comment too quickly. Maybe you should've taken her comment at face value. You really ARE lucky you don't have a job and have the freedom to keep yourself busy doing work of your choosing. Although I'm sure there is a large population that doesn't appreciate what you do, I feel you shouldn't take your circumstance for granted. The overwhelming majority of the world is not as fortunate.

Marty: said...

I think Peter's comment was right on. Now that I've let off a little steam, I do see how lucky I am to be able to choose what I do with my time. Sorry to sound like a spoiled brat.

Kay Dennison said...

I understand, Marty! Been there; done that. I never worked harder than I did when I was raising my kids. I also never enjoyed a job more. That I get no credit for contributing two, decent, responsible people to the world really trips my trigger. Sigh. Spomeone wiser than I said, "EVERY mother is a working mother." and it is so true.

Bridget said...

sometimes i tell people i run a day-care. which is true. i have three kids in my program. and they never get picked up at night to go home!