Wednesday, March 19, 2008

It's The Money, Honey

Part of what I'm going through during this most recent young-elderly crisis I'm having (you can't be middle aged if you're fifty-three and not planning to live until you're one hundred and six) is something I've fought with for many, many years and that is the fact that everything I do is for love. Or, as we say in the real world- for free.
Nothing I do makes money. Nor has it for many, many years.
I, like everyone else in the world, did work as a youngster. I started off filing in a doctor's office at fifteen, worked at McDonald's at seventeen, waitressed, worked as a proof-reader, worked at a birth center, worked for Weight Watchers. Those last two gigs were just one step up from volunteer work in that the pay was not terrific.
But my real work has been the raising of children and the keeping of the hearth. This would make me a housewife, which is something that can be mind-numbingly boring, incredibly rewarding, and hard, hard work. During that time I also spent countless hours volunteering in classrooms of course. And oh yeah, I went to FSU for four years and got a degree in nursing. I helped some friends have babies, I nursed some friends through injuries or illness, I helped midwife a few friends into death. And I did a lot of other stuff either too boring or too personal to go into here. I also kept the yard, gardened, managed to write a novel, wrote gazillions of poems, and sometimes kept a journal. I also kept a husband, which I consider to be an accomplishment.
But none of this earned me a penny. And in our society, the earning of money is- let's face it- the bottom line of your worth here in the planet.
I remember once at party, a woman asked me what it is that I did. I said, "Well, actually, I'm a stay-at-home mom and a housewife," and she literally turned around and went off to talk to someone else.
I'm not kidding you. You usually get the old, "And that's the hardest job in the world!" reply, but this woman wasn't having any of that.
It's hard to keep a sense of self-worth and accomplishment if what you do earns no money. My husband has been incredibly supportive of me staying home with the kids and house through the years and tells me frequently that he couldn't do what he does unless I did what I do, which is kind of him considering that if I hadn't been around, he wouldn't have these children and this particular house and yard to support.
But anyway, not even considering the fact that every family can use some extra income, there's the matter of me constantly feeling that what I do is of no value because there is no paycheck.
And now I'm wondering if I shouldn't have kept my toe in the water when it comes to employment during all these past years.
I would never, ever say that all those years spent washing and changing diapers and helping out in classrooms and shuttling kids to karate, ballet, softball and other activities was wasted time. It definitely was not. But there are no more lessons for me to take kids to. And frankly (and this just goes to show you what a low-down, no-good human being I am), I don't want to do volunteer work anymore. This comes from all the hours of all the unpaid labor I have done and that's just the way it is.
So although I am quite content to be at home and although my kids still need me in many ways and although my I still take a lot of pride in my home and my yard and taking good care of my husband and yes, writing, I still feel that there is something lacking and that something is earning my way in this world.
I look at women who do that and I am in awe of them. I'm not sure, because I've never had to, that I could.
Whereas it seems to me that given the opportunity, almost any woman could do what I've done.
There. I've said it. I feel like a reasonably intelligent chimp mama could have done as good a job as I've done with my kids, or perhaps a better one. My babies are all incredible human beings and I am inordinately proud of them, but I refuse to take credit for who and what they are.
This is because if any of them ever gets arrested for murder or descends into crack-addiction, I will refuse to be blamed for whatever led to this behavior.
Of course, anything a child does is ultimately due to the mother- she gave birth to them and that is that.
I was thinking the other day that it would be awesome if women could still take in laundry for money because I am good at laundry. But of course, that's not really a viable work-plan.
There's still the truck stop. I haven't given up that dream.
Nor the dream of writing a novel that gets published.
But I'm having a harder and harder time visualizing it ever coming true.


  1. My wife's dream was to have enough dough to quit work and volunteer at the kids school,never happened. She is doing very well in the work force but I wish with all my heart I could have given her that dream. Cards your dealt I guess. You had her dream!
    Also on the subject of money. I had some for a while and I wish I had it now, but it is brings so many burdens and I have seen good people ruined by it. It's good not to worry but, the toll on ones personality can be horible. Plus I just don't like rich people.
    Also, I think you delivered my second son. Did you at the Tally Birth center in 95?

  2. I left out a million words and spelled the others wrong!....sorry.

  3. There's so much to say in response to the entirety of this post, but one of my reactions is to completely validate your instinct and action to mother. Whether you were a homemaker or a career woman with children, doesn't matter; it's huge to be able to say you raised decent human beings.

  4. Hey WB! I never delivered babies. I was the assistant and may have worked some in '95 but I THINK I ended my career there in '94. It's nice to hear that you had a baby there. It's such a great place.
    I don't think that even if I got a job we'd be rich enough for you to hate- so big tee-hee on that one.
    I know that a lot of women wish they could stay home which is another reason for me to feel guilty- as I've so frequently said, my default emotion anyway.
    And in my observation, many working mothers raise perfectly lovely human beings. But I do grieve for babies, especially, when I see them put in daycare at very young ages. That just seems so sad and wrong to me. There ARE countries that pay women to stay home with their infants for a year. Not ours, of course.
    I personally think it would pay off in the end in so very many ways.

  5. Jeez you can't have everything we have a WAR to pay for!
    You should feel blessed, guilt doesn't do anything but ruin "now".
    That being said I feel guilty about everything (Irish Catholic family!)
    My first was born there in 94, delivered by Alice. My second was delivered by Jan (I just asked my wife).
    That would have been cool if it was you, I had already written the "small world" blog....dang it!

  6. Ms. Moon, Honey, I hear ya. Partly it's young-elderly crisis with so much awareness of choices not made and perhaps no longer available. Every lawyer wants to quit and be a fishing guide in Honduras, but the fishing guide knows he should've gone to law school. Me? I was horrified for years that I didn't have a Master's degree which I just could not force myself to do in part because I can't force myself to specialize. I'm with Heilein's Lazarus Long, "Specialization is for insects." So, being older than you but not necessarily wiser for it, I can at least say that the need for more money is one thing, but what some b---- at a party thinks is quite another. Once at a final interview for job with American Express Financial Services, really cleaned up in a gorgeous suit and knowing I could say exactly what they wanted to hear if I wanted the job, when asked, "What accomplishment are you most proud of?" I looked him straight in the eye and said, "Having raised my two children." So in one fell swoop I spoke the truth and saved myself from a major mistake of selling my soul.

    Now the truck stop dream interests me, but I'd hate to think how sad that house would be without you, and how to the collards would go unplanted or wither while you meant to pick them.

    Unless you're an Amazon woman, leave the work place to those who either have to and wish with their eyes clenched tight that they could live your life, or the Hillarys who are born to be working women.

    I love knowing you're keeping the home fires burning. Makes me want to come curl up on your couch. Honestly, it's the most honorable job there is. It's our stupid society that is so screwed up.

  7. I'm still thinking (from the first time I read this post) about the kind of person who would literally turn around and walk the other way when you said you were a housewife. I can see why you'd be taken a-back by that reaction, but I can only imagine that conversation would have been boring, self-centered, closed-minded and shallow on her part.

  8. WB- hah! I wasn't really raised any religion and yet still carry a world's worth of guilt on my shoulders. Global warming? Entirely my fault.
    If you had a child at the Birth Center in '94 and Alice delivered, it could have been me assisting. I did the postpartum visit stuff too. That would be cool if it had been me. Let's just say it was. Why not?

    Lopo- boy, am I glad you didn't get that job. And I know what you mean and of course there's more than one type of paycheck. It's just...well, if I started getting social security today, I would get approximately 47 cents a month.

    And Nicol- maybe that woman just noticed she needed another drink.

  9. I LOVE my paycheck (although I'm worth soooooooo much more...well maybe not, considering how much time I spend holding my head in my hands muttering "I can't cope," to myself lately). It's the %$#^&*@# job I hate!!!!
    I hear what you're saying...

  10. Hey Ms. Moon my cyber friend, you are officially tagged. We invite you to write a 6-word memoir, post it with a link to me your tagger ( and then tag five more people on your post and let them know in their blog. It's a bit of work especially at 11:09 p.m. which it is now in Boston, but what could be more enticing than summing up your life in 6 words?
    Excellent post as well.


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