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.