Posts Tagged ‘work’

I just read an article from Slate about how the ‘Do What You Love’ mantra devalues actual work, as well as entire socioeconomic classes of people who do the dirty and unloveable, but so very necessary, jobs that keep society running.  You know, the shelf-stockers, hospital janitors, and farm laborers of the world.  It was an interesting perspective, and one that makes sense to me, though I had never considered that particular angle before.


I have the sort of job that lots of people covet.  I have my own office, work (fairly) predictable hours, and get paid quite well.  I get benefits – good ones, like paid sick time, a pension, and four weeks’ vacation.  My work is challenging, has creative elements, and often is under minimal supervision.   Sounds dreamy, right?




Well, it has its challenges, too.  I carry a great deal of responsibility, including a threat of lawsuits and other legal action, or even people being hurt or killed if I make a poor recommendation or fail to consider all of the information in a case.  My clientele is difficult at best, and the physical work environment ranges from depressing to dangerous.


I don’t love my job, though many of my colleagues do.  But you know what?  I think that’s okay.  I strive to do a good job of the things that are required of me, and I recognize that the structure of a work week is good for my mental health.   I’m grateful to have a secure job that pays well, and I do truly enjoy my colleagues, who are a smart and funny bunch.  I may not love my job, but I’m committed to it, and I do get gratification from writing that stellar report, overcoming challenges, or meeting that super-tight surprise deadline.


There are lots of things that I do really love, things I am good at, and could marshal into a business or career if I wanted to.  Travel writer, portrait photographer or pet portrait photographer, market gardener…there are things I love so much that I do them for free, or even pay for the opportunity to enjoy them.   Here’s the thing, though:  I think they would become work if I had to do these things day in and day out, for my living.  I could see dreading ‘yet another trip’ if I didn’t get to stay home when I wanted to.  Some days, I don’t feel inspired to pull out the camera, but leaving it in the closet wouldn’t be an option if that was paying the mortgage.   I don’t know how long I would continue loving those hobbies if I were forced into them, day in, day out.   It seems to work for some people, but I don’t think it would do it for me.


cat portrait


The other issue is money.  The job I have pays in a way that small-town photography or one-family market gardens just don’t.  It pays enough to enjoy all of my hobbies, and gives me enough time off to pursue those things.   As a market gardener, I doubt I would have the time or the money to travel overseas.  As a travel writer, I’d never be home to plant or tend the garden.


temple restoration, Egypt


As it is, I do lots of different things that I enjoy immensely – blogging, photography, gardening, travel, canning, mentoring…the list goes on and on.  I DO do what I love.  All the time.  I just don’t get paid for it, and I do a job I don’t love in order to have the time and money to do the rest.  It’s really not a bad compromise, as far as these things go.  I am happy with the lifestyle I have, and wouldn’t trade it, even for a job I loved.  It’s just not necessary.


squash harvest


So I’d say go ahead and do what you love, but maybe recognize you don’t always have to get paid for it.


Eiffel Tower at night

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People keep asking me how things are going, with me being back to work now.


Apparently I keep giving the wrong answer.


I tell them I enjoy it.  That having a routine is good for me.  That it’ll be great to have a full paycheque again.


People accept that part.  Then they say “Oh, but it must be soooo hard to leave your baby every morning.


And I tell them that no, it’s not.


This is where the problem begins.


The thing is, I am leaving my son with a perfectly competent parent, one who loves him every bit as much as I do.  Someone who is probably better suited to parenting than I am, given our respective levels of patience, tolerance, and such.   I am leaving them in order to go to an office where (usually) nobody is screaming, covered in poop, biting the dog, refusing to nap, or whatever.  I am going to a job that I am pretty good at, one that I know how to do; I am rarely at a total loss for how to approach a situation.   I get a lot of respect at work, and people look up to me and ask for advice.  I am something of a mentor for some of the newer staff members.   My opinion is valued.  My work is challenging, and my days are varied and often quite interesting.  I enjoy my colleagues.  Hell, I even get to eat lunch, with both hands free, using utensils, while it is still hot.


What I’m getting at is that there are a lot of advantages to being at work.  Advantages beyond the paycheque.  Things like personal fulfillment, challenging tasks, respect, power, and freedom.  Apparently moms aren’t supposed to want or enjoy these things, however.


You see, people seem to think it’s okay for me to be a mom and have a job, as long as I don’t enjoy it.   Folks understand the necessity of an income, I guess.  But if I say I am happy to be back to work, they cock their head and ask “but don’t you miss your baby while you’re gone?” (No, not particularly.)  Or they want to tell me about how, for their first two weeks back to work, they cried in the car all the way to the office (I didn’t.  I listen to my favorite music, very loud, and drive too fast).   People keep asking pointed questions, apparently searching for some sort of mommy guilt that I just don’t possess.


Then they judge me.


They talk about how hard it was for their wife to go back to work.  Or how terrible they feel dropping their kids off at the sitter’s.  They talk about how another lady we used to work with is taking five years off to open a daycare so she can stay home with her kids.  While I am happy that she is able to start a business and stay home with her kids if that’s what she wants to do, I don’t understand how my failure to consign myself and my family to a severely reduced income and a pink-collar-ghetto “career” makes me a worse mom, somehow.   How enjoying my job and all the advantages it confers (including not having to change diapers for 8 solid hours) makes me less of a loving parent.  I would like very much to know why Mom being challenged, powerful,  fulfilled, and well-paid is so bad for my kid.


I would like to know how many fathers are asked these questions when they go back to work.

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Well, spring is (supposedly) coming.  Despite the two-plus feet of snow still on our yard, we’re getting ready.  Getting ready for spring, getting ready to garden, getting ready for baby goats.  Getting ready for me to go back to work.


I go back to work in about ten days.  I’m actually looking forward to it – it’ll be nice to do things that stay done.  Laundry and dishes and cooking and picking up baby toys seems like a treadmill of just getting one finished, and having to start from scratch with one (or all) of the others – it never ends.  However, a report, once written, is done.  You can move on to the next task.  I can tidy my office, and expect it to stay that way.  I will miss the rather more leisurely pace of the days, and of course, I love being able to spend time with Hubby and Baby M, but there are advantages to this working business, too.


We’ve started a couple hundred plants for the garden, beginning back in February, with the artichokes, and planting more every couple-few weeks.  This year, I’ve tried to stick more closely with the stuff we know we like, and do a bit less experimenting, so at the moment, we’ve mostly got artichokes, tomatoes, and peppers.   I started a few pots of herbs, as well.  This year, I decided I wanted to plant more flowers, just because.  Because I like pretty things, because they attract hummingbirds and butterflies, because we don’t always have to be strictly practical.  I’ve got pansies, zinnias, rudbeckia, calendula, delphiniums…no real plan, but a mish-mash of things that appealed to me.  Some will go in pots by the back door, some in a dedicated flower bed, and some will undoubtedly be tucked here and there among the tomatoes that I plant along the south and east walls of the house.  I’m looking forward to the planting!  In the meantime, I still have squash, melons, and cukes to start; I’ll probably sit down and get that done this weekend, or maybe next.  I don’t want to start them too early, especially with the melt being so late.


Two of the three pregnant does are due any day now.  Saffron is about the size of a bus, but it doesn’t stop her from jumping up on the old hay bales we’ve stacked along the cold wall of the maternity stall, to stop drafts.   Skye is smaller than Saffron, but is still developing a bit of a waddle.  Missy is hardly looking pregnant compared to the other two, but she could have been bred up to a month later, so it’s not that shocking.  I think Sky was bred first, but I’d put my money on Saffron having her kid(s) first.  We’re making special trips out to the barn every couple of hours, now, just out of anticipation.  The three bottle babies that I brought back from Alberta are appreciating the extra attention, as are the cats.  We’ve located and gathered all our ‘kid contingency’ stuff – extra bottles and nipples, colostrum replacer, towels, rubber gloves, and the like.   None of our goats has had major problems kidding so far (besides their habit of dropping kids in snowbanks, which the maternity stall should solve), but it’s bound to happen sooner or later, and we’d like to be prepared.


While we’re waiting for overly-cute newborn goat pictures, here are a few of the also-very-cute Alberta bottle babies:


baby Splash



Alberta baby



baby Alyssum

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Hubby was raised in a very traditional family – Christian, two parents, married to each other (never divorced); Mom stayed home with the boys while Dad went to work, and the whole crew went to church every Sunday.  It seems to be understood that women do domestic things, and men support the family.  While Hubby’s Mom taught him how to cook and do laundry, I don’t think he routinely did his own until he was a teenager.  Even fairly recently, at family functions, Hubby’s father and brothers (and, for the first while, Hubby, too) disappeared to watch sports when it was time for the cooking, or cleaning, or childcare, which, of course, is not what my family ever did, and really drove me nuts for the first while.  It is funny, as none of them are particularly chauvinist; it’s just what has always been done.


In my own family, tradition went out the window pretty early.  My parents divorced when I was quite young, and my family took on quite a non-traditional structure after that.  I was raised in an overtly feminist home, where established gender roles, in particular, were constantly challenged.  I was encouraged to take shop courses in school, and was not only told, but also shown, that women could do anything they pleased.  I grew up knowing woman mechanics, doctors, woodworkers, engineers, construction workers, and cops.  Not so amazing now, I know, but unusual in the early ’80’s.


Based on our vastly different childhoods, you can imagine the conflicts Hubby and I had when we were working out who did what in the home. With both of us working full time, I was adamant that it was not my job to do all the cooking and all the laundry and the tidying and the vacuuming and, and, and…


Hubby claimed the snow shoveling and lawn mowing plus half the cooking, but when I sat down with him and wrote out all the things that needed to be done for us to be clean and fed, he recognized that there was a certain amount of inequality there.  Furthermore, because we had rather different standards of what qualified as ‘clean’, I felt the need to schedule chores, and scheduling the chores became one more job I had to do.  Bleh.


Well, over the years, we worked it out, and Hubby pulled his share or more of the cooking and cleaning for a long time. He’s not actually all that committed to the status quo; he had just never been challenged on his expectations regarding gender roles.  He has never felt threatened by my well-paid job or my ability to do basic mechanics, which really is a relief, and he always supports me in learning or doing whatever I enjoy, whether it fits the stereotypes or not.  As you may guess, Hubby has some non-traditional leanings of his own.


When we moved to the acreage, the plan really did not include Hubby getting a job.  Of the two of us, I have the more stable and higher-paying work, and I enjoy my job a lot more.  Hubby has as many years in University as I do, but switched majors, and never did get that degree.  He does not particularly enjoy labor jobs, though hard work does not put him off at all.  He wants to be intellectually challenged, which you just don’t get framing houses or delivering packages.  For the wages he would earn, we would have to buy another vehicle, insure it, pay for gas,  get him work clothes and probably tools, pay more for food (he sure would not be growing it), and I would have a lot more stress, dealing with a higher percentage of the housework.  We discussed it, and really, unless we were talking a very high wage, his time is more valuable to us here, renovating, fixing the barn, building fences, growing our food, and keeping house.   I know I am certainly less stressed when I come home from work to a hot meal on the table, rather than having to figure out what the heck to cook when I am tired and hungry.  I also have not touched the vacuum or picked up a broom since we’ve been here, but the house is still nice and clean, which is pretty sweet – all I really have to do is go to work, do my job, come home and relax, which is such a luxury after years and years of being single and doing everything myself.


A cousin offered Hubby an excellent job, making awesome money, and that one was tempting.  The only issue being that he would be on the road three weeks out of every month, and, for health reasons, I am not supposed to lift more than 20 pounds right now, and somebody has to haul water for the animals twice a day.  Oh, well.  It’s not like we’re broke and starving as it is, and really, we’re both pretty content with the current arrangement.  While being rich might be fun, it’s not really something we aspire to.


I was chatting on the phone with a family member the other day, and was asked when Hubby was going to get a job.  I get this question quite a bit, from family and colleagues.  Said family member seemed pretty taken aback when I said it really was not in the master plan right now.  There was something of a debate over why we would make such an obviously silly choice, when Hubby could be out earning something, and I found myself feeling pretty defensive about our choices.  Then it hit me.


I politely asked if he would feel the same way if Hubby was working in a well paid professional job that covered all the bills, and I was staying home and doing the cooking, cleaning, livestock maintenance, home upkeep, foster child care, and such.  The long silence was pretty informative.


To my family member’s credit, he immediately switched gears and started brainstorming ways Hubby could continue doing what he is doing, but also make money, like running a daycare, which, while not really in the plan, at least fits more appropriately with what we’re trying to do here.


It is easy to forget that our little family does not follow the predominant social rules, and while we aren’t exactly on a crusade to change people’s perceptions, I still get a little annoyed at the surprised looks we get when I tell people Hubby is a homemaker.  Maybe someday, the world will just allow people to take the roles that suit them best, without fussing so much over what is ‘manly enough’, or ‘properly feminine’…

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