I like to hang out with artists; they make me feel hip.
Several friends of mine have launched home-based businesses monetizing their talents - painters, tie-dyers, knitters, jewelers, sewers (that totally comes out looking like sewers and not sew-ers, sorry ladies) and talented craftswomen of all sorts.
I also like to hang out with traditional business people; they help me expand my mind in terms of what's entrepreneurially possible. We talk innovative technology, marketing, whether or not a "viable" office is a manageable or required expense, pricing your services, how and when to fire a horrid client, etc.
As you may know, I work part time from home. Please understand and accept that this does not translate to "I work when and if I feel like it and I watch Law and Order the rest of the time."
The Law and Order part is true (Who doesn't have a crush on Elliot Stabler?) but make no mistake - I work my ass off. There seems to be some uncomfortable, rank and grossly judgy assumptions out there regarding moms and their work.
Case in point:
Gymboree, 2011, 4pm: I'm nursing my six month old while rummaging through my bag to extract requested homemade muffins while keeping an eye on the three year old who has seemed to target a smaller child for annihilation. The five year old is playing nicely, albeit hanging upside down from the railing on the staircase. No blood, no problem.
Neighbor Mommy, also nursing, strikes up a friendly conversation and asks me what I do. I explain to her, while passing out said snack, that I work from home running a company and much of my work is performed at night, since my clients are in America and I need to account for the time difference.
She rolls her eyes at me, retorting, "Oh, I ACTUALLY work" and turns her back on me in search of another Mommy who might ACTUALLY work as well.
Rejected at the Gymboree - that was a first.
I totally wanted to chuck muffins at her head but my then three year old would have cried about lack of sustenance. Not worth it.
Judged deficient since I don't leave the house to perform my work. Judged lazy? Privileged? Unskilled? She didn't offer a clear explanation as to why my work was less important or worthy than hers. Perhaps because I work half time and she works full time? I honestly don't even know if she worked full time, since the only information she offered about her employment or career was that it was ACTUAL work. In comparison to mine, which was apparently not.
Fast forward a few years and I overhear a conversation that starts with the proverbial "What do you do?" and then the obligatory explanation that follows. It's route and boring so I tune it out, until I hear "and I'm with my kids in the afternoons" and the response. The dreaded response: "Oh, so this is like, a Mommy Job?"
I so wish that real life came with a movie soundtrack. The whole scene would have flipped into slo-mo and some of this would have been playing.
A Mommy Job.
Does that mean - any job that a Mom has? Does it mean that a Mom is working inside the home? Outside the home? That she's working part time? That she's not the breadwinner?
These artists I know - most of them are not the breadwinners in their homes. Some market themselves into a fury on Etsy and make bank.
Some take their one day off/week (from their ACTUAL jobs) and sit for 10 hours in the sun at a craft fair, hoping to earn enough to cover the cost of their table. Yeah, let's belittle them. That'll be fun.
My salary covers our mortgage; I'm pretty damn proud that I have fashioned a job that I love, I'm good at, actually does the world some good, and allows me to spend every afternoon with my kids, while paying my mortgage by myself. No, it doesn't cover groceries. Or taxes. Or the dentist. Or gymnastics. Or school clothes. Just the mortgage, but man - no mortgage payment = homeless family, and we enjoy shelter. I contribute, dammit! And what if I didn't?
What if I didn't work at all?
Or volunteered instead?
Or sold Tupperware?
Or Avon products?
Or real estate?
Would I be less worthy, then? Eligible for ridicule? Sympathy? Envy?
Confession time: I have, from time to time, looked at these "Mommy businesses" with a scowl on my face. Oh, go ahead and sell your little trinkets while your husband (of father, or in-law, or inheritance) pays the bills.
I hope you're having a good time while I'm working hard.
I should punch myself in the face.
Anybody who takes a risk and starts a business deserves respect.
Since when am I judging people based on how much they contribute financially? By that logic, teachers and garbage collectors are useless, and investment bankers deserve admiration. I do not want to live on that planet.
Next time you ask someone what they do (which, by the way, is the most drab, tiresome question ever - please consider starting a conversation with some more stimulating alternative) let's both attempt to refrain from mentally calculating their paycheck and therefore their value, OK?