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Get a Job! But I thought I had one...

Musing on 'real' work...

by MaryP  |  2909 views  |  8 comments  |        Rate this now! 

My friend and I peer at the small objects in my hand.

"Look! Isn't that the best logo? And what about the tagline? Catchy, huh?"

My 28-year-old self is very pleased with my shiny new business cards. I launch into an enthusiastic explanation of my plans for my prenatal classes. I'm teaching two evenings a week - one privately, one through the Women's Health Centre of a downtown hospital. I plan to expand to teach intensive Saturday morning classes, and then to new-parent support groups on Saturday afternoons.

I have other ideas, but two evenings and a Saturday are as much as I wish to take on for now, with my two small children. I explain this to my friend, too. She smiles and says, "It must be nice to have a lucrative hobby. I'd have liked one when my children were little."

There's a brief pause in the conversation, as I swallow my immediate, instinctive outrage. "Lucrative hobby?" I am no hobbyist. This is my job.

How often does this happen to those of us who are in non-traditional working arrangements?

A lot, I'll bet.

I love my situation, and I know I'm fortunate. I have the best of both worlds: professional stimulation and fulfilment, a (small) income of my own, and I can be home most of the time with my children. There are many women who would love to be in my shoes. I could work more, but I've chosen not to.

And I wonder if this is the crux of the distinction. It is not that I work less than 40 hours a week; it is not that I do it from my home; it is not that I get to establish my own hours and choose my clientele. It is not that I don't have a nice benefit package. These are all factors, but not the crux of it.

It comes down to choice. I could have a 'real' job. Since I chose not to - since I was fortunate enough (then, not now!) that I didn't have to work at all - my work was a "hobby".

And as much as I object to the typification, there is part of me that agrees with my friend's assessment. I don't have a "real" job. But, still, what she said doesn't feel right. It feels patronizing, like the genuine effort, thought, creativity and energy I put into my part-time work--my "lucrative hobby"--doesn't count. I'm not working, I'm playing at working.

Though feeling distinctly ruffled with my friend, I was left feeling torn. Am I just playing at work? Is it a lucrative hobby or a genuine career? Where is the distinction between 'Real Work' and 'Playing at Work'? Is there a distinction?

What do you think?

About the Author

Mother of three (teens), step-mother of five (teens), home daycare operator of five (todders), and STILL SANE!! NOTHING is impossible...

Read more by MaryP

8 comments so far...

  • Just because you enjoy the time you spend working does not make it a "hobby." There are a lot of people out there who work for someone else, and enjoy what they are doing.... it's still work. Congratulations on doing something you love!!!!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by J25J31 on 16th November 2007

  • NewStartMom: Of course, this all happened close to twenty years ago, but I thought the questions were relevant to the concerns of women on this site. I do still note, though, that despite my much-greater self-confidence, I even now find myself caring what other peoples' perception of my work is. Not often, and not with any great intensity, but I still do notice. It's part of existing in society, I suppose, that awareness of others.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by MaryP on 28th September 2007

  • I think that semantics should not interfere with the satisfaction you get out of your endevours in or out of the home. I just had my third child and for the first time in my life I am at home and not working outside. It is incredible the amount of people who feel they need to congratulate me on my extended holiday, asking how I like 'just being at home.' The 'just' is something I find hard to swallow, but they'll never know how much of me goes in to what I do. I suspect the same is true of your friend. Good luck, Christine

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by NewStartMom on 28th September 2007

  • I just meant that it seems your friend made the original distinction out of (dare I say, female) jealousy more than actually poo-pooing your initiative. Where as I see a male friend more likely to congratulate your ingenuity with no such under (or in your case, over) tones.

    Maybe I'm just blowing any case, loved the article. Keep writing!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Sheri on 23rd August 2007

  • Florinda - You're quite right. It's my perception that counts. My problem is, I'm not sure what I think... My emotional reaction says one thing, my logical mind says another. It's a conundrum!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by MaryP on 23rd August 2007

  • Sheri - You're quite right, it was a woman. I'm not so sure, though, that men wouldn't make the same distinction - after all, more of them work in the traditional 9-to-5, full-time work - and don't get breaks like maternity leaves. (Though I know a fair number up here in Canada who take the option to split their wife's mat. leave, so that's changing.)

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by MaryP on 23rd August 2007

  • I think maybe it's a distinction in the perceptions of others, but not for you (or whoever is doing it) - and it's YOUR perception that matters. If you can get paid for doing what you enjoy, even part of the time - well, it may not look or feel like "work," but that's the dream, isn't it?

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Florinda Pendley Vasquez on 22nd August 2007

  • Oh how I relate to this. Why is it that we see getting paid for something we love to do, particularly if we don't HAVE to earn the income, as merely falling into a hobby that pays instead of a worked for and sought after career option?

    Can I hazard a guess that your friend was a woman? Somehow I just don't see a man making the same distinction...yikes, does that make me a sexist?

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Sheri on 22nd August 2007