If I Won the Lottery

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I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with my English degree until the year before I graduated from college. I was walking around in the basement of the best used bookstore in downtown Salt Lake when, I kid you not, a book literally fell off the shelf in front of me and landed at my feet. And I am using the literal meaning of the word “literal” here.

The book was My First Year in Book Publishing, and when I read it everything clicked and I realized I wasn’t simply annoying when I had made grammar corrections to the notes my friends passed me in junior high, I was practicing for my future career as an editor! (Not that this made me any less annoying, mind you.) My favorite chapter—the one with the stars drawn in the margin of almost every paragraph—is called “If I Won the Lottery,” in which the essayist talks about how she knew she had found her perfect job because she’d keep at it even if money were no object.

It’s a good question. What would I do if I won the lottery? Well, I’d buy a new house and some frivolous shoes and throw a fabulous party and hire a housekeeper, and I’d also edit books, just like I do every day of the work week. I really would.

The other day a Twitter friend and I were bemoaning the fact that our salaries are completely eaten up by daycare (it’s that same old working-mom’s ouroboros: we work so someone can take care of our children so we can work), and another friend popped in to ask why we kept working if it wasn’t for the money. Considering that our families’ finances would be the same either way, why did we choose to work instead of stay home with our children?

The answer is obviously different for different people in different situations (and would be different for me if I were in a different situation myself, for instance if I were talking about staying home with an infant versus a preschooler), but in my case it comes down to two things: (1) I’m a healthier, happier mother when I work and (2) my son is a healthier, happier kid when he doesn’t spend all day, every day with me.

At times when I second-guess myself, I rationalize the guilt away by arguing (with myself) that it would actually cost money to keep my child home, since I’d have to spend more on things like play dates and craft supplies, but let’s be honest, it really isn’t about the money at all. It’s about me and my need to work. My want to work.

If I won the lottery…if money weren’t an object…well, lots of other things would be objects in its place: sanity, self-worth, fun (no, really), keeping a foot in the career door for when my kids are both in school, etc. And even though money is still an object in several ways, taking it out of the to-work-or-not-to-work equation (well, pretending to take it out of the equation) at least helps me isolate those other reasons, which in turn influences what decisions I make and how I feel about them.

In the end, if I won the lottery, my top priority would be the same as it is now: to be happy. And here’s the good news: I don’t actually need to win the lottery to make that happen.

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12 comments so far...

  • I would keep working too. I work at home anyhow, and love what I do. Sure would be nice to not have to worry about the money.

    Stephanie  |  February 15th, 2012 at 12:12 pm

  • I’d keep working, but would likely find a better job than I’ve got now…doing something a little more worthwhile of all the time and stress than working to put money in the pockets of a big corporation.

    Juliet  |  February 15th, 2012 at 1:33 pm

  • My husband and I have actually talked about this before. What would I do if money wasn’t an issue for us? If we could function just off his salary? We both agreed that I would go stir crazy being home all day with our son. While I love him and enjoy spending time with him, some times I need to be away from him and he needs to be away from me. I know I wouldn’t continue working my current job but I probably would continue working. I think I would look for a part-time fun job that I actually enjoy going to rather than a job that pays the bills.

    Julie  |  February 16th, 2012 at 10:10 am

  • I would quit my day job and use the time to do things I enjoy: sew, bake. read. If money were no object, I’d travel around the world with the kids.

    Nicole  |  February 16th, 2012 at 10:35 am

  • Unfortunately I don’t have a choice, I’m the primary earner. We’d be slightly better off if my husband didn’t work and he originally wanted to stay home but in the end, it’s better for our family if we both work. If I won the lottery I’d still work but not care as much.

    Dawn  |  February 16th, 2012 at 11:12 am

  • I’d quit in a heartbeat. Well, the heartbeat following the time in which I had set up insurance for my family. THEN! Then I would quit.

    I do not get fulfillment from my job at all. Amusingly, the job I would most like to be able to, and what I’d imagine I would find fulfillment doing, is the job that you do! I have always wanted to be an editor, and yet, I have not managed to become one. Perhaps if I were truly doing what I wanted to do, I could imagine continuing to work post-lottery, but in my current reality, I’d be out!

    Gaby  |  February 16th, 2012 at 1:16 pm

  • I would not work (at least not full-time) if I won the lottery, but I would still find ways to fill part of my day with things that were just for me. I enjoy leaving home for part of the day to be with grown-ups and to solve grown-up problems, but I don’t love the grind and the pressure of working a full-time job. I also like that my son is with his peers, learning how to interact with other children.

    I do love what I do, but I also love going to the park with my son in the middle of the day and running errands at 2 on Wed when the crowds are much smaller. I think I would probably get a part-time job, or pick up a regular volunteer gig where I currently work.

    What a wonderful problem this would be.

    Anna  |  February 16th, 2012 at 1:16 pm

  • As much as I love working for the company I work for, I would love to be a stay at home mom. Especially with a newborn coming into play this year, I am already worried about how I am going to juggle work, 2 kids and everything else. Financially, I cannot leave my job and I can’t have a crying baby in the background, as I deal with customers, so it’s kind of a rock and a hard place. I love working, but I can spend all day with just my kid.

    Jessica  |  February 16th, 2012 at 1:48 pm

  • I get satisfaction from my accomplishments outside the home. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that being paid for them helps validate me. I don’t get quite as much satisfaction from the volunteer work I do at my kid’s school.

    RookieMom Whitney  |  February 16th, 2012 at 4:01 pm

  • If we won a big enough prize to pay off all our debts (mortgage, student loans, car payment, etc) and I didn’t NEED to work, I would definitely give up full time employment. I do really love my job, so maybe I’d work two days a week or something and let my parents continue to keep the kid those two days. I’m sure they’d miss him if I quit working. The lottery is the only way that would ever happen, though!

    velocibadgergirl  |  February 17th, 2012 at 1:49 pm

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    mingmm  |  February 17th, 2012 at 11:47 pm

  • I would keep working too - and my attitude would improve tremendously. I love my job, and my coworkers, but some days are terribly stressful. Knowing I *could* quit any time would make me feel better in those times.

    Grace  |  February 18th, 2012 at 9:48 am