Recently, I discovered that someone whom I thought of as a close friend has secretly been judging me for quite some time. Now, we all have opinions about our friends from time to time that we keep to ourselves such as: “I’m not lovin the new haircut,” and “I don’t think that ‘blackened’ chicken means burnt to a crisp.” Our friends are not us and we will therefore probably not agree with every decision they ever make. This is normal.
This “friend” of mine, however, told my husband that he should divorce me because I am a “user.” After the shock, sadness and feelings of utter betrayal calmed down, I started to think about what he was talking about. He clearly viewed our relationship as inequitable. Having maybe spent a total of 10 hours with him over the past year, I quickly realized that his opinion had nothing to do with fact or even observation but was purely based on what he knew about us.
My husband works a typical 9-5 job. In a cubical. In computers. Downtown. He makes a decent amount of money and is the primary breadwinner for our family.
I run a part time photography business from my home which brings in a reasonable part time income. This allows me the time to take care of the things around the house. More importantly, I am the one who volunteers at my daughter’s school, attends the meetings, picks her up when she is sick and after school, takes her on outings after school and plans learning opportunities for her.
I tried to put myself in this “friend’s” shoes. What does he see? He sees my husband going to work every day and me staying home. To him, success is having a 9-5 job. In a cubical. Downtown. While failure is working from home spending time with your family.
That is so messed up and backwards.
But the really scary thing is: he is not alone. We are trained to believe as a society that success is working 40+ hours a week while getting paid well. This is what we all work towards achieving through years of school. It is typically the first thing asked at a party (“what do you do?”) and your response can instantly change someone’s opinion of you (“I am a doctor” vs “I am a mom”). The respect you receive correlates with the amount of money your said profession makes.
When I had Tiny Eivy and became a mom, I chose to stop my career in teaching. It didn’t make financial sense. In other words – the cost of raising a family, caring for a home and all the messy details that go along with that surpassed my teaching salary almost ten fold. Seriously. I – in my infinite love of spreadsheets – actually took the time to calculate it all out. Part of that included learning to do things myself which I have talked about in previous posts, and the hidden benefits of learning new skills while saving money – but part of it was just everyday stuff like watching our kid and transporting her to activities.
But – blah blah blah – I am not the first person to talk about the financial sense of having a parent work from home part time or simply stay at home. There are so many studies out there about the actual cost of running a family. None of it matters though because we, as a society, do not value work that is not paid directly. My friend’s silent judgement of me is proof enough of this. I’m sure that once we are retired these same people will no longer consider even my husband successful.
Even though we will never have to work for anyone else.
Even though we will travel the world.
Even though we will get to spend all the time we want together as a family.
Even though we will have all the time in the world to pursue our personal passions and follow our personal inspirations.
SHHHHH – don’t tell anyone but I’ve got a plan to combat this consumerist backwards view of success. From henceforth when asked, I will no longer tell people that I am a part time photographer and mom, instead I will cycle through the following titles as I see fit:
- Chief Financial Officer for Eivy Household and Shadowpuppet LLC
- Accountant and tax advisor
- General Contractor specializing in kitchen remodels
- Landscape Architect
- Personal Chef specializing in dietary restrictions
- Personal shopper
- International Photographer
- UX Designer
- Project Manager
This is fun. I could go on, but the point is this: the more titles I accumulate the less I have to pay other people to do these things. The more I am independent – financially, personally, environmentally… Independent is the key word there. I don’t relay on anybody or anything to live a life full of passion and joy and that is my definition of success. What’s yours?