10 May 2011
The SAHM / WAHM Conundrum
Liam wants me to get a job at Subway. The first time he saw the help wanted sign in the window it was like he had stumbled upon the key to the universe. Like "That's IT!" He had suggested some pizza places, too, but in the end he would rather see me in a yellow visor behind a snot shield than in a red visor delivering pizzas.
He brought this up on his own..........and from where, I have no idea. The first time it came up, I said "But I already have a job."
"No you don't," he said, with his mouth full of a five dollar footlong.
"Yes, I do - I have lots of jobs actually. I work for my own company and I'm getting our house fixed up and I make all the plans for our family and I take care of you."
"No, I mean a real job."
"What's a real job?"
"One where you get money."
Hence, the pressure to apply at Subway. This is the conundrum of the part-time-work-at-home situation that seems so great because it allows you to be there for your family the instant they breathe air anywhere near you. You can quickly sweep your work in the closet so that it's invisible to your children and they can bask in the misconception that you've been sitting there all day. Just waiting for them to breathe air anywhere near you.
"What do you think I do all day?" I ask him.
"Check email and talk on the phone," he says.
Which is kind of true. But to him that looks like nothing. It's just screen time like tv or video games or facebook or yahtzee on your iphone. Now making a sandwich, that's something. That's accomplishing something. And then you get money. The bottom line is that he wants to see me accomplish something concrete - something more concrete than creating a happy home and a moderately healthy future citizen. Because, as far as he's concerned, he can do that all by himself.
In preparation for our big move last summer, I put everything that I did outside the home to bed. I tied up loose ends and made my business a model of long-distance efficiency so that all I had to do was push buttons to get the job done in Minneapolis. I hid it so well that it's virtually invisible. And I cut ties with everything that was not my house, my child and my tiny, well-hidden business. I wanted the slate to be clean in New Hampshire so that I would be free to get us settled in and acclimated. But Liam is obviously noticing that something is missing from the equation. And he thinks Subway might be the answer.
When Mike left for work recently, in a big hurry for some super big important meeting where people exchange ideas and discuss world markets, and he said to me "What are you going to do today?" And I slunk down in a chair and I said "Liam needs long-sleeved t-shirts."
"What," he said, "What's wrong?"
"I don't want to be in charge of long-sleeved t-shirts."
(sigh) "But someone has to get the long-sleeved t-shirts. People need long-sleeved t-shirts. Why can't that be important?"
"I know, it's just that it would be nice if I had something a little more fulfilling to work on today than long-sleeved t-shirts."
The isolation of this place plays a role in the long-sleeved t-shirt dilemma, too; you need to have an opportunity each day to leave your house and be a part of the world. Especially if you want to wear any sort of "clothes." Sitting in my house every day, far from the street, removed or inaccessible to my neighbors, I have no motivation to wear anything but saggy workout wear. Or jammies. Christ, I could wear my underwear and no one would know. But running out for long-sleeved t-shirts doesn't really rally the troops, if you know what I mean. Like maybe if I put on a scarf my jammies will look like clothes and then I can just come home and take off the scarf and be back in my jammies. Voila. Ready to rock.
I'm usually the one zipping around here and there, dropping in to check something out or say hi to someone, picking up something on the way home, stopping in for an iced chai latte with soy before bus time. You know, things you'd get dressed for. But I've now learned that you can't "zip around" when you don't live in the city. Did you know that? Things are spread out across miles and miles. And with gas prices hovering near $4.00 a gallon, "zipping around" in this kind of area is not in my budget. I also have tremendous gas-hog-guilt and feel that it's just wrong to drive and drive and drive simply because I want a donut and I want it now. I'm a lover not a fighter - and I will not be a party to our troubles in the middle east simply because I want a donut. Plus, how much does a donut contribute to my sense of accomplishment, anyway? Is it worth getting dressed for a donut?
I read an article recently about the book "Authentic Happiness" by Martin Seligman in which he argues that individuals need 5 core components to achieve life satisfaction: positive emotion, engagement, relationships, a larger sense of purpose, and accomplishment. Hmmmm. Liam may be onto something.
And now that we are approaching a year in New Hampshire and our house is taking shape and we are as settled as we ever can be in a foreign land, it might be time to change focus - and point myself in the direction of some of these missing pillars. A direction that is just for me. Maybe towards Subway.
Thanks for looking out for me, Liam.
(tune in next time to see if Subway grants me an interview)