When I entered the job market at 19 I didn’t realise it would prove so difficult to shape my working life in a way that suits me. The most difficult struggle thus far has been getting back home.
Work is considered noble and everyone is expected to at least make an attempt at carrying their own weight. Salaried work tops that and when you decide to busy yourself with activities that fall beyond the scope of a job (paid work), something strange happens.
Even before I entered the commercial environment I had been indoctrinated with the idea that having a career is the only way to create a meaningful life. Everything else that life consists of would have to be squeezed and shaped to fit around my career. The minute I decided that I prefer to prioritise my private life over my career, it seemed the whole world turned its back on me.
People started doubting my intelligence and my integrity, my drive was called in question and yes, even my sanity. All this because I want to use my life to pursue my own interests and not to materialise the objectives of my boss or the company that hires me.
Just like that I became a free-loading, simpleton not someone who chose her independence. Not the dedicated bookkeeper who took care of millions on behalf of the companies I worked for. No. Just an unambitious, lazy-ass breeder who wanted to vegetate at home.
Following my decision I couldn’t get a half-day or part-time job because I was bluntly told that those don’t exist any longer. So instead of finding permanent employment I signed up with an agency specialising in temp placements. Immediately I had more money and much more free time than ever before. Most of the holidays I’ve taken in my life was during that 3-4 year period.
I did get a permanent placement subsequent to that, but negotiated to keep my Fridays to myself without a pay-cut, provided I could keep my work up to date. That I did. So much for part-time jobs that don’t exist. Soon after starting the job I found out I was pregnant with my 3rd child. It was the most crucial point in making a decision about how my life would work in the future. Three children are expensive to maintain financially and 3 children are difficult to properly nurture while being caught in the rat race.
The last company I worked for was about 6 minutes from my home, had a moderate to light work-load (something new for me), with a very accommodating manager, but I just wanted my freedom already. They could have paid me 100-thousand bucks a day and I would not have stayed, because I felt I did not own my time or my life. I wanted my home and my children. I wanted to focus all the energy and time that I had been spending minding my boss’ business rather minding my own.
So finally I made the leap to self-employment which would ultimately take me back where I wanted to be. Home with my children.
I feel I was taken out of my home before I even knew that it was happening and not given a choice to decide whether I wanted to prioritise career or family. And no, it is not a no-brainer that I would chose a career. Someone has to raise the children of this world, someone has to create a home, someone has to prioritise nurturing, it’s essential to life. I would have preferred to construct a life where I formulate the mixture between home and work.
I love working, I love the sense of accomplishment and of course I love the money. I will have my children to raise, to nurture and shape for only a short time in their lives and I never explicitly agreed to make them secondary to my career.
No matter how hard I might be working, how I generate an income or what my intentions might be, there is a stigma that clings to those who don’t follow the norm. Routine hours at designated locations in registered organisations with recognised titles and specified remuneration receivable at particular times gives your life a perceived purpose. You are productive and industrious and that is good. Telling people that you want to live life on your own terms is considered risky at best, irresponsible at worst.
I don’t regret working in my 20’s or 30’s but making a career at the time must have created the impression that I never wanted to work in my own home. I never agreed to that, and afterward had to fight my way back home. I might be financially worse off for it, but what I gain no job can give me. My life, my time, my children and my home.
The way I see it, I can run a business from home and make it fit my life instead of the other way around. If that fails I can always find a good job, I’ve always managed to talk myself into the job I wanted under terms that suit me and I think I can do that again if I have to. Yet, that aspect of my life will have to take a back seat for now.
With the boom of the work-from-home industry (and scams) it would appear that many other women are taking up the journey back home. It might appear that I have given up on the battle by going back home, but reaching home in one piece is much harder than you might imagine. All the evasive manoeuvres I’ve had to pull and battles I’ve had to withstand have taught me skills that stand me in good stead in my independent life.
As an intelligent, skilled and determined woman I retain the option to make my life exactly how I wish it to be. Women were inserted into the working world in a way that did nothing for the homes and children they left behind. There is nothing that I can do about the past but the future is uncharted territory. Meaningful work and a purposeful life does not have to equal JOB.