Yesterday I was at a baby shower, and I mentioned that I was very tired (I have been having some minor health issues lately that cause a little bit of fatigue in the afternoons). I said, “Often at this time of day, I’ll be taking a nap.” The mother of the baby-haver wondered, understandably: “What kind of job do you have that allows you to nap every day?”

Here is what I answered WITHOUT THINKING: “I don’t work.”

Dafuq? I don’t work? I DON’T WORK?

The roomful of strangers I’d addressed just nodded and said “Oh!” because they are nice people who do not judge women on the basis of their career decisions (my baby-having colleague is a VERY nice person, so it was unsurprising that her friends and family are also very nice).

So, it’s not like I felt judged for “not working”–it’s just that THAT WAS A LIE. In fact, I have two jobs! I mean, what I think I meant was that I work at home. And, indeed, I corrected myself immediately after I snapped to. “I mean, I’m a freelance journalist. I work from home. I don’t have set work hours.” (This caused another bit of confusion later on, when, upon opening my classic baby gift of My First Kafka by Mathhue Roth, my friend said: “Rebecca also wrote a book on Kafka!” “Not this one,” I explained, “This one is much better.” To which her mom replied: “You wrote  BOOK on KAFKA in your SPARE TIME?” I wish! Not exactly. “I used to be an academic,” I explained.)

At any rate, I’ve been thinking about it a lot since I got home, and I have no idea why I would a) want to perpetuate the idea that I don’t work, or b) think that the work I now do isn’t work (in fact, on many days I work considerably harder now than I did as a wannabe professor), or c) think that the work of a house-spouse or SAHM isn’t work (although in my case, since I don’t have any kids or pets, and you have to death-threaten me to do any cooking or cleaning, that is actually embarrassingly close to the truth).

At any rate, no huge insight here; I just thought it was funny that these days my immediate knee-jerk professional self-conception is that I don’t work. On some days, I see five clients directly in a row, and yet since I do so from the comfort of my home-office chaise, I guess it doesn’t count? I guess I’ve been writing for so long that even though I now get paid for it, it still doesn’t feel like a job (which is preposterous, because sometimes when I’m on deadline and there are a lot of pieces to put together and people to interview, it is a lot of work)? I have no idea.

NOW IF YOU’LL EXCUSE ME I MUST ABSCOND FORTHWITH BACK TO MY LIFE OF LEISURE. #NapTyme

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7 thoughts on “Apparently, I Don’t Work, According to Me

  1. Your subconscious was correctly reporting that you don’t have a Real Job (TM). A Real Job, classically,
    1) is *one* job, full-time;
    2) takes place at a set location which is not your home;
    3) during set hours;
    4) involving set tasks or activities;
    5) done under someone else’s supervision;
    6) for which that someone else pays you a set amount.

    Freelancing from home, doing an unpredictable variety of work for an unpredictable amount of pay, at times of your choosing, fits pretty much none of the definition of a Real Job. And at least since the 1950s, American culture has equated not having a Real Job with “doesn’t really work”.

    Which is of course not true, but it explains why you answered the way you did: not any lack of self-respect or lack of effort put forth, just that you are aware of the social consensus on what constitutes “work”.

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  2. I agree with what Wogglebug said, You don’t have a job in the traditional 1950s sense of the word. You do have a job it is just not one that can be defined by an outdated idea of what it means to “work”.

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  3. The job that you work is non-traditional which in no way implies that you don’t work…….. By my estimate you work harder than a traditional worker because you have more focus on it…… a traditional worker wastes a lot of office time not focusing on work, water cooler talk etc.

    You just work smarter……. which is the way most careers in futures are going to go.

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  4. Wogglebug explained it well. I write full-time freelance for a living — and have since 2006; (this time, many times before as well.)

    But if one more person chirps: “Are you still writing?” I am going to lose my shit. Why yes, I am. Are you still a lawyer or doctor or realtor? It’s my damn job. Just because I do it at home on my own schedule doesn’t mean it isn’t work. And leaving behind toxic office politics does make it feel free in some fairly meaningful ways. I don’t have to ask anyone’s permission to pee or take a break or disappear for a month — my definition of “work.”

    Many people do not seem to understand that some writers without a paycheck are still able to pay rent/mortgage, buy food and gas and health insurance and even save for retirement from…”not working” in any sense that wage slaves can comprehend.

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