Apparently, I Don’t Work, According to Me

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.


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”.


  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”.


  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.


  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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