I saw a lovely neurologist today. He was young, and smart, and kind, and we discussed what may be keeping me awake at night. The thing that keeps racing around my head after the visit, though, was how perplexed he was that I seem intelligent but don’t work. “You’ve never worked in the medical field? You just stay at home? You don’t work at all?”
I’m not attaching negative connotations to his questions. He certainly wasn’t trying to be rude. He was being kind. He was complimenting me. But societal influence was at the heart of these questions.
“What do you do?” It’s one of the first questions we’re asked when meeting someone. Our jobs, careers, professions are our most defining attributes in modern day society. Afterall, you cannot be intelligent if you don’t have a prestigious label. (Like doctor or professor or researcher.) And you can’t have a prestigious label if you are not intelligent. (Right? Like President of the United States?) Surely a person with the ability to research and retain information would not waste her life away caring for her family and home.
She would be working. She would be trying to heal or cure or create. She would be doing those things for money, even if her spouse makes enough. She would be working for another individual or a company or for ever-demanding clients and her time would no longer be hers, but under direct control of others.
She would be caring for her family and home on the side, in the few hours she didn’t devote to her work. She would have a desire to travel and be outdoors in the sunlight hours, but she would need to request time off to do it, and it would never be enough.
She would be curious about all kinds of things but lack the time to learn them. She would want to garden but lack the time to grow. She would want to volunteer or advocate, but she wouldn’t be able to fit it into her schedule.
She would make money, but much of it would go to childcare. Maybe she would like to do some other things, so she would hire a cleaner to help out with the endless chores that sap her precious time. Maybe she would even feel a little guilty about not seeing the kids enough and be tempted to buy them all kinds of stuff they want (this is coming from past experience, by the way)
She would slap the alarm clock in the morning and groggily plead with the universe to not have to go to work today.
Yes, I know the tem “paradoxical reaction,” and yes, I’ve researched cognitive behavioral therapy. Yes, I could go into the medical field. I could have been a doctor or vet or teacher. I still could choose to find a career path and follow it. But I don’t, and here’s why.
We make enough money. We’re not rich. We’re not set for the future. But we make enough. And all my other pursuits for all other reasons can still be done without making a career out of it, and without making myself an indentured servant to someone else. I can still help people or advocate for wildlife or play music or help children or whatever I feel my calling is.
I know, I know…I’m not going to cure cancer or help actually sick people, and I’m thankful that there are doctors and all the other people in all the professions that contribute to society. But I’m contributing to society too. Just in a different way. I’m raising good kids and advocating for the environment. I help people grow food in sustainable ways. I support my husband so that he can do his best work. I care for animals. I make music. I make people laugh.
Honestly, as my kids get older, I think about working sometimes. I consider going back to school and starting a new, fulfilling career. But I don’t need to, and because I don’t need to, I refuse to hand over the control I have over my own time to someone else. I get to take my kids out into the wilderness for however long I want. I get to be in the sunshine during the day, even on days that are shorter than a workday. I’ll get to homestead some day, when we’re able to move and get things going. Those things I will not give up unless I have to. And while I’m here, contributing in my own tiny ways, there’s a job out there that I’m not working at that someone who needs the money can have. Consider it another contribution to society.