Friday, May 21, 2010

The Value of a Dollar

As many of you know, I recently went from having no job to having two part-time jobs.

The first is a reading specialist position I accepted at our elementary school. It's honest-to-goodness, five-day-a-week, thank-goodness-it's-Friday paid employment. The second is the two hours a day I put into my travel site, Pit Stops for Kids because as of the last month or so, it's actually making me enough revenue to be considered a legitimate use of my time.

If by revenue, you mean vacation money. Which I totally do. (It's like Cam and Mitchell on Modern Family the other night:

"They're paying you in flowers, so..."

"Well I would have blown the money on flowers anyway, so they're saving me a step.")

Anyway, I've decided that together, these two jobs equal approximately 1.5 full time jobs and pay roughly the equivelent of one half-time job.

And depite the fact that I'm not totally in love with Toby's child care arrangement and not much of a fan of using my lunch (half) hour to down a can of Slim Fast while driving the Pre-K car pool, this is ok with me. In fact, it's really ok. And maybe even more than ok.

Because it makes me happy. Not just the work, although that makes me happy too. (I teach six-year-olds how to read and then go home to write about family travel. What's not to like?) But when I say I'm happy, I'm not referring to the work. I'm referring to the simple fact that I'm working.

And people, I can't tell you how annoyed I am that I can't seem to get past this subject, but the fact remains that I can't.

I've written about it before. Here, for one. And then again here.

What I make. What I do. How these two elements weave together (or don't) to create something tangible and strong. A solid wall I can lean against. A roof over our heads. Food on our table.

I'm not the primary breadwinner in our family (not even close), and that's always been ok, because for the most part, I've always been the primary everything else. The one making dinner and packing lunches. The one who knows the soccer schedule and the car pool arrangements. The one who feeds the dog and does the laundry and schedules the dentist appointments. The one who knows where we left the field trip release form and when the science project is due. The one who knows where everyone's going after school, and which bus they're riding and who's picking them up (me).

And I still do all that (or at least the bulk of the heavy lifting), so now that I'm working outside of the house as well, nothing should feel different, right?

But it does. I'll just be honest here: when I'm handed that paycheck, fat with all that validation behind those (few) zeros, it feels good. Better than emptying the dishwasher feels, for instance. And when a PR manager of a resort tells me yes, they are interested in what I have to say about their hotel and that yes, the audience I can reach is of value to them, I won't lie: that feels great.

So yeah. I guess I can be bought. And I don't know if that's a bad thing. But it is a disturbing thing. Because I was valuable before. And I shouldn't need a W-4 form and a headache every night to tell me that. I shouldn't need a perfect stranger on a phone from Swanky Resort of the Pacific Northwest telling me you're good at what you do. But I always have: I've needed that A on the paper. The check mark on the report. The nod of the boss, the coach, the parent...even when I am the boss, the coach, the parent.

I shouldn't have to ask whether or not I'm valuable, but I do. (Have to.) And my kids tell me yes, you are. My husband tells me yes, you are. I tell me yes, you are.

And yet I still don't know. Or won't believe it. Or both. And so I keep working in pursuit of that approval, and keep mothering three kids and driving them everywhere and making sure they don't miss a single meeting or practice or play date. And I keep setting the alarm for 5 am so I can run 5 miles before breakfast...before packing lunches and sorting laundry and pouring a quick cup of coffee before I'm due at work.

And I'm not sure what's wrong with me. (Do you think it's because I'm a firstborn?)

And I'm not sure how to stop.

And at the very least, I'm starting to think I deserve a raise.
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