The Work-Work Balance

The Work-Work Balance February 24, 2016

Yesterday, after ever so gently bashing at Huffpo, I was given to understand that Huffpo doesn’t pay its bloggers, of which it has many. I also didn’t know this but apparently Huffpo has money, like lots and lots of money. Where they get all their money I didn’t trouble myself to find out. I would link the article but it was rather profane, and this is sort of a family-ish blog. I’m sure if you google you can discover even more than I did. Reading all about this tripped my memory to a long ago article that I meant to write about, but forgot–I’m not God am I, to remember everything–in which some guy or other ranted extensively about how writing Isn’t Work–it’s spiritual, or something, and it’s not digging ditches, so stop yer whinin.

It is a sort of an interesting question to me, what counts as work. I do tons of work and don’t get paid for very much of it. Like, no one pays me to look after my children or educate them. No one pays me to do all the work in the kitchen and Sheol (laundry). And yesterday, Baby Ermentrude had to be hauled to the walk-in first thing, and I did it, obviously, without wandering around town wondering who would pay me. In all my family care, I’m not offering any kind of measure-able good or service that can be paid for.

Although, as a tiny aside, I am performing an incredible service to humanity and the nation. I am not indulging myself in any of these tasks, not a single one. Without my constant, diligent care for my offspring, of which I have had my own share and at least one other person’s, I am guaranteeing some other people’s social security. And by properly raising them and training their minds, I might be said to be “giving back” to the community in a deep and meaningful way, a way that no amount of community service could approximate. But I don’t think that society as a whole realizes what kind of work I’m doing and how important it is. And not just me, lots of mothers everywhere. Really, if we wanted to solve so so so many societal ills and troubles, just remembering that having children and raising them is Important Work would be such a clever thing for the whole western world to do.

So that’s my work, and I’m not paid for it. But in my soul, I like to write. I would happily sit hunched over my iPad mini, tapping away on this stupid tiny keyboard, All. Day. Long. You might even say, in some way, it is a burdensome sacrifice for me to not write, but to fulfill my primary obligations first, and write second. I could ignore everyone, but that would be wrong. So, rather than that, I slot writing into my work-life as a reward. If I do all these other things, then I will be allowed to write as the special treat allotted to me for not being a dysfunctional jerk. This takes some small juggling in my mind, because I write first thing in the morning, before I do anything else at all, because my mind is sort of vaguely more fresh. (That just means that I haven’t gotten sucked into email and breakfast.) This being so, I have to spend the rest of the day in diligence, having had my reward before it was really earned. Which is too bad, but there you are.

But, and this is how I know that Huffpo should pay their writers, everyone should pay their writers, the writing part of my day is assuredly work, and in many cases hard work. And often I hobble mentally through the day, because I have expended something essential in its first hours. After pushing Publish, I slump back and have to remember who I am and what I was doing. I wouldn’t at all agree that writing is ‘spiritual’ or that it doesn’t count because it’s not digging ditches. In many cases, I think, folding the laundry or digging the ditch is infinitely preferable to trying to mash words onto a page. First of all, after I have folded the laundry, I can see that I have done something to help other people, I can see the product at hand, I can mitigate against the gentle, constantly flowing stream of self loathing that accompanies every word I assemble out of the air. Writing may not break my back, but it often breaks my spirit, especially when people hate me because of what I’ve written. It is so far and away Work that I take umbrage that I am indulging myself here any more than when I am giving birth to an actual child. Just because I enjoy it, and feel a great driving battering push to do it, doesn’t mean that I don’t work at it very very hard.

Fortunately for me, I am not in the habit of being paid, so when any cash comes to me at all, I am supremely grateful, and have not had to measure my work against the value that others might place upon it. In the business of trying to estimate what something is worth, it is helpful to me to leave money out of it because otherwise I would always be depressed, not, as it were, having much of it. But I think it is very worthy for a culture and a people to use even money to confer value, and then to go on from that and confer dignity to those who, like parents, do necessary work without demanding a pay check. The only way that some can work without getting money is because of the many who do. The balancing act between the one who is paid and the one isn’t keeps the whole boat floating along. When it is demanded that some give their work, for free, the whole thing will tilt father and farther over until it just sinks. So, the writers should be paid, and they should work hard so that they are worthy of their money. They should think interesting things and elegantly enrich the minds of everyone who reads them. And the ditch digger should be paid. And the mother, not being paid, should be honored by all, for making the next generation of travailers possible.

And on that note, I will go do more work, having already done some of the work here. Pip pip.

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