Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tricky Stuff

I remember when we were young and broke and living in Michigan. Jacob was going to school full time by day and then working two jobs by night while I was pregnant and most days walking--yes, sometimes uphill in the snow-- to substitute teach at the local public high schools. Jake would try to do homework when he got home (often from delivering Pizza until 11:00), but he also had to attempt to be available to his lonely, hormonal wife who hadn't seen him or anyone else familiar all day.  When I think about it now, I can't believe we survived. Well, I guess we almost didn't, but that's another story for another day.  Anyway, blah blah background.  So Jake "drove truck" for a lumber yard and most of the time he was delivering lumber to building sites that were muddy and snowy and on unpaved roads and, you know, tough conditions.  He had to become skilled at what is apparently called a Boom Truck.  I am ashamed to say, I have no idea what a boom truck looks like or even really what it does, but I gather that it was important. One day Jake came home from work and he was leaning against the counter and he had this cute little pleased look on his face.  I could tell he had something to say and was searching for the right words.  He finally just chuckled and said "babe...I do tricky stuff at work." It has become family lore. It was perfect.  I still laugh when I think of it.  He felt silly telling me, because in the broad scheme of things, who would notice or care, but he had apparently become very good at it, and the guys in the field respected him and tipped their hats to him and he just wanted me to know that.  To be a part of seeing what he did and what his work amounted to.

Isn't that what we all want, really?  To be recognized for our contribution? I went online the other day and Googled my blog.  I did!  I wondered if it would come up.  What I found was twofold.  1) My blog does not come up. And 2) their are simply 1,000,000 results that say "I'm NOT just a housewife".  So many women just like me trying to justify what they do and what they're worth. Trying to distance themselves from an idea that they feel has become synonymous with an outdated, wasted life. This mommy war between the working mom and the stay-at-home mom is kind of epic. It gets pretty dirty sometimes.  But at it's root, is a nation of women who pour themselves into what they do and want to be noticed, validated and appreciated.

The working moms feel judged and accused of selfishly pursuing themselves while denying their children and destroying the traditional family, while the homemakers feel minimized and patronized for wasting their lives on a mindless job and not making a contribution to the "real world".  Raise your hand if you've felt this and wanted to (or did!) get on your soap box and defend your choice and list (my god the list) all of the things you do in a day.  I sure have. I can chew you up and spit you out if I feel that you are overlooking me and dismissing me because I don't work outside the home.  It's amazing how fast those claws can come out.  

But it got me thinking. What are the chances that an entire person with all of her uniqueness --her experience, her education, her singular gifts and abilities--is not making an incredible impact? Wherever she goes. I have the sum of my whole self to give to what I'm doing.  Of course it's making a difference.  Of course other people who are not investing in the same way are not reaping the same benefits.  Just as I am not reaping the benefits of their investment.  Nothing is wasted,  it all adds up to who I am and it's part of the input. The more I have to give the greater the impact. Whoever you are wherever you go you're all in, and you bring with you the total of your skills and creativity, personality and life experience.  I guarantee its making an impact. A positive one! Everything comes at the expense of something, its just the way life is.  We're limited by humanness and space and time. So no, we don't have everything that our sister has, but what we invest adds up to 100% regardless of where we invest it. Some people say that a career woman is making a greater contribution to her family and the world and some argue the exact same thing for a homemaker. Some say the real champions are the ones who are doing both.  And whether it's at home or out in the workforce, some think the harder you work the greater the reward and some choose to invest more in relationships and get less work done.  But I argue that we all add up to 100% no more, no less.  

In business they call it opportunity cost (see my education being useful?).  We make choices about where we invest based on the return we expect on that investment and we care about different things to different degrees. We have different belief systems that fuel our passions and our choices. But we notice the things we sacrifice in order to make our choice and we're threatened by the woman next to us who's made different choices. We worry that we have not diversified our investment enough or maybe it's too diverse. I promise she's doing the same thing. She is also running a list in her head of all the things she does that validate her life and make her sacrifices count.  I choose this because the investment and the sacrifice is worth the reward.  Isn't that what we do?  No one has it all!  

I wish I could remember every day all of the things we get to enjoy because of the contribution my life is, and then give it freely. With love and confidence.  Instead, what I usually do is look everywhere for validation and then when I don't find it I feel compelled to demand it by pointing out how important my contribution is. And sometimes I even like to point out why it's a better contribution than someone else.  It's very attractive.  People usually respond to that by falling all over themselves to tell me how wonderful I am:)   But the story looks different for everyone. Our lives are a wonderful, original, unique journey that no one else is on in exactly the same way. It's not better or worse, it's marvelously different! And today I am excited to report that I do tricky stuff at work.  And I'm guessing you do too. 


  1. Ramah once again a fabulous piece of writing (and no I am not trying to help validate you),well maybe I am but that is an unintentional result. As an unwilling house husband I don't like to admit a yearning for the recognition of my daily efforts, but I know it is there because it manifests itself in self esteem issues.

    You my dear are the cats meow (hey I am old enough to use phrases like that), and now I am sucking up just a wee bit.

    Luv ya.......Tim