Do I Like What I Do?

Short, short answer? Yep.

But I don’t think the person who asked me if I enjoy my life as a stay at home parent and homemaker and writer just wanted that one word. I think they want to know what I like about it and why I like it. Because the person who asked doesn’t live the same kind of life as me, BUT…they believe (and I agree) that we have a lot in common. I think sometimes they romanticize my life and sometimes they wonder how the hell I don’t just go bat shit crazy.

donald duck 1

(I know. 2 Donald Duck gifs in 3 days. The Boy and I have been watching the new Ducktales before school in the mornings…I guess I have Donald on the brain.)

So…here’s what I like about what I do and why. Some of the things I like, I KNOW sound AWFUL to other people. The very same things I love and treasure they would loathe and resent. The same things that make me happy would make them extra sad. That’s okay! We can be the best of friends and love each other dearly and have a lot in common and also have some things (maybe even fairly major things) that are like, ‘Wow…Jen wants to do THAT? She likes THAT? THAT makes her happy?…Yikes! Not for me!’
I’ve said on multiple occasions in the blog pieces I write that I’m 1. weird…and have specific tastes in and takes on a lot of shit that other people just don’t ‘get,’ and 2. accommodating and forgiving about a lot of things in life–my feelings are mine and yours are yours, and as long as we don’t have some fundamental human value priority out of whack (like…I am not gonna be cool interacting with a person who generalizes entire groups of people…particularly marginalized people…or who are intentionally cruel to particular people for whatever reason, or deny that scientific facts and studied sociological and psychological patterns and phenomena exist, or deny my (or someone else’s) own account of my (their) experience as a human, then I mean…we’re almost certainly good. You can love or hate pineapple on pizza. You can think Pepsi is better than Coke or vice versa. You can <ICK!> be a Duke University men’s basketball fan. You can never read a word of fiction I write because my style just isn’t your favorite. And you can tell me that you picturing yourself living my life makes you feel nervous or resentful or depressed or otherwise unhappy. For real…it’s cool.
Just don’t tell me that’s how I’m supposed to feel.

OK…for real this time…
What makes me happy about what I do and why it makes me happy…

  1. I like organizing things and cleaning up messes. I like the tangibility of it. I like that there was once a sink full of dirty dishes or a basket full of laundry to fold, and now there’s not one. I like that there was a stack of photographs laying on the table and now they’re in an album where they are easy to find and look at and won’t get damaged. I like wiping dust and goop away to start over with a clean table or stove or countertop. Those things are simple joys and they are concrete expressions of putting order onto mess and chaos. It’s accomplishment you can see. Seriously. When I worked outside the home, I worked organizing and relaying *information* and sometimes it felt like I busted my ass all day and had no progress I could see or feel or prove or show to someone else, and it felt like I’d been spinning my wheels a lot. I don’t feel that at home, doing work I can see and feel.
  2. I like helping and serving people and making other people’s lives easier and seeing other people happy…especially if it’s because of work I did or something I made. It makes me happy to make J coffee on a Saturday morning. I like helping The Boy with homework and reading books with him. I liked taking him to the park or story time at the library when he was a Small Lad. I like volunteering at The Boy’s school to fold performance programs (that’s also going with #1). I like listening to a friend who’s having a rough time. I like donating time, talent, and resources to charities and community bettering projects. I’ve always liked that. I’ll probably write a post about doing that soonish.
  3. I like creating things. Duh. I am a writer. But I also like to make collage art and take photographs and cook and bake. I LIKE doing those things, and staying home ALLOWS me to do those things. I am LUCKY that J goes to work a job he doesn’t *totally* hate that earns enough money for me to stay home and manage our house and do things I genuinely like doing.
  4. I like having ‘down time’ and routine and being alone.
    I know. This is the big one that freaks people out most when they hear about what I do, I think, actually. I have a lot of contacts who claim that they’d be nervous not bringing any money into the household and thus becoming financially dependent on their partner like me (which I get). Or they claim they’d be resentful that the day to day household chores fell almost entirely on their shoulders because it would feel inequitable (which I get). Or that they hate cooking (so does J usually…I get it…for real) or some other specific responsibility or chore they’d have to take on if they worked full time as a homemaker. Any or all of those things are totally valid and true, but I really think this is where most of the angst and confusion about how I…a reasonably well educated feminist…can be happy living my current life, and probably questioning if they even COULD live this life and be anywhere near happy comes from. I wrote two other posts called Living the Dream and Routine which go into more detail about this, but to get down to brass tacks, I’m happy at home because I like daydreaming. I like the quiet of being by myself. Those things allow me to write…the time and freedom and lack of interruption to let my mind wander to fictional and philosophical places. And I like the repetition and the formation of muscle memory and automation that comes with routine. Having most of my ‘must do’ tasks be things that are not intellectually challenging lets me be more creative without feeling like I’m being lazy and half-assing important things or letting someone down. My life’s vocation honestly has very little to do with my social and political philosophies and moral code. And it took some adjusting to combat my own socialization about ‘wasting my potential’ by staying at home. That largely comes from my parents’ over-valuing what a college education can win a person and their passive classism and sexism in under-valuing blue collar, ‘menial,’ ‘unskilled’ labor and ‘women’s work.’ But even in the crassest sense, I feel like I’m soaring along at my greatest potential and sometimes surpassing it in the life I’m living. I would have never had the confidence or the TIME and ENERGY to write and self-publish 13 novels, more short work, and run a blog some people get a kick out of reading if I was still pushing paper and staring at computer screens all day at some office. When I was working (a job that definitely did not even require a high school diploma, much less the college degree I earned…but they DID require the HS diploma and preferred the degree), I was certainly not living up to my creative or intellectual or productive potential. Or especially not to my potential, happiness-wise. I was maybe living up to financial potential, but I wasn’t receiving equal pay for equal work, and beyond that, I don’t think financial gain is an appropriate or accurate measure of human potential.

In short, I like being home by myself doing the work I do. I don’t get bored. I don’t get angry and resentful. I don’t get lonely.


(*the I’m Bored picture is from Michael Ian Black’s children’s book…I’m Bored)


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