You do WHAT for a Living?!
Every time I tell someone my job description – Virtual Assistant/Writer – I feel like I’m in the middle of that conversation that George (Steve Martin) and Annie (Kimberly Williams Paisley) have in the 1991 movie “Father of the Bride” when she’s telling him about her fiancé’s job:
Annie: He’s an independent communications consultant.
George: That’s code for unemployed! This is perfect! You meet an unemployed, amazingly brilliant, non-ape that I’m going to have to support! I suppose I’m going to have to hire him and fire some hardworking guy with three kids because my son-in-law, the “independent communications consultant,” can’t get a job anywhere else! No wonder he’ll move anywhere you get a job!
I kind of hold my breath as whoever I’m speaking with processes my job title and then I cross my fingers that they won’t ask too many questions because I really don’t want to have to defend what I do (again!).
If you work from home, how do you answer this question? I kind of felt the same way when I was “just” a stay-at-home-mom (as if that’s not enough work on its own!!). If I had a dollar for every time, over the past six years, someone pointed out that I wasn’t using my education, I’d be rich and able to stay home and DO NOTHING all day.
The fact is, working from home – whether as a homemaker or some kind of home office professional – is still “staying home” and viewed as lazy by some in our society. Why would we choose to throw our educations out the window to do anything “less” than what we trained for?
I went away to school to become a teacher. And I taught. I taught students when I lived in Quebec; I climbed the school board ladder and even worked with professionals at the Quebec Ministry of Education on their provincial exams. It was magical and exhilarating. I LOVED it. Then I became a mom, we moved to Ontario for my husband’s job and I was left in some sort of professional limbo. My priorities have shifted greatly from the early days of my teaching career through to now. First and foremost, I am a mom. I want to be here for my kids and I want them to reap the benefits of having me here. Right now they’re curled up beside me on the couch and watching Daniel Tiger on CBC Kids. So far today, we’ve played a game, shared a snack, had a tickle fight and danced together. And it’s not even lunchtime.
When I face that furrowed brow some people get when I try to explain to them what a virtual assistant does and how I am feeling fulfilled by writing for YVA, they seem to shrug it off as if they think I’m sowing some wild oats or just biding my time until I get back on the horse and do a “real job” and “make a living” again.
“Don’t you feel like you’re wasting your education?”
“Aren’t you afraid of becoming irrelevant?”
As a matter of fact, YES! Sometimes I do feel like I am not honouring the education my parents helped pay for and I worry constantly that if I ever feel the drive to get back into the classroom that it’ll be “too late” and I will have been out of the picture too long to matter. And the more I think about that, the more the stress bubbles and boils beneath the surface. I DO worry about these things. But I worry about these things less often than I used to … for a few reasons:
#1 – I work from home. Key word here is WORK. I have a job. So even though it’s not the same kind of pay or the same amount that I was making as a teacher, the trade-off is SO worth it to me. I can pause to play with my kids, make a snack or a meal, kiss their boo-boos, you name it! I get to do BOTH.
#2 – I am able to contribute financially. Again, it’s not as much as I was making as a teacher, but it’s something. It’s impossible for me to put an amount on the feeling I get when I remember that I’m able to be the kind of mom I want to be as well as help support our family.
#3 – I AM using my education. I did NOT throw it away. University taught me valuable life skills – I learned how to be an adult in university. I also learned how to be a teacher – and I teach two beautiful children EVERY DAY about all kinds of things. I also have a degree in English … and I’m a writer … go figure!
#4 – I am NOT irrelevant. In fact, the online programs and processes we use at YVA are, in fact, keeping me RELEVANT. I’m keeping up to date on many of the latest programs and using technology every day which is fast moving and exciting. I know that when and if I do decide to get back into teaching or something else someday, that this experience will be HUGE in getting me through that door.
#5 – I am happy and feeling fulfilled – and this is not a judgement on those who choose to or have to work out of their homes – this is personal. Where you might find this level of satisfaction and happiness isn’t necessarily the same as where I’d find it. But I am here. I’m content and thanks to my job at YVA I feel like I am finally “doing it all”- truly living (by my own definition, of course!).
If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by criticism from others and feeling defensive about your chosen work-from-home path, take a few minutes to really think about WHY you love what you’re doing. Make a list of reasons that help you reconcile the difference between where people think you should be and why you love where you are. Perhaps you need to make a few subtle changes to help you get to a level where you can feel satisfied with your situation. Really reflecting on where you are and what you love about your work-from-home life will help you handle the nay-sayers with confidence. As I’ve said in the past, I don’t know where my journey will take me, but what I know right now is that I’m where I need to be and THAT feels good.