After the post I wrote most recently and some discussions I’ve had with people in various parts of my life, I’ve run across a fair number of people who seem to think that this schedule I’ve been living, this logging of 60-70 hours of work a week, minimum, is fun. That I do it because I like it and that somehow I’m not aware that it is inherently bad for me.
They are so, SO very wrong. But they refuse to understand that this has been a matter of survival. This has been the way that I’ve adapted to keep us afloat and alive and not living on the streets. So few people truly understand that our economy here in the US has fundamentally changed. Geoff and I are living proof that the old way, each having one job, having some security in that job, buying a house, and then eventually retiring just isn’t the way things work anymore.
Geoff’s in his 40’s, I’m pushing 40, and lots of people just 10-15 years older than we are have this idea that there’s something wrong with us. That somehow we’re failures because we don’t own our own home and because I’m working all these jobs. That because I can’t remember the last time I went on a “real vacation” or that because, even with a full-time job, that I don’t have sick time benefits, that somehow I’m doing something wrong.
Folks, let me lay this out for you. I do not work 4 part-time jobs (it used to be 5), 1 full-time job, and maintain a singing career and small business because I need something to fill my time. I have been doing it because I have to. I have to do it because:
1) I am catastrophically bad at 40 hour a week jobs. (That is, when they exist at all. We live in a world where employers regularly turn 40 hour a week jobs into 60 hour a week jobs with no pay differential. So for all of you who work one job and are looking down on me and how much time I spend working, clock your actual hours and get back to me.) I am bad at going to the same job every day, seeing the same people, and working on the same thing. Women in our society are often relegated to the detail oriented, repetitive stuff. That gets old real fast and, when I have to deal with the same people in a windowless, airless, open plan (translation: no privacy) space every day… my anxiety comes screaming to the fore.
2) I enjoy having control over my schedule. I like variety. I like being able to do different things and work in different places. There are pluses and minuses to every job, having more than one tends to balance them all out. It also makes it easier to schedule that doctor or dental appointment. Or take the kids to the vet. Or run any of a million other errands that have to be run M-F between the hours of 9 and 5.
3) Having more than one job means that you never have to rely on one income stream. Let me tell you this flat-out: being able to rely on one income stream without fear of losing your job makes you privileged. Geoff and I do not have that privilege. We live in one of the most expensive areas of the US, because of my epilepsy we have to live in the city to be near public transportation, and we can’t work hours away – the geography and traffic patterns here just won’t permit it.
That, dear readers, is how we’ve stayed afloat while weathering multiple layoffs over the years. That, and help from family and friends, is how we’ve done it. Is it bad for me? Yes. Is it keeping me from doing things like seeing my friends, getting real exercise, and spending time with our animals? Absolutely. Is there anything I can do about it? Not until this past Monday there wasn’t, no.
This past Monday Geoff started a new job. He’s also going to school 3 days/nights a week for 16 hours a week. He loves doing both of those things but it also means that we’re seeing even less of each other, if that’s possible, and that we won’t have a weekend off together until October or November. That means that I get to dump my massively underpaying, sick time-less, and boring to the core 40 hour a week job that I’ve been working (and which I still won’t tell you about). Friday was my last day. Am I looking for a part-time job with a stable schedule? Yes. Do I have interviews pending? Yes. If I get one of these jobs will I continue with the ones I have? Yes.
This is the new reality. This is the new economy. Nothing is certain and the ground is constantly moving under our feet. We’ve each been laid off 3 times since 2008. We’re not going to get caught unprepared* again. I’m not a workaholic, I’m a survivalist.
*Please don’t chime in with comments about Unemployment. If you’re paying attention you know as well as I do that UI only works when 1) Congress isn’t using it as a bargaining chip and 2) you haven’t been laid off twice in a row in a very short period.