Friday, June 23, 2017

A revelation

I had a revelation of sorts last night while talking to Adam. It wasn't driven by Adam, it was driven by my own internal struggles.

Adam and I are (attempting) to build a somewhat traditional American household where he is the "bread winner". (What a shitty term.) It's something we've talked about a lot; my desire to pursue art freely and his desire to have a steady job. It's been a bit of a struggle lately, because Adam has been trying to get a job within organizations that tend to be very highly competitive and difficult to break into. Also, not having a child, we've both been available to work. So I've gigged it a little harder than I usually do and he's worked seasonally while spending the off-season trying to break into one of these organizations. It's been fine with both of us, though not ideal, but with the addition of Smashface, things need to change.

Right now, Adam is working up at Put-in-Bay, which means we are living apart. I've gone to visit and he's come home, but in order to work on our financial goals and with having only one car and just life stuffs, we've seen each other less. He's the only one working full time. I've pursued various gigs, but I'm not bringing in a significant amount of income.

I feel SO GUILTY about this...like, all the time!

I've always felt pressured by my decision to have a more free spirited lifestyle. I've chosen to live with my mom because it made sense for a variety of reasons, including cost of living. I've always handled my own bills, I've just been very good at not creating a lot of new debt. I usually have no credit cards. I had some credit cards for about a year, and then I closed them all and paid everything off. (Adam has a couple of credit cards, and our goal is to pay them off. We've already closed one of his accounts, because we know credit cards aren't necessary.) But I've endured commentary from "friends" about the way I live. From the outside, according to American culture, I just look kind of lazy. I've had friends assume my mom pays for everything, because I live with her. It's so funny to me that anyone would make an assumption about something no one can see. No one can see every single hour I put into any given job or gig. No one can see my bank accounts or what's in my wallet. So people really just judge on an external facade.

It's an interesting way we judge each other in America; based on material items, many of which require debt. So if you don't have those things, you're viewed as not having much income. And if you have those things, you're viewed as having more income. But a bunch of nice stuff might just mean a boatload of debt...it might mean that even for people who don't have many nice things. I watch people constantly spend just to the reach of their means, and I'm no exception. I've made mistakes and run up debt, but I've always paid it all off. Nevertheless, I can tell from the way people talk to me, that they think I'm irresponsible with money and lazy and mooching off my mom. Heaven forbid anyone see my mom and I as two partners in a shared household who make shared decisions.

And now, I'm in a similar situation with Adam. He's working right now, and I'm not employed full time...and I don't want to be.

People have made comments about my working while pregnant, which I am certainly physically and mentally capable of doing. But that's never the kind of parent I've wanted to be. I don't think the situation in America with two parents working is ideal. That doesn't suit my personal philosophy. To me, having two parents working is less than ideal, and I know it is often the result of need, though it is also often about choice as well. I've never wanted that situation. Especially after years of nannying, I know just exactly how I want to parent. It's something I have spent a LOT of time considering as I've raised the children of other families. I WANT to stay home and I WANT to home school...things Adam has known since the start, things we've discussed, a lifestyle we've chosen.

But man do I feel pressured otherwise often! None of that pressure comes from Adam. Almost all of it is internal. So what I've done over the years is keep score. I've kept a personal tally of setting up our living places; painting, cleaning, buying and moving furniture, grocery shopping, and so on. I sometimes bring it up to Adam, so he knows that I'm pulling my own weight, even though he has never required me to explain myself. It's something I've found myself doing yet again, in this period where I am less employed than I have ever been.

I'm pursuing a lot of projects; working on restoration projects for his dad, FINALLY getting around to all those sewing projects that have been lying around, finishing up production for merchandise for Larry and Boo's Emporium. I've also been gigging it, so I can earn "spending" money or just feel like I'm contributing.

But then, I was looking at the "nursery" (it's currently a breakfast nook) last night. And I was looking at the budget I've made to clothe our child for the first year (it'll be well under $200, excluding cloth diapers). I was thinking about everything I've done to set all of this up, and Adam has had to do nothing. I'm sure he would help if I wanted, but I didn't really need help. I already knew everything I'd need. I mathed out the number of times per day we might change Smashface's clothes and how often I'd want to do laundry, since we don't have our own washer and dryer, and I created the clothing budget and went out and shopped for all of it. I figured out the nursery set up and bought everything and set it up. I tested the strollers and car seats and figured out which would be the best for us. I've also made sure to care for my body properly while growing an actual human being inside of me, something Adam couldn't do even if he wanted to.

And I just had this AH-HA! moment of what I'm "worth" in terms of hours worked and wages earned. I happen to know what I'd charge to provide someone else with these services and what it costs for a surrogate. I know what I'd charge for the childcare I will provide once Smashface is here and for the education I will provide. I know what the cost of a housekeeper or cook is. I mean, there are actual ways to break down my labor and my wage and what is reasonable market rate in Ohio for privatized domestic care. This is a legit economic situation that is easy to completely break down monetarily.

So I've decided that's something I want to do in this blog. I don't know where you can find this information (not that I've done a ton of googling yet). And I just want to write it out, because it is common knowledge that stay at home parents are undervalued. But I think that even the cost of growing and preparing for a child is totally undervalued. While any parent can stay at home and do household duties, men can't grow babies and can't breast feed those babies. That's something only women can do, and I'd like to know what the worth of that is.

So I sent Adam a Facebook message about it, with the cost of what my nannying services would be. But I don't have all of the information yet. I want to finish collecting everything we'll need for Smashface's first year so I can put down a hard budget. And I need to do some more research about the cost of things during pregnancy. But I'm definitely going to write it all out here...maybe in several blogs posts or in just a few, not sure. Because I finally was able to settle that inner dialogue I have about how I have to prove my worth with what I do around the house. I feel so much better having FINALLY figured out my own, actual worth. Not my personal worth regarding self-esteem and as a partner in a relationship, but the actual economic breakdown of the domestic services I provide.

It was very freeing, and it was something I really NEEDED to work out.

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