Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Paid vs. Unpaid Work

Our society places a great deal of importance on paid work. When someone you meet asks you what you do, they aren't asking you how you like to spend your time; they want to know what type of paid work you do. When you are someone who is not getting paid to work, you may have to sheepishly admit to being a stay at home mother or wife or unemployed.

As I've bumbled my way through in the past few months, trying on this new role of stay at home mother and wife, I've discovered the need to have some work and purpose beyond the walls of my home. I've looked into some volunteer opportunities working with foster youth. It hasn't worked out so far. Some of these organizations want a significant time commitment due to the cost of background checks and fingerprinting.  Since I have the care of my children for most of the week, it isn't possible to give that much time. My other option is to find some type of part-time paid position where I could in turn pay for childcare for my younger daughter during part of the week. I've vacillated between pursuing each of these routes.

I like the idea of doing volunteer work, but I realize that I'm fairly constrained during the week. I also like the idea of finding a paid position that might enable me to enroll my younger daughter in preschool part-time. I have more looked more extensively for paid positions because of how paid work is elevated in our society. If I were to say that I was a stay at home mother and volunteer, people would probably envision me watching the soaps and eating bon bons (for the record, I do not watch the soaps but have been known to consume the occasional bon bon). If I have a paid position, I could easily identify myself as an employee of this organization with such and such title. There is a not so subtle difference in how these different types of work are valued and looked upon in modern society. So I am prejudiced against volunteer work even though it might enable me to pursue more interesting and compassionate work than paid work will allow me to do.

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