Monday, July 13, 2009
A Rich Woman
"I feel very rich when I have time to write and very poor when I get a regular paycheck and no time to work at my real work. Think of it. Employers pay salaries for time. That is the basic commodity that human beings have that is valuable. We exchange our time in life for money. Writers stay with the first step - their time - and feel it is valuable even before they get money for it." -From Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
Seeking inspiration to teach my students creative writing and blogging, and seeking inspiration to guide their own writing, I came across this excerpt in Writing Down the Bones. It spoke to me, resonated with me, not because of my fledgling attempts at writing, but rather, because it gave voice to a sentiment I feel, a challenge I struggle with as a mom who grapples with the difficulties of needing to work part-time and wanting to be with my kids exclusively.
Teaching at UVA's Summer Enrichment Program each morning, I earn an attractive paycheck in exchange for some pretty cushy hours spent with some smart and interesting kids. During the school year, I receive a hard-earned paycheck for working with one student a few hours a week. And yet, particularly in the summer when I am away every morning, I feel like a poor woman. I love teaching, am passionate about it to the core of my being, and yet it takes me away from the job I love best.
It is only after investing in a morning spent at the pool splashing Aidan and Leo, an afternoon going on a walk to the fishing pond to help them hunt for frogs and fish, or the half hour we spend before I start cooking dinner playing with play-doh, when I finally feel like a rich woman. Out of curiosity, I googled what a stay at home mom (or dad) would earn if she or he could be paid for what we do, and the amount is staggering - the mean salary is $137,000.
The things I miss most about earning a full-time paycheck are fresh-cut flowers every week, buying books for pleasure at the bookstore, and enjoying a weekly dinner out at a restaurant. But flowers wilt, books get read, and dinner ends up as poop no matter where it was first savored. I am a rich woman, indeed, because of the quantity, and quality, of hours I invest in my children.