To Earn or Not to Earn…

I don’t want to live a life of “if onlys” but I do want to share what I would change for those who are coming up behind me.
One thing that I remember an “older woman” telling me was that these years fly by– you can’t get them back.  There were so many things that were vitally important to me back then.  I tend to be an all or nothing kind of person.  I’m a perfectionist– I go all out and really put 110% into things because otherwise, I go crazy.
I wish I had learned the lesson that woman tried to teach me.  In me, it manifested in trying to earn extra income.  I did that for two reasons.

1.  Because it is hard to feel like you’re the consumer in a marriage– that you are always taking.

It’s a lie, you know.  You aren’t the consumer.  You are one of the consumers.  Your being home makes it possible for your husband to leave the home to earn the money that helps you all exist.  However, because you don’t get a paycheck to validate your efforts, it’s hard to take it seriously.  Even if you know in your head that your efforts are valuable and needed, they don’t always FEEL as if they are.

2.  Often, what you do to earn money is the one thing you don’t see “undone” in your life.

If you bake bread for several ladies, you don’t feel “undone” when they order more, you feel successful– they want more.  If you take care of someone else’s child all day, you send him home at the end of the day, confident that all is good.  For me, it was sewing.  I made my own children’s wardrobes.  Sometimes, I would make a garment and within thirty minutes of putting it on, the wearer would come in and show me a huge L-shaped tear in the skirt.  I washed them and they faded– the stitching eventually tore out.  When I sewed for other people, I never saw that.  The garments left my house in perfect condition, unfaded, unripped, and when i got pictures of them, it was when they were new– and looked it.

I needed to know that I didn’t need to earn cash to contribute monetarily to our family OR to save my sanity.

I also needed to know that my earnings were a pittance of what I could have saved.  It isn’t true for everyone.  Some people can earn more by childcare, sewing, baking, bookkeeping, tax preparation, or direct sales than they can save by careful use of their time and money.  However, a lot more people don’t make nearly as much as they think.

We’ve all read the research on how little a working mother often makes.  I’m not talking about the exceptions like CFOs of large corporations, doctors, lawyers, etc.  I’m talking about the average American woman who works 8-5, five days a week.  The studies show that when you take into consideration transportation costs, wardrobe necessities, lunches, eating out, office gift/party things, convenience foods, child care, etc… sometimes a woman actually LOSES money compared to what she could save in their budget by being available at home to do other things.

Moms, what we do is fleeting.  Being a wife– a mother?  There aren’t any do-overs.  We don’t get that option.  We get one shot at the infancy stage with our newborns.  Yes, on nights when you haven’t slept for more than three hours at a time in weeks, it’s hard to remember that you only get one infancy with that child.  Hey, I’ll be honest.  Half the time I was GLAD that there was only one infancy and that it was brief.  That’s not a popular thing for a mom to say, but it’s true.  There were those times.  They’re only toddlers once, only preschoolers once, and we only get to teach them to read– once.  Even for people like me who HATE teaching a child to read, it’s still a huge thing.  Huge.

Every dress I made for someone else’s child was a dress I couldn’t make for mine.  Every shopping trip for fabric that I dragged my family to were hours and dollars I had to earn to make up for.  Every time I didn’t sit down and play a game with my children because I had an order to get out?  I can’t get those back.  And let me tell you, I’m convinced, now that I run numbers, that I made very little money.  Had I been careful with the dollars Kevin made and chosen very specific things to do because I needed that “escape,” I wouldn’t be writing this.  I’d be writing something very different.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to work at home and earn extra money.  I’m not encouraging anyone to quit.  There is ZERO guilt coming from me on what you and your family have chosen to do.  You know your situation.  I don’t.  It’s not a sin to earn money.  What I did, back then, it wasn’t sin.  I don’t regret what spurred me to want to do it.  I don’t think I was wrong.  However, with hindsight, I’d make different choices.  I’d still sew– probably for others.  I’d still allow myself that escape.  I needed the sense of accomplishment it gave me, but I wouldn’t run a business.  I would pick my customers very carefully–even if I paid for the privilege of making them, I think physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and financially I would have come out ahead.

When you have a quiet moment–and if necessary create one–look at the big picture.  It’s a trite thing to say, but I’m going to say it.  Look at everything you do.  In twenty, thirty, fifty years, will you really be glad you spent several hours a day or week to earn that fifty dollars?  Is that fifty dollars really helping?  If it is, you will be so glad you did it.  If it isn’t, are there any choices you could make that could cut twenty, thirty, fifty or more dollars from the budget?

Again, no guilt.  If what you do enhances your family, if it is the best decision for you, great.  I’m 100% behind you.  However, because I didn’t see the real picture back then, I have to say it in case there is another person out there like me– someone who didn’t NEED those dollars and likely came up short or not ahead enough for the sacrifice.

You get one life.  It is a gift from the Lord.  Suck out the marrow of that life.  That sometimes means boiling the bones rather than working for extra money to buy some marrow.

6 thoughts on “To Earn or Not to Earn…

  1. I’ve been struggling with the desire to make money from home, too. Baking, sewing, and crochet had all crossed my mind, and I am currently watching a little one for some extra cash. I’m definitely going to keep this all in mind as I do my hobbies. I used to sew for my kids all the time and I never do anymore. It will be nice to sew for them, and just for them, without thoughts of how I can turn this into a way to make income later. Thanks releasing me from covetousness, Chautona.

  2. Thanks Chautona! I’ve been finding myself struggling over the issue of should I or should I not find some way to bring in some extra money. When the boys were younger I knew I needed to be home (FWIW, I often was at the school dealing with a Nick crisis at least once or twice a week back then too), I also knew there was no way I could work and deal with everything I needed to deal with at the time. We’d also figured out it would cost more for me to work than we’d lose for me to stay home. These days, things run a little more smoothly, money is still tight but I no longer find I’m needed to put out Nick “fires” daily or even weekly during the school day. So, yeah, the thought of should I get a job or not pops into my mind. (Jeff’s never asked or insisted either way.) Trouble is I can think of a whole lot of reasons not to and only one to — money.

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