My friend and I peer at the small objects in my hand.
"Look! Isn't that the best logo? And what about the tagline? Catchy, huh?"
My 28-year-old self is very pleased with my shiny new business cards. I launch into an enthusiastic explanation of my plans for my prenatal classes. I'm teaching two evenings a week - one privately, one through the Women's Health Centre of a downtown hospital. I plan to expand to teach intensive Saturday morning classes, and then to new-parent support groups on Saturday afternoons.
I have other ideas, but two evenings and a Saturday are as much as I wish to take on for now, with my two small children. I explain this to my friend, too. She smiles and says, "It must be nice to have a lucrative hobby. I'd have liked one when my children were little."
There's a brief pause in the conversation, as I swallow my immediate, instinctive outrage. "Lucrative hobby?" I am no hobbyist. This is my job.
How often does this happen to those of us who are in non-traditional working arrangements?
A lot, I'll bet.
I love my situation, and I know I'm fortunate. I have the best of both worlds: professional stimulation and fulfilment, a (small) income of my own, and I can be home most of the time with my children. There are many women who would love to be in my shoes. I could work more, but I've chosen not to.
And I wonder if this is the crux of the distinction. It is not that I work less than 40 hours a week; it is not that I do it from my home; it is not that I get to establish my own hours and choose my clientele. It is not that I don't have a nice benefit package. These are all factors, but not the crux of it.
It comes down to choice. I could have a 'real' job. Since I chose not to - since I was fortunate enough (then, not now!) that I didn't have to work at all - my work was a "hobby".
And as much as I object to the typification, there is part of me that agrees with my friend's assessment. I don't have a "real" job. But, still, what she said doesn't feel right. It feels patronizing, like the genuine effort, thought, creativity and energy I put into my part-time work--my "lucrative hobby"--doesn't count. I'm not working, I'm playing at working.
Though feeling distinctly ruffled with my friend, I was left feeling torn. Am I just playing at work? Is it a lucrative hobby or a genuine career? Where is the distinction between 'Real Work' and 'Playing at Work'? Is there a distinction?
What do you think?