I have to be honest. I’ve been struggling with something significant these past three months. Today, I would like to share that struggle. Some of you might relate.
Recent life circumstances have caused me to think HARD about the definition of WORK.
What is WORK?
I “stopped working” at the end of December 2014 to stay home and pursue writing and photography.
Since then, I’ve been through two months of eye cancer with my husband, two months of spring cleaning, three summer months of caring for our three children, four months of crazy-good chaos, and three months working on four books I hope to have published someday. Add to that daily care of our children, tending to and working on our marriage, kid paperwork, homework and activities, household chores, keeping up with finances, a sister who’s battling schizoaffective disorder-bipolar type, a dad who’s going through testing to determine if he’s a candidate for a lung transplant, and a mom who’s trying to help them all. Add to that a small photography business launched in hopes of it becoming something bigger, editing someone else’s book, and now, volunteer work on a mission advocacy team at our church.
I earned VERY FEW DOLLARS in 2015.
I haven’t earned ANY DOLLARS in 2016.
I’ve struggled with this definition of work, this WONDERING if I’m WORKING, this WONDERING if I’m WORTH anything, for three months hard now.
A couple weeks ago, I took a short walk with one of our neighbors. Our kids rode their bikes while we chatted. I don’t remember the details of the conversation, but one thing stuck with me. At one point, my neighbor said “Oh yeah, you don’t work anymore, do you?” I responded with “Yeah, I don’t.” The conversation continued.
I didn’t correct her, nor did I correct myself. But I should have.
Her question and my response hit home hard.
None of it was ill-intentioned.
It’s just awfully coincidental that “You don’t work anymore, do you?” was the question swirling in my mind prior to her asking. HER question confirmed MY struggle.
“Oh yeah, you don’t work anymore, do you?”
Honestly? I didn’t give her the right answer.
The better answer would have been “Yeah, I stopped my work as a speech therapist, so I’m not getting paid right now, but I AM working. I’m home watching our kids full-time. I’m also a writer and I’m working on four books I hope to get published someday. I also launched a photography business last summer and plan on doing a lot more photo shoots this spring, summer and fall.”
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to give my neighbor a better answer because I haven’t been 100% confident that my WORK is WORTH something.
I’ve been asking big questions…
Is WORK only WORK if it’s paid?
What about all the stay at home moms?
What about the worker who’s laid off and actively seeking employment?
What about all the people who do volunteer work? Don’t they call it “volunteer WORK” for a reason?
What about all the retired folks who “don’t work anymore,” but are active, fully-functioning, contributing members of society?
What about the spouse who’s providing endless hours of care for her failing husband?
What about the grandparents caring for their grandchildren?
What about the artist who’s yet to be discovered?
What about the writer who’s working on her first novel?
What about the musician who’s playing the streets of Nashville for coins in a guitar case?
What about all the staff at orphanages around the globe who work for little to nothing but a meal and maybe a place to sleep?
What about anyone else who knows in their heart they’re doing hard and worthy WORK, but aren’t getting paid for it?
What is the definition of WORK?
Is WORK only considered WORK if it’s paid?
Are we only WORTH something if our WORK is paid?
Turn these questions personal, and here’s how they sound…
Am I working? (Because I sure feel like I am.)
Does my work only count if it’s paid?
Am I only worth something if I’m PAID for my work?
Notice the difference between question two and three. ONE is about the worth of my work. The second is about MY worth. I have begun to confuse MY WORK with MY WORTH. I have begun to believe that my WORK only has value if it’s paid. Culture and recent experience tells me that WORK can only be defined as WORK if it’s paid.
But my gut, my heart? They’re revolting against this notion.
I KNOW I’ve been working these past 15 months. I know I’ve been working these past three months as I’ve been writing and battling these questions of WORK and WORTH. In my heart, I know WORK has a much broader definition than the way it’s typically defined in our culture.
I’ve not arrived yet.
But I’m beginning to realize it’s up to me.
I get to decide.
I have to decide.
Am I working, or am I not?
Is my work worth something, or not?
Am I worth something, or am I not?
I looked up the definition of work this morning. I had to.
Type it in.
Just do it.
Type “definition of work” in Google search.
(Then make sure to click on “Translations, word origin and MORE DEFINITIONS,” which is immediately below the first two noun and verb definitions of work.)
See what you find.
I thought I’d start this post with the various definitions of WORK. Little did I know, there’s not enough room in this post to share all the definitions of work. I’d have to plagiarize because there are SO many definitions, noun AND verb. “Earning an income” is just ONE of MANY, MANY definitions of WORK.
Yes, I had to do it.
I had to KNOW if WORK is more than earning an income.
I had to do it for myself.
I’ve barely been paid anything for 15 months now. But I know I’ve been working. I know I’m working.
My heart tells me so.
In this season, I’m learning about the hidden, the unseen, unpaid WORKER. I’m learning for myself, and I’m learning so I can become an advocate.
We’re working warriors.
Culture tells us our WORK isn’t WORTHY unless it’s paid.
I beg to differ.
The value of WORK is more than a paycheck.
The value of WORK lies within us.
The value of WORK lies in what we have to offer the world.
Work it. Paid or unpaid.