Years ago, I had a conversation with a friend who could not understand my decision to quit my job and raise my kids. He wanted to know what I did all day to fill my time, and wondered how I kept from getting bored. This from a guy who I knew was spending thousands of dollars on private nannies for his own children and I thought it was interesting that he placed enough value on the nanny’s work to pay her, but no value on my work, even though we did the same job.
I have been working on a book and I write a blog, so I consider myself a writer. Not everyone agrees with me. Some people have asked if I get paid to write or if I have actually published anything. My answer, of course, is that I have yet to receive any type of compensation for my writing to which their response is that I am not a writer.
What is it about money that changes the value of what we do? Am I only a writer if I get paid? Is the nanny who raises children more valuable than the mom doing the same work because she receives a weekly paycheck?
And what of volunteers? Dedicated individuals who sacrifice time away from work and home to run PTA meetings, fundraisers, fight fires, and drive ambulances. There is no paycheck for these people and yet I find their work to be the most valuable at times. Still, because it’s done on a volunteer basis I have heard it dismissed as a hobby.
A hobby, by definition, is an interest we pursue for pleasure outside of our main occupation. Perhaps my writing is a hobby, because that is the interest I pursue for pleasure outside of my occupation. But is motherhood an occupation if there is no paycheck? Is being a mom actually a hobby?
If money determines the value of what we do, then I suppose it follows that actors are more valuable than volunteers, and certainly more valuable than me. But if my house should start to burn, no disrespect to the Brad Pitts of the world, I want the guy with the hobby who knows how to work the hydrant.