Thursday, November 03, 2011

Thoughts on employment.

I'm feeling particularly idealistic and reflective this morning, halfway through reading David McCullough's John Adams. I also received this morning an e-mail from one of my teachers in the cooperative extension office about "The Food Movement," which made me think about my many jobs. I recently was at a party of friends and neighbors and remarked to Raph, that I was the only one there who stayed at home with my children. Sometimes I lament that I am likely not the best mother in the world, and perhaps my nature isn't fit for the role in its entirety, but still staying home with my children has been a decided commitment since the moment I learned I was pregnant with Makili. Staying home with my children, however, does not mean that I don't work however, as was implied in a slightly snarky comment by another mother recently, who told me that she didn't have time to sew as she unfortunately had to make a living. And for some reason this morning I'm at the business of evaluating my choices in life.

Staying home with my children as I mentioned, was not a conversation, but a known quantity. When we moved back East from HI, we cut our combined income by more than half. This was a choice. And we all have this choice. I have friends all the time tell me that they wish they could stay home with their children. I don't say much, but in my heart I believe that every situation is built on choice. Raph and I chose to be able to afford a very small house, and initially we weren't even sure we could do that. We chose to go without exciting vacations, new cars, etc. Luckily for us health care was secured with Raph's employment, as that is a rather non-negotiable in my opinion. Right now, our house is not "done" by anyone's estimation, but we choose not to borrow money to pay people to finish it. In fact, if we didn't have such talented and generous family members, we wouldn't have even had the choice of enlarging our house in the first place.

I have always worked, even since I've "stayed at home." The first year I was a substitute teacher, thanks to Ann's willingness to babysit. That allowed us to afford our tiny home and afford our food. When I started working for CHI, it was because it seemed like a natural fit for me, and also something I deeply believe in. I impact young people, and that matters to me. I am part of an organization that increases international understanding and tolerance, and that matters to me. The fact that I am able earn money from home while serving those ends is a complete blessing, even if the job is unbelievably stressful at times.

When I started working at the farmers' market last year, it was because I couldn't resist it. I have always loved farmers' markets, and secretly always wanted to farm. I know a LOT more now about what "farming" means, and am pretty sure the scale of farming I'm interested in is far smaller than I previously thought. Choosing to take this job has significantly limited our family time, a fact that I am constantly weighing against its positive aspects. Nonetheless, I hold farmers in the highest regard. Few people truly understand the scale of work farmers endure. Long hours, bad weather, heavy objects, tough competition, lack of available land, etc. And like mechanics, I don't know too many rich farmers, even though sometimes what they charge seems outrageous. When I started selling flowers to sell, I learned even more intimately how difficult what they do is. In my tiny gardens, I battle all the same pests, but on a scale that is manageable. It is frustrating beyond imagination to watch an entire crop being devastated by cucumber beetles, squash bugs, vine-borers (yes, it was a tough year for cucurbits), horn worms, slugs, potato bugs, grasshoppers, etc. To handle such attacks without toxic chemicals is not easy. Very, very few farmers use little or no pesticides, even though they may be organic. And let me tell you, organic chemicals can be equally toxic to their synthetic counterparts. No chemicals in our food would be best, but VERY few farms are able to do this. The education that I've received at the farmers' market is beyond compare. I am a better grower, consumer, and citizen for understanding their livelihood and its immense importance in our society.

I guess what I'm reflecting on this morning is how fortunate I feel to be involved in so many meaningful things - parenting, international exchange, and farming. I'm proud of my husband for his equally meaningful pursuits. And I'm not going to feel bad when some snarky mom makes comments to me anymore, because I'm happy with my choices, even if they aren't the most lucrative.


beckarecka said...

Ah, Blayne. I miss you!! Thanks for the thoughtful post.

Anonymous said...

One reason I ask other mothers whether they are employed outside the home, but not "work"!
Ha! One of the reasons I go to work is to do different work.

I agree with the choice. We all have that and everyone's balance sheet is different.

And thank you for your work in helping me "go back to work"! You will forever be woven into my children's memories.