My work life is unconventional. I’m part of the growing contingent of women (and men) who work primarily online.
My self-driven schedule allows me to hit Trader Joe’s at 1:00 on a Wednesday, successfully avoiding the weekend crowds. On the other hand, I’m writing this on Sunday morning before church, because work of some kind is always within reach.
My work days are split between writing and blog related tasks, virtual assistant work, customer care for The Influence Network and managing the Naptime Diaries shop. All together, this combination of “work” takes 35-40 hours a week.
Notice how I put “work” in quotations? It’s not that I’m operating from a “love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life” philosophy, but because I’m still insecure about the nature of my work.
My past jobs punching a clock left a profound impact, to the point that not punching one flares up a vague and lingering fear that I’m never working hard enough.
Most days, I feel grateful and well suited for the work I do, but there are underlying insecurities constantly at play. I’m grateful for the freedom and choices my work gives me, but I’m paying the (unnecessary) price of feeling guilty and inadequate.
Why? Well, there’s money, for one thing. I don’t earn as much as I could on a more traditional career track, and I don’t yet have children as a natural justification. (This isn’t to say that working nontraditionally is always less lucrative, or that it always will be for me, of course. But right now, it is.)
Some of my work isn’t paid directly: blogging, writing ebooks, networking, research, or virtual assistant work I do for free for the experience and referral potential. The payoff isn’t directly in sight or even guaranteed.
My husband and I agree that the immediate financial sacrifice is worth it. My work choices align well with our long term goals, but they’re a sacrifice nonetheless.
Every so often, I apply for traditional real estate or sales jobs. Sometimes I even interview. I research the MBA program at the college where my husband teaches and daydream about what success would look like down those paths.
Every time, I dig my heels deeper in the path I’m walking. Ultimately, it still feels worth it to me. I’m learning to take the uncertainty in stride and answer the “what do you do?” question less awkwardly.
From a financial perspective, I have no idea if these years will prove a good investment. I do know there’s something to be said for forging your own path, for playing to your strengths, and working hard toward something that matters to you.
By those measures, I’m winning, and I feel grateful to even have the choices I do. I realize that many (most?) women aren’t grappling with the questions around what they want to do because their energy is consumed by what they have to do.
It’s something of a gift to work on my own terms for any money at all. Is it worth the cost? Maybe. Ask me in ten years, but my strong suspicion is yes.
Jacey is passionate about living intentionally in the face of real demands, the unexpected, and human nature itself. Her ebook on the topic, Escaping Reaction; Embracing Intention, released in March.
She writes about relationships, faith and personal growth at The Balanced Wife. She lives in Charleston, SC with her husband, Mike, and golden retriever, Jack.