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Could a Job Ever Be Worth Losing Money On?

money, jobs, recession, working mother

Is working worth it if childcare puts you in the red?

Mommyish, a parenting site recently launched by B5 Media, ran an interesting post yesterday titled, “My Babysitter Makes More Money Than I Do.”  In it, writer Angela Arsenault admits, “it costs me money each time I write one of these posts,” but, she says, “I don’t care, because sometimes this written thought is the only one I get to complete all day.”

I understand where Arsenault is coming from.  Often times the money I make from a stand-up set doesn’t entirely cover the cost of childcare, but I’m so happy to be out of the house and doing what I love that I’ve learned to make it work.  (I don’t mean to brag, but comedians typically make anywhere from $20 to a whopping $25 for 10 minutes of work.  Never mind that I have to invest three hours including travel time in order to do that 10 minute spot, which means I’m out $5 or $10 in babysitting money.)  The idea of “paying to play” got me thinking about whether or not losing money on creative ventures is an integral part of the game, or if allowing ourselves to be financially exploited is a bad habit many women have.

Arsenault says her family “ends up benefiting from this pay-to-work career” even though it costs her “50 bucks or so every week” to be a professional blogger.  She writes, “I have a renewed sense of confidence in my non-mom self, which is an extremely important piece in the whole-me puzzle.”  I totally agree – getting out of the house and doing something completely unrelated to parenting is so important for every mother, even if what gets you out of the house isn’t a job.  Jobs themselves, though, shouldn’t be undervalued in terms of their importance for women who feel they need some type of identity outside of motherhood.  Jenna Marshall recently wrote an essay for Babble in which she wondered if staying home with her children caused her to be clinically depressed.  She chose to continue on her path as a SAHM, but admits that “getting a job… seemed like an obvious solution” to her depression.

I don’t dispute that Arsenault needs to work, nor do I blame her for losing money in the long run.  But I do wonder if any men out there – fathers especially – would be similarly accepting of the financial circumstances surrounding Arsenault’s gig.  In heterosexual marriages that involve children – for the most part – men still have the luxury/burden of being the primary breadwinner, and women have the luxury/burden of feeling that they can stay home or work only part-time.  Arsenault says that as a result of that dynamic, “My husband has a happier wife who feels eternally grateful that he supports what I’m doing” and “our children still have a mom who’s there for almost every triumph and tragedy and I’m way more present for them because I’ve had some time away from mommy mode.”

As a married woman, I felt just like Arsenault.  I was thrilled to have a husband who I thought supported my performance career and I was relieved to know that even if I wasn’t making as much as I should have been as an artist, my husband’s salary would compensate.  Then everything fell apart, and I found myself a single mother.  So here I am with the luxury/burden of being a full-time mom and a full-time comedian/writer who has to pay a babysitter every time I leave the house.  In the past few months, I’ve thought long and hard about what it means to lose money on a gig, and rather than choose to be okay with going red, I’ve decided to stop taking gigs that don’t pay.  (Well, for the most part.  No one’s perfect.)  I’ve found that when I’m upfront with bookers about what my needs are, my needs are met.  Funny, huh?

Haply, in the midst of writing this post, today’s email from Daily Worth appeared in my inbox.  The subject read: “Money Fix Expert Says: Get Over Your Underearning.”  In her post on the subject, personal finance expert Barbara Stanny says if you want to make more money, you have to think like a higher earner.  Here’s how:

Stop telling your old story about why you can’t earn more. Self-deprecation is a way of self-sabotaging, Stanny says.

Repeat the affirmation, “I can do this.” Make it your mantra, even if you don’t believe it.

Welcome feelings of fear. To a high earner, fear is a sign that that they’re going in the right direction. Success in anything always lies just outside our comfort zone.

Track expenses. Write down every penny spent to get out of vagueness, one of the major traits of an underearner. Cut expenses to live within your means.

I have the hardest time with the last one, though I’ve struggled with all of these things. Taking responsibility for myself in all areas of my life, I’ve learned, is the only way I can truly be a responsible parent to my daughter. That means making as much money as I can, even if I’ve been conditioned and have conditioned myself to feel like I don’t deserve it.

So, what do you think: if you have a child, is it worth it to work if you’re losing money in the long run, even if it makes you feel better about yourself?

Photo via Flickr

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