Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Working for a living

It was tough coming up with a title for this. What the hell is wrong with people? sounds too angry even if that's how I felt when I started this. I was confused and hurt and all things I shouldn't feel, so writing it all down seemed like a good way to work through my feelings.

As  you all know, or maybe you don't, I've spent the last year or so babysitting to earn money. Not a ton of money, mind you. Just a little bit of money. After all, this is work any self-respecting twelve year old in Minnesota does and I'd wager for probably more money than I make. In other words, enough to keep a girl in iTunes and nail polish and not much more. Here in Florence many of the babysitters are American girls with college degrees but interestingly enough, the money's still at the same iTunes and nail polish level. They're collecting experiences, not out to make a lot of money.

I've once again been asked to work for a family. Again they want to guarantee a certain number of hours every week. Also again, they want to pay me less because I'll have a steady income. It's the weirdest logic I've ever heard but I hear it a lot here, so they must not find it strange. I do find it strange, especially since the mother is American and completely familiar with how business is or at least should be conducted. However here in Italy a euro saved is one euro closer to those shoes or that car or whatever it is they think they must have besides quality care for their child. And everyone else is doing it, they're just following local customs. Whatever.

Deep breath. Sorry.

I'm a little upset not only about the money but about the final stipulation she put on my accepting the position. I have to give her priority over my other families because her schedule is always changing and so my schedule would have to change accordingly. Sometimes with less than 24 hours notice. "But," she said with a big smile, "you could work any evening you wanted for someone else!" Slight pause. "Unless I were to ask you to watch our son."

Yeah, go ahead. Think about that one for a little while. I did. I'll wait...

So if I'm understanding her correctly, and I think I am, in exchange for guaranteeing me 25 hours a week they want to hold my remaining hours hostage, just in case they need them. Oh.....and if I don't work all the hours in one week they'll just get pushed to the next. I think, but I'm not sure, that I'd have my weekends free but then again I can't assume anything. Once they've gotten me to agree to work they'll doubtless expand the definition of priority and mostly weekdays to the point where I won't be able to work  for anyone else unless I wanted to work late into the night.

But they've thrown that carrot out there...the idea of a steady income. Something to count on. It's the thing that my generation was brought up to understand as successful. People work crap hours in substandard conditions with co-workers from hell to be able to say they have a steady income. It's the stuff the modern American Dream is made of. I used to think it was the only way to live a responsible life.

But that's the thing about a steady job. For all it's security (and that's really up for debate as well, ask anyone who lost their job in the last recession) it robs me of any opportunity to become something more. It confines me to one set of circumstance.....this many hours, this much money, these certain benefits...and offers me little chance to improve my position.

No chance to keep my growing relationships with other families, relationships I've worked hard to foster and truly enjoy. My bike rides and drawing excursions would be limited by someone else's schedule. And then there's the biggest problem for me, no chance to work with Leif and grow our own business together.

I started writing this a day ago. The first part, relatively unedited, was written a few days after being offered this position and minutes after a power struggle between my two top clients which ended with me losing both jobs instead of landing one. I was angry and feeling used and pushed around, which is ridiculous because I'm the oldest one in the equation.

For anyone out there who knows me and has had reservations about Leif, you can put them away right now. He is my rock. He let me talk, rant and imagine my way into understanding that we were fine without my work last year and that no work is worth handing over my life tied up nicely with a bow for someone else to live for me. Work as much as I want to, sure, but keep my right to chose this thing or that thing. Never forget who I am and why I came here. Be complimented that so many people want my help in raising their children but don't let their pretty words blind me to the opportunities I'd be missing.

Hmm. guess I know what I'll be telling this mom and if the universe decides to punish me for refusing it's gift then so be it. I have millions of opportunities to try yet.

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