Will Work For Free

Recently I was at an event where I was asked the dreaded question, “where are you working?” I hastily answered with the enthusiasm of a child who just received his favorite toy, “nowhere!” That answer usually elicits more questions through which people are inspired by my bold decision to quit my day job for the last time to passionately pursue a career as a writer. However, this time I was met with somber eyes of sympathy. Before I could restore this person’s spirit with my long account of my arrival to this place, he dashed away as I blurted the words, “I have two kids…” Years ago, my first boss in the entertainment industry gave me the book, “The One Minute Manager” because, well, my garrulousness began to drain him. Obviously, no less than two decades later, I had still not managed to spiel in one minute. However, i don’t know that a more concise answer would have mattered because, at the end of the day, I do not have a job. At least I don’t have the type of job that pays. I am constantly working. I am pre-production on my short film. I am always writing song lyrics and poetry. I write short stories. I write tv and film treatments that morph into scripts. I am working on a project with my ex-boss. I am working on a project with my friend. I am raising two children. I am running a household. I am working. But there is no “where” to my work because it is at my kitchen table, or a coffee shop or in the laundry room at 3:00 in the morning. I am not working at a job. I am working toward a career but it’s not the sort of thing I have mastered an explanation for in 1 minute. I am reminded of this when my mother-in-law periodically asks me, “have you found a job yet?” She loves to tell the story of how my father-in-law asked her, weeks after the birth of their son, “when are you going to work?” She proudly tells me of how she interviewed and found a job that day. She continued to work at jobs, close to home, so that she could still fulfill the duties of wife and mom. This job-wife-mom life continued until her retirement and her marriage lasted until my father-in-law passed away. It is the life that many women in her generation mastered with such grace and strength. So there was no bafflement when after I told her I was not looking for a “job” she did the sing song “o—kay—.” She just has no idea what it is like to have a special needs child or what is like to be an artist with a special needs child. There are not many places I could “work” that would understand I have to take off so many days to go to our son’s school or that I need to meet with a development executive because he or she just may like my project. I tried managing all of that and missed an opportunity– a day of doing punch up on a friend’s pilot. I couldn’t do it because I had already taken off too many days to assist our son. Nine-to-five work does not allow the same sort of accommodations that careers do. As a worker, you can’t show up with your child and your nanny one day. You can’t request a modified schedule. And most jobs don’t even allow you to leave in time to pick up your children from school. I spoke to a mom today who stressed herself into illness, attempting to pick up her children on time from daycare every day. This situation could be alleviated with a part-time nanny but many jobs we moms take barely cover the cost of transportation and daycare. A nanny is financially out of the question. So, the real answer at the end of the day is, I really can’t afford to just “work.”

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