Sarah Beth Hunt

writer on a journey in search of oracles, alchemists and hidden doors to wisdom

I’ve had a strange working life.  For the past four+ years, I have been a full-time stay-at-home mother of two boys.  Before that I have worked in as a manager of a coffeeshop, a punt tour guide in Cambridge, a yoga teacher and an academic.  And there were the years of my teaching postdoc where I spent my research time sneaking off to coffeeshops to write my novel. So what I mean by a strange working life is that, while I’ve always worked, my work experience often hasn’t fit into the 9am-6pm, office-based, smartly dressed kind of work thing.  And perhaps even more significantly, in the case of my novel writing and full-time parenting gigs, it has also often been detached from money. Meaning that I haven’t gotten paid for a lot of my work (at least not yet…although fingers crossed for a bonus from the kids this year…I’ve been an excellent mom!) and therefore that there has not always been a monetary value attached to my work (giving me assurance that I was doing something of value). miynm I have watched friends, family members and my husband have typical working lives…working lives that include reliable wages, set working hours, offices and colleagues, reviews and promotions, and an answer to the question ‘what do you do?’.  But for my part, I have often stood outside the window of what feels like the House of the Working Life, and like a wanderer, I have peered in the window and wondered…what is it like inside? And what do I notice about our society’s conception of Work precisely because I have often found myself standing on the outside peering in? miyqv I guess the biggest question my experiences writing my novel and then being a full-time stay-at-home parent have forced me to ask myself is…if I’m not working for money, if financial reward isn’t even part of the equation, then what am I working for? miyaf There are many days where, mired in self-doubt, I have struggled to come up with an answer to this question. The days when I was writing my novel wondering whether this story would ever find its way beyond my circle of family and friends.  Days when I looked at my writing and thought…well, probably not!  And there are so many days as a mother where my kids are tired and I am tired and we are all yelling and I think ‘what am I contributing? What am I even doing?’ People work for a lot of different reasons and they get a myriad of things back from their work.  But for me, when you take the ‘paycheck’ out of the equation all together, these questions force themselves upon you in a wholly different way.  Whether you have to justify your work to others, or simply to yourself, the answers are not always easy to find. IMG_0091 So for me, finding E F Schumacher’s article on work in his famous Small is Beautiful meant something more than just theory. It shifted the way I was used to thinking about ‘why we work’.  And it reminded me of all the positive reasons we work that have almost nothing to do with money. It was a little piece of gold I could slip in my back pocket and pull out any time self-doubt (“this idea of becoming a writer is a pipe-dream, stop wasting your time!” “Are you really doing enough to justify staying home with your kids?” etc etc.) starts to rage. In ‘Buddhist Economics’, Schumacher outlines the purpose of Work in a simple but absolutely profound way…and a way that is profoundly different from the way we normally think about our work.  “The Buddhist point of view,” he writes, “takes the function of work to be at least threefold: to give a [wo]man a chance to utilise and develop his [her] faculties; to enable him [her] to overcome his [her] egocentredness by joining with other people in a common task; and to bring forth the goods and services needed for a becoming existence.” From this perspective, work isn’t something one does only for money. Work isn’t something to be avoided if possible and tolerated when necessary.  It is something essential to our sense of self to embrace our talents and do things we are good at, to work with others and to feel as if we have something of value to contribute to the world.

It makes me wonder…What would it mean for us to embrace this perspective of Work? And what would it mean for our whole society if everyone did?

These are just the beginning of my thoughts on work, and I’d love to hear your thoughts and what your Working Life has been like…

One thought on “Working Life

  1. beth486@juno.com says:

    Having many ways of working sure does make for an interesting life, maybe not a financially beneficial life. But looking back from the vantage point of old age, I can tell you that nothing is better than raising good responsible adults and working like a crazy person in your thirties juggling a marriage, kids, and full time work usually ends with burn out at 60 and the wish that there had been more time to enjoy watching kids grow–and now it is too late. The kids are old and don’t want to hang around their parents any more and businesses can kick you to the curb at any time. You are definitely expendable to a company but not to your kids.

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