I’m *ahem* of a certain age, and for the past many years have concentrated on being an at-home mom (NOT your favorite demographic, I know) — one kid had major, unpredictable health issues, my husband traveled a lot, blah blah blah. I managed to just barely stay involved in my career work by taking on the occasional freelance project, but in reality I’ve been out, WAY out, of the working world for about 15 years.
Anyway, family things are much easier now and I both want and need to return to making money. The thought of working in an office makes me choke; I really want to grow my freelance business, and — here’s the issue — I also really want to start a dog-walking & running business, which would be fun and bring in additional cash. I have two dog clients right now but I’m finding it a little bit embarrassing. On the plus side: I love dogs. I love running. I love being outside, even in horrible weather. And the negative: “Oh, are you walking dogs now? That’s…interesting.”
In my mind, I’m seeing friends, relatives, ancestors, neighbors shaking their heads. “She had so much potential,” they say mournfully. Tell me, Robin, why I can’t just be happy that I have two things I love to do, both of which make me money, even if one of them isn’t exactly…I don’t know, I can’t even find the words for it.
First, let me address your claim that stay-at-home moms are not my favorite demographic. I have absolutely no issue with women who choose to stay at home while their children are in school, especially if they have the support of their husband to do so. While I do believe this can be a VERY risky choice as time goes on and the kids get older, I don’t give a rip what people choose to do with their lives, so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else or cost me money.
What I do find despicable is when women stay at home well into their children’s young adulthood, refuse to get a job when their husband pleads with them to help support the family, and then expect lifetime alimony when the marriage ends. Worse still: trying to access the new wife’s income and savings to supplement their lifestyle choices and refusal to earn a living. *ahem*
Staying at home is a choice, and a very good one for many families. But like I said, it’s a risky choice, and I don’t believe women can really justify being a SAHM when their kids are in high school (unless, as in your situation, there are extenuating circumstances). And what I mean by justify is this: if these women get divorced, they shouldn’t demand lifetime alimony.
I would also add that never having a job puts you at an extreme disadvantage when it comes to being happy. Once those kids are gone, and especially if you end up getting divorced, there is going to be a massive hole in your life that you will likely try to fill with food, booze, and marathon reality television viewing.
God damn it, why did you get me started on that subject? Now I’m mad. Hold on, I need to go make a mimosa…
OK, I’m back.
Your question is very timely for me, and if you have been reading my blog at all, you know I always make these questions about me. It’s how I relate and empathize, plus it lets me talk about myself and I love that.
About two weeks ago, I made the decision to start this advice blog and chase the career satisfaction I never had while practicing law. I didn’t even know I had made the decision until I found myself chatting with a lovely young woman who works at my favorite nursery. She asked me what I did for a living, and without thinking, I blurted out “well, I used to be a lawyer, but now I am a writer. I write an advice blog and with a lot of hard work and a little luck, I think I’ll be able to generate income from it.”
At that moment, I felt an enormous sense of pride, satisfaction and relief. But then again, I wasn’t doing anything as lame or stupid as starting a dog walking business.
Come on now, people, you know I’m kidding. Canine-Confused, I can totally relate to your apprehension about discussing your new business. I went to a legal function to support my husband last night where I chatted with dozens of lawyers whom I have known over the years. Of course, they all asked me what I am doing now, and to each one of them I proudly announced “I am writing an advice column!”
Did they all respond with interest and encouragement? No. But most of them did. One in particular introduced me to her friend, and in that introduction she said, “This is my friend Robin, she’s an advice columnist!” That was a really wonderful thing to experience for me because I felt like my choice had been acknowledged, accepted and shared by another person. I believe this is what we call “validation,” and me likey!
You asked me why you can’t be happy, but then you said you have two things that you love to do and which generate the income you need. It sounds to me like you ARE happy, at least insofar as your recent business development choices. Your real struggle seems to be twofold:
- You think you are a mind-reader (you aren’t); and
- You give a shit what other people think (you shouldn’t)
Let’s assume you do not possess the power to know the thoughts of others before they share them with you. You are generating anxiety and self-doubt by presuming your friends and family will be disappointed in you and think you have lowered yourself beneath their expectations of what you are supposed to accomplish in your life.
First, imagine that you are incorrect. I hate to burst your bubble, but most people don’t really care what sort of career their friends embark upon, unless it involves a pole or working for a Republican (which can also involve a poll).
The vast majority of us are so caught up in our own lives and work issues that we have neither the time nor the inclination to judge others harshly when we hear someone is making a change. Instead, we focus on the challenges in our own lives, namely WHY HAVEN’T MORE PEOPLE FOLLOWED MY BLOG????????
Now, imagine that you are right: that some people will think to themselves and perhaps say to others that you are going down a foolish path that squanders your gifts, education and potential. Here’s the thing:
Seriously honey, why do you care? My advice to you is really pretty simple: own your shit, good and bad. If you want to grow your business, the first step
is believing in it. If you are shy or em
barrassed about telling people you started a dog walking business, I predict your current client list of two will remain as such.
Last night, I was tempted to keep my new gig to myself and just tell those who asked that I was between jobs. Let’s face it: it’s a little humiliating to tell folks you have given up on the law and started an advice blog. More specifically, it is awkward because many of these people know what a screwed up, anxiety ridden insecure mess I am, so the idea that I think I am qualified to give anyone advice about anything probably strikes them as, well, odd.
But once my friend introduced me as an advice columnist, my self-confidence soared, and I promoted my new blog mercilessly. I can’t know whether my sudden big jump in page views is attributable to my endless babbling about askdescamp.com last night, but I do know that at least I made a real effort. Today, I feel proud of myself.
Go out there and market your business. Call all your contacts and let them know what you are doing. Think of a snappy name and create a great logo. If you are in Portland, send me your business contact information and I will share it on my FB page and on this blog in a follow-up column.
In other words, stop dipping your toe gingerly into the water – jump in! If you aren’t proud of and believe in your new adventure, how is anybody else going to think it’s a good idea?
Do you think Hillary Clinton will run for President in the next election?