The problem is

October 9th, 2007

So while I’m busily non-thinking about this question of whether motherhood is a job or a relationship during my silent meditation retreat last weekend, I remembered what my husband said recently as he glanced over my sagging shoulders:

“The problem is, you spend too much time doing things that don’t pay.” Meaning, I guess, teaching meditation and yoga, volunteering and writing the things I most love to write, including this blog. But not meaning, I presume, taking care of our house, yard, dog and daughter, because at least to him that is my job. (To be fair, he was being supportive, and given the source of my discouragement, accurate.)

“The problem is,” I think in quick retort, “you don’t.” Meaning his absence of hours, days, nights and vast distances, whether miles away or just on the computer at home, working, always only working apart from the rest of us. I’m reluctant to recognize even for a moment that his job also provides him with a whole world of companionable and rewarding relationships.

So where exactly does the distinction occur? Where, as Kathryn and Chris commented yesterday, is there a line drawn between jobs and relationships and how does it get there? This question matters, because most of the time, we see our life delineated into little sections. There’s a job over here, and a relationship over there. There’s work, and there’s family, and then there’s everything else, each with its own time, place, name, definition, merit and value. All these jillion pieces seem to jostle and compete with each other, confounding us, like a jigsaw puzzle that won’t fit.

And so then, completely immersed in the oceanic no-mind of deep, wordless meditation, I made a list in my head of the essential components of relationships, I mean jobs, I mean well, you know what I mean.

After investing hours in this invigorating internal debate with myself, recalling and reliving the discussions of days and even months earlier, I said to myself, admittedly self-satisfied, from the profound state of unutterable egolessness, “See Karen, meditation really works for you!”

I will share the list with you tomorrow when I hope to remember the darn thing.

And as a gentle reminder, every time you comment this week your name will be entered in a drawing to win a paperweight provocative prize. I promise you this prize is not something you have; it is not something anyone yet has, not even me, and I have grave doubts that anyone would even want it. Good luck!


  1. Hmmm. I see that I have scared away potential commenters for fear of winning the “prize.” Come on people, it is something that you would otherwise pay cash money for! I mean, it has value!

    Comment by Karen — October 9, 2007 @ 5:48 pm

  2. I am LOVING this question and the comments of others.
    I loved it so much and started to comment and when it got way tooooo long, decided I needed to write my own post.
    Most of the time I feel I don’t know how to reply to questions about “motherhood”. I only know how to be Leo’s mom. And I don’t want to just be “a” mother. I want to be Leo’s mother.
    I like what you are saying here about the compartments. I do that a great deal, as if I can then conveniently “manage” it all, each in its own container. Yeah right! Everything I am comes into play as a mom. and being Leo’s mom makes me who I am in every other aspect. Messy, but true.

    Comment by bella — October 9, 2007 @ 6:01 pm

  3. There’s my girl: showing up right on time, one of life’s essential ingredients (as she well knows).
    If you haven’t of late read beautiful things written beautifully, you need to pop over to Bella’s house.

    Comment by Karen — October 9, 2007 @ 6:07 pm

  4. i’ve been thinking about these recent posts and doing a lot of reflection. i think the answers are obscure because the boundaries are blurred. does that make any sense? clearly, i am not a writer, but a visual artist so i can not always put into words that which i can see…or in this case, not see.

    i think being a mom feels like a job because it’s an incredible amount of work which i liken to 3 full time jobs because there simply aren’t any breaks. there are no vacation breaks, weekend breaks, holiday breaks, no coffee breaks, there are no lunch hours. there are “no thanks for a job well done”, or a bonus for “working so hard”. oddly, in retrospect i think what made my job feel so gratifying was all the thanks, both verbally and in the form of a paycheck.

    it is sometimes hard to feel appreciated when “worth” by definition is associated with money.

    (sigh) i just don’t know…

    Comment by Wendy — October 9, 2007 @ 6:33 pm

  5. I’m a person who tends to compartmentalize, in general. I can see that tendency in my response to the relationship v. job question.

    However, I think that my view is also influenced by the fact that I am a stay-at-home mom. When I refer to the “job” aspect of mothering, I’m actually referring to all the duties of maintaining a home that now automatically fall to me because I’m the stay at home parent. Sure, a lot of these would have to be done anyway if I weren’t a Mom; however, in that case, I wouldn’t be the one home all the time to do them!

    One last thing (sorry to be so long), I do not even mean to SUGGEST that moms who work outside the home do one second less of the mothering “job.” And, isn’t sad that I’m so worried about accidentally offending someone on that issue?

    Comment by Mama Zen — October 9, 2007 @ 11:04 pm

  6. Wendy, not knowing is such a positive move, I couldn’t be happier for you; and as for boundaries being blurred, I think they are so blurred as to not even exist.

    Mama Z, you hit exactly on a powerful point: the words. All wars start this way, just as words. Care is well-taken.

    Comment by Karen — October 9, 2007 @ 11:44 pm

  7. I”m a “working” mom–meaning I take my son to daycare and go to a place that gives me a paycheck for my efforts. I have to work. We can’t pay the bills as it is. But I don’t want to stay home. I did it for a year and it wasn’t for me.

    If I could afford it I’d spend the daycare time writing, but either way, I’m no good at the day to dayness of stay at home momhood.

    Of course my boss, who has no children of his own, did say the other day that daycare was so bad for kids…well, crazy moms aren’t much good either. Anyway, I haven’t spent this much time on the question of work or relationsip–it makes me feel that if I get this answer wrong, then I’m getting the parenting wrong. And all I want is for my son to be happy and bring the world no harm.

    maybe it isn’t in the what we do every day but in the what we hope the end result will be…or something.

    Comment by Marta — October 10, 2007 @ 12:24 am

  8. I gotta say that I am happiest as long as I’m bringing in some form of income to the house. It has more to do with feeling less insecure about finances then being a bread winner. I love that I can do it, too, and still be the mom all day.

    Rarely am I torn to be one or the other because every day I am both: a mom and a writer. I’m also very tired at the end because it means no breaks, no being just a woman.

    I have been so busy with some other stuff so I’m catching up now. And, yes, meditation does work!

    Comment by Shawn — October 11, 2007 @ 5:34 pm

  9. honestly, i haven’t the faintest idea how i ended up here…but i’m very interested to read more!!!
    so i’m off to see how the rest of this week and the job vs relationship debate is unfolding 😉

    Comment by Kirsten Michelle — October 12, 2007 @ 4:36 pm

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