Some time ago Phillip sent me a link to Suze Orman's new book Women & Money, which he swears he downloaded legally from Oprah's site. (What he was doing on Oprah's site and why he thought I would read this book on the computer has not yet been discussed.) I find Suze Orman's call in show mildly entertaining, so I downloaded the book and started reading the introduction. Suze is not impressed with us women and our disinterest in the Financial. What is wrong with us? We're making money now- why aren't we making our money work for us? Why do we leave our financial futures up to other people? Blah blah blah. All of this very much applicable to me because 1) Phillip takes care of everything money-related in the Cheung household and 2) I once let a money market account I received for graduation fall into the Unclaimed Pile when I got married and changed my name and address and neglected to notify my Financial Adviser for, uh, several years.
But I did not necessarily agree with Suze's worldview, which goes something like Lotsa Money Will Make You Happy. Now, as my dad says, having money is a better life than poverty. But Suze didn't seem to take into account those of us who aren't exactly on the Career Track. Those of us whose lifelong dreams involve publishing a novel, dancing in the ballet, selling a painting, wordlessly interpreting poetry on the city sidewalk with a ball and a long piece of ribbon and a bowl of oranges. Our disinterest in our financial futures may have more to do with simple disinterest than fear and shame and traditional roles, as Suze suggests. (To her credit, she prints a letter from a starving artist friend making just this point, but she doesn't seem to think much of being a starving artist. And also, starving artists still have to pay the rent, right?)
You are thinking: why is she telling us all of this? WHO CARES.
Suze makes one point I found quite damning, however, and that is that women often don't know what they're worth. And if they think about it, they suspect they aren't worth that much. She tells story after story about women doing the same job as men, but not making as much money because they haven't asked for it. Women who do jobs for free, just because that's the nice thing to do. Women who are afraid to negotiate. Women who trade services and don't get a good deal. Women who think staying at home with children isn't a real job and they are worth less than the spouse who pays the bills.
Do you see where I'm going NOW?
I got an email from my former employer yesterday that boils down to: Gee, I had no idea how much you did when you were here, could you come in sometime and show us how to do everything? And I am steamed. STEAMED. There is a lot of backstory behind that email and WOULDN'T I LOVE TO SHARE IT WITH THE INTERNET but you know, bridges and all that. But I have been gathering input from Sources In The Know and crafting my response. (I am going to have to write two: the first one, and the second one with all the profanity scrubbed out.) I am angry about a lot of things, but one of the biggest things is that they didn't know much I did when I was there. And you know whose fault that is? MINE. I never liked that job, but I worked my butt off on the handful of projects this email is referring to and you know what my work accomplished? Making my company look good. Very good. And what did I get out of it? Nothing. I got a raise the first year I worked there, but the second year I waited around for my boss to say something, and when he didn't, I made excuses for him. I didn't want to cause a fuss. I didn't want to ask for anything. I was mortified at the thought of sticking up for myself and preferred to keep my head down and look for credit elsewhere. My job was stupid anyway, people in my position make peanuts anyway.
As a mom who stays home, I believe I'm doing a very important job. I want to be here. I feel absolutely no desire to go back to work and I'm lucky enough to have the choice. But ever since I had the baby, the worth factor has made itself visible in ways it never did before. For the first time in my adult life I am not earning any money. I never liked earning money, I never cared much about earning money, I still can't think of anything I would like to do that also earns money, but still- I have always paid my own way and I'm proud of that. I am much more conscious of what I spend now, and not just because we are down to one income. It's one income that is not mine. I don't have somewhere I go all day. Phillip goes to an office. The living room is my office. When he leaves his socks all over my office it makes me angry. I don't get any feedback from my day. I don't have meetings or discussions about how to do things more efficiently, I don't get emails thanking me for my work, I don't get phone calls describing new projects. A good day is when I find something new that makes my baby laugh, but there's often no one to share this with until I'm too tired to be very excited about it.
A few months ago Phillip and I were watching TV and a preview for I Am Legend came on. It was the first one we'd seen and it was hard to tell from the preview that it was a ZOMBIE MOVIE. But the tagline had something to do with being "the last man in the world" and I remember saying to Phillip, "Oh, but if you were the last person on Earth, at least you would know for sure that God was listening to you."
He said that was a really weird thing to say. And when I told my friends this a while ago, THEY thought it was a really weird thing to say. But I didn't and I don't. Whenever I shout up a prayer, my next thought is often, "Oh, that was a stupid thing to ask, like God cares about THAT." I think about people living in war torn countries, starving people, victimized people, people who might not be able to pay the electricity bill next month. For sure God is listening to THOSE people. How on earth does he have time for ME? Why would he care? I lead a rather charmed life, you know. It makes complete sense to me that my silly prayers end up on the zillionth page of God's to do list.
Is this the most scatterbrained post ever? And freaking long to boot? But all of this worth stuff coming up- the job email, the book, the movie preview, the mass of angsty thoughts surrounding me since I found out I was pregnant again- I feel like God is flapping his hands in my face trying to get my attention. Kind of like HELLO, are you LISTENING, maybe there's something I am trying to TELL YOU...