Tuesday, 31 March 2009

What is work?

I've been wondering what work is recently? The definition, I mean, of paid work and its meaning for us all, individually and as part of society. Bear with me, this might be a bit of a ramble as I try to sort my thoughts out.
Like many people of a thoughtful disposition, I've found working for a living stressful quite often, and I know this to be because I've never found paid work which really fits with my personality, skills, and values. So, that's what I'm trying to do now. I need to work for money (sadly) and so I want o find work which fits as much as possible with my values and skills, so that I find it more fulfilling and less stressful.
A book I've been reading recently differentiates between a 'job', 'occupation', 'career', and 'vocation' with job being what you do to pay the rent, occupations something you are slightly more invested in, a career something you put more of yourself into and get more out of, and a vocation being something you'd do anyway, even if you weren't being paid for it.
So, should we all be holding out for 'vocation'-type paid work? Is this realistic? If it isn't, why isn't it and could it ever be realistic?
It's not that I'm a work-shy layabout. I work very hard all day every day - I home educate my children and nurture them with love, food, rest and everything else I think they need. I create a home, I put a lot into my relationship with my husband and our families and friends. I cook, clean, grow food and look after the cat. Does this count as work? I do it for love not money.
I also write - I do this often, whether I'm paid for it or not although I'd love to be paid for it. So is this work? Or is it only work if I'm paid? I can't really think that the definition of work has to include payment, and yet that is what it seems to be in the general society definition. I can't help but think that this is part of the problem - work and paid-work have become two separate things, quite often two opposing things, pulling in opposite directions. It's all part of that whole work/family split that is the norm now but never was in the past until the advent of the Industrial Revolution.
I feel as if I'm pulling against my instincts so much of the time just trying to make our life work in the framework that the 21st century imposes on it, and I don't think I'm quite brave enough to drop out entirely from that framework. I don't think I even want to drop out entirely from our society - I want to be part of a community and I want to live among other people. I'm just feeling this clash every day and it sets my teeth on edge all the time, so there's this background stress that I can't filter out and it makes it harder to make every other decision as my true instincts get lost in all this white noise.

11 comments:

Jax said...

If you turn it around, it's hard to imagine that anyone could have a vocation for emptying bins for example, so perhaps it's not realistic to imagine that we could all just follow our vocations?

Liz said...

Yes, true. It's all very perplexing.

Carolyn said...

I do hate the undermining title of Housewife that you get on certain forms, and that if it is a telephone conversation, the person on the other end usually takes that to mean that you sit around all day talking to friends and drinking tea (which is hard work and stressful in itself if you ask me!!) and they do not appreciat what you do even if you don't HE your children.
Yes, work. And why is it that a man is seen to be unfortunate if he only has a job and not a career? Sometimes, having a job can leave your mind and time more open to finding your vocation.... And you know how I feel about wanting to drop out of the system!!

Becky said...

I actually really enjoyed working on a checkout, because it was totally stress free and I don't thrive on stress At All. There was no pressure, pleasant chatter all day, a monotonous rythmic kind of work while my mind was off doing other things LOL - so maybe there are people who would enjoy emptying bins :-)

I would choose that over being a lawyer or teacher any time.

So, Liz - what do you enjoy doing other than writing and being a home maker and home educating your children (all of which, sadly, don't seem to bring home the money)...?

I have spent a long time thinking about 'what am I going to do with the rest of my life' because I also need to earn money and with 4 children, a house, and a job I wouldn't have time to have a vocation too. My job would have to be my vocation too if poss.

Liz said...

Exactly, I don't have time for a job and a vocation as a hobby either, so I need to find a vocational type of job, or at least something in that kind of area.
I already have a job which doesn't need to engage my brain and I don't find stressful, but it sadly is not at all well-paid. And I want to ahve something which engages my brain and feels fulfilling, as well as recognises my skills with slightly more cash - not huge amounts, but a bit more than minimum wage!
What do I enjoy? Apart from writing and home-making? Well, I am really interested in health - not just biological health but holistic health - emotional, nutritional and spiritual as well. I'm also particularly interested in women's health issues - fertility, pregnancy, birth, new mother issues, breastfeeding and stuff. I do enjoy interacting with people on a 1-to-1 basis, especially if I can help or heal. Which is what led me to reflexology...
Anyone any other ideas?
I find people en masse very stressful, and I don't like noisy environments, customer service type environments, and lack of autonomy at work. I'm not a go-getter or a team-player, but I'm very empathetic and intuitive. IT makes it difficult to find an appropriate work environment!

Carolyn said...

I think your writing is very important...I know you write lots of articles and have a few books published. I for one have certainly enjoyed reading them. Can you aim your writing at a slightly bigger audience?...by incorporating all your interests but giving it a different label? Your books have loads of valuable ideas, thoughts but are only really available to those who either know you ;-) or who are already interested in that kind of thing. Yet lots of the material is valid to everyone and could be incorporated with the women's health issues in a different way.
Am I making any sense at all? To anyone? Although I guess it may go slightly against the grain to write such a book...but all this stuff is BIG right now, and you have lots to say. Why not use it and possibly make some money?
It is all in the title!
Says she, oh mighty wise one!!!!!!LOL

Becky said...

Have you thought about homeopathy or something like that? Counselling maybe? (relate?) Obviously writing if you can make any money at it (can anyone? It seems impossible)....

Reflexology, acupuncture or something similar sound like it would suit you too but yes expensive and time consuming to train in any of these fields :-/

bethnoir said...

I love your new picture by the way, Liz!
I think you're wise to spend time thinking about this. Recently I find that I am increasingly stressed, unhappy and disturbed by my job even though I only do it part time. However, as I work key time hours, I've been doing it for ages, and given the current financial situation, I don't want to move. It's no vocation, but it's taking up a lot of my thinking time.

Becks said...

My DH has stated more than once that he would happily give up his work and be a binman, if only the pay was not the issue. And the father of a friend of our daughters is a binman and enjoys his work ;-)
We have another friend who works the family smallholding but hates it despite it offering a reasonable income, whereas I would love that.
Unfortunately both DH and myself are in work that isn't necessarily our chosen path, but more the work we know and are good at. And of course which pays what we need to survive. And in the present climate is it wise to question your feelings regarding work too deeply?
Sad I know, but I get through by not considering the alternatives right now.

Liz said...

Sadly, the circumstances we're in right now mean we need to question work - as we're currently only bringing in a third of what we need to each month.

Becky, yes I've thought of all those things you mention and all of them appeal in some way, but all require further traiing and commitment - just choosing!

Beth - I know what you mean - it's not right when the crappy job you take just for cash intrudes into your life, that's not fair.

Carolyn - thanks for your kind words about my writing - if only everyone agreed with you...

bethnoir said...

I agree with Carolyn about your writing :-)