I quit my day job today. I’m officially still on unpaid leave, but I’ve given my notice that I won’t be returning. I really struggled with my letter of resignation. My first inclination was not to say anything about my reasons for leaving. But then it was only one or two sentences long and sounded rather terse. And my google of sample letters showed that the polite thing is to explain why. That was hard, especially knowing that the letter wasn’t only to my manager (who already knew my reasons) but to my file, where someone who’s never met me might look on it in the future. There were words right there, ripe for the picking, words we’ve all heard: “I’m going to focus on my family.” But I don’t like those words. For one thing, it sounds like when I’m working I’m not focused on my family, and that’s just incorrect. And for another, it sounds self-sacrificing, like I’m doing this only for the benefit of my family. Which is not true. If I continued working, my family would be fine of course.
I’m quitting for me. Here’s where it gets really hard to articulate, because the only words I can think of around what I want to do smack of laziness and privilege. I want to hang out with my kids during the few years they aren’t embarrassed by me (and time is short on this with my oldest). I want to make, grow, and eat good food. I want to make and think about good photographs (and if I ever grow my brain cells back maybe write about them too). I want to walk most places we need to go (this one will take a while for many reasons). I want to be able to give small gifts to people that I make myself (this one will also take a while since I have few skills in this area right now). If my kids are grumpy and having a low-energy day or the weather sucks, I want to spend a day veging out with them. If the day is sunny and beautiful and warm, I want to spend a good chunk of it outside with them. I want my kids to have real summer holidays and to enjoy unstructured time. This is all purely selfish, isn’t it?
I have done paid work since I was 14. Even earlier actually, as my dad paid me to muck out horse stalls from about the age of 11 or so. I’ve grown up with a very strong work ethic. I’ve shovelled shit for all kinds of people, I’ve even taken it when one of those people lectured me about my shit-shovelling technique in front of a client, I’ve packed brake pads, I’ve packed plastics rolls, I’ve sold futons and cameras, I’ve stuffed envelopes for days on end until my fingers were shredded. And I’ve done professional work like writing Minister’s letters, and leading a plain language campaign for a public sector organization. It’s taken me a very long time to feel kind of ok about no longer earning money.
Our society is so messed up. The only way we know how to value anything now is by attaching a dollar figure. And domestic work and raising children don’t contribute to the GDP. If you’re not using your time to make money, you’re just wasting it and mooching off others. The home has become a place where nothing happens. I’ve noticed that when people ask what we did on a weekend, and we passed an enjoyable weekend hanging out at home, it doesn’t make for a very interesting report. I find myself feeling weird and lazy, and yet we made and ate good food and hung out together. What’s wrong with that? Once upon a time, the home was the centre of work for both men and women. Don’t worry, I’m not going to start hunting and making my own leather jackets. I’m just becoming increasingly aware of these assumptions and biases.
I have worried that it’s not the best economic time to try this. I may not have an easy time getting a job again if I need to. But I keep thinking about that dream I had when I was pregnant with my youngest and how that shack looked like shelter but would actually become more dangerous than the open space when the tornado hit. So I’m standing here in the open space now, hoping the storm won’t hit me.
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This morning my youngest said his clearest word yet: Go. He says it very carefully and slowly so it sounds like a song, a whistle almost: Kohhh. Sometimes he misses the first consonant and says Doh. Sometimes he makes two syllables: Dagoh. But his meaning is clear; he accompanies the song with pointing out the big living room window to the backyard.
It seems fitting he said it first on the same day I sent in my resignation. Here we go.