Recently my oldest, curious and sweet, asked me, “why you work mama?” as we were getting ready for bed. Every night we play, read, talk about how our days were and then after he climbs in bed he likes to ask questions. That night was no different. Asking why vampires have to cough into their elbows, if the bats will get him, what happens to bad guys and then BAM. Although his question was literal and out of sheer curiosity, as they always are, it struck me.
“Why you work, mama?”
It felt existential. As if I’d never actually stopped to think about why, I was stumped. All the reasons were so obvious to me, but totally incomprehensible to him. In that moment I was too stunned to answer with substance, so defaulted to my usual night time response, “because, baby.”
I’ve been circling back to this for a few weeks now.
To J, why work when you can build with blocks, run around the house, dance party or snuggle? While those things rank high on my list, and outside of the obvious mortgage, groceries, insurance, etc. why do we do this thing we do for 40-50-60+ hours a week for literally decades?
After much reflection I think I’ve got my finger on it. For the majority of my career I’ve been fortunate enough to work for organizations that have allowed autonomy to build, create and forge my own path as part of my company contribution, which has allowed me to feel differently about ‘work.’ I’ve spent the last six years in a space that is filled with people empowered to do the same and the things we have been able to accomplish are innumerable. In the new year I changed roles within the company, and I’ve been feeling all the feels about it – excited, nervous, challenged, and primarily energized. For me, work is not something I have to go and ‘do’ it is something I get to be a part of. And for me, that is the why.
Being energized by my work and the people around me gives me energy at home – I can run, dance party, snuggle and appreciate all of the silliness that a three and one year old bring to my life because for those 40-50-60+ hours a week, I’m lifted up by something I belong to. If you don’t feel it about what you’re doing now, I hope you’ll seek it out.
One day I’ll be able to explain this to the kids, but for now I’ll just stick to, “because, baby.”