Thursday, May 29, 2008

Opting Out

Over at BitchPhD, there is an interesting post about the flip sides of "opting out/opting in."

I work in a job-share and therefore make 50% of the salary of the position and work 50% of the hours. It's great - don't get me wrong. I love working part time and the flexibility it gives me to do other things. I'm really lucky.

So, yes. I've "opted out" of full time career stuff

But I've been amazed at how my previously full-time paid work (pre-kids) has been slowly and subtly replaced by completely unpaid volunteer work. I'm honestly not "working" any less. I'm PTA President. I'm a soccer coach. I bake for bake sales. I organize fund raisers. I attend school board meetings. I volunteer in the classroom. I'm a Big Sister. And so on.

And although I've never been one to measure my success by my monetary worth - it kinda gets to me - this doing so much work for free.

The parents who work full time can easily say, "No, I can't do that. I work full time." And I don't blame them. If I worked full time, I'd say that too. You probably can't be a high-power career person and volunteer in the classroom for an afternoon each week and go along on every field trip or commit to the BB/BS program.

I choose the volunteer work. I enjoy the volunteer work. It's a core part of who I am. It's a huge part of where I find purpose and meaning in life. I'm not trying to complain about the fact that I do it. That's not it.

Those of us who are lucky enough to have the ability to not work full time should do volunteer work whenever we can. I chose my schedule and really, you couldn't pay me a million dollars to go back to work full time.

But that doesn't change the feeling I sometimes get when I realize just how much unpaid work I do these days. Work that I do because I can, due to my flexible schedule. I'm not talking about the 'raising my kids' or 'cleaning my house' part of my life, either. Those are for my kids and my house. That's part of the package.

It's the 'making the world a better place' work that perplexes me. Why is there so much of it that is unpaid and volunteer? And why does one need to basically opt-out of a fast-track career path to do it? Why does it feel so devalued? And what happens to our society if people stop doing it?

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