What I Do All Day

I am nearing the end of my contract with my former company, and I find I am a bit torn about it. On the one hand, I've had a total ball fixing bugs and learning more C++ and noodling around in a funky and familiar codebase again—and those are just the technical highs. It's also been great working with people I really like again. On the other hand, I'm looking forward to our Last Hurrah cruise, and to getting back to doing all the things around the house that need to be done—and that have been put on hold while I've been working.

In addition to my regular cleaning, organizing, bill-paying, laundry, and financial planning duties, I of course need to start preparing for the baby that will be joining us sometime in December. I need to convert my office into a nursery; buy gear ranging from cribs to carseats; clear out/rearrange closets that are currently storing videos, boxes from my house in Truckee, and stuff we need to sell on eBay or Craig's List to make room for diapers and baby clothes and the filing cabinet from my office; figure out where the mold smell is coming from and vanquish it; sign up for a pre-natal class; and probably a dozen other things I haven't thought of yet.

Which reminds me, I'm often asked by former colleagues and others who are still working full time what I do all day. That is, how do I fill my time without work? I usually mention the things I didn't have enough time for when I was working, activities that you'd call "recreational" or associate with being on a sabbatical, such as photography, framing, scrapbooking, and reading. What I often neglect to mention are all the things I listed above as my "regular duties": namely, cleaning, organizing, bill-paying, laundry, and financial planning. I'm not on vacation; I'm just not working "outside the home."

I think what most people fail to recognize is that choosing/being forced not to work is not like winning the lottery and suddenly having tons of money and endless free time. I don't spend my time wondering how to fill it. I chose not to work, yes, so that I'd have time to work on some personal projects, but also as an alternative to hiring a housekeeper and a financial planner, sending out the laundry, and, once we have the kid, paying for daycare. And this choice is paying off.

Bills are now paid on time and according to budget. I pay attention to which phone plan we have and whether it suits our needs, what our credit card spending patterns are, how much money we have in each of our accounts, how much interest we earn, and how many bank fees we pay. I read the supermarket circulars instead of throwing them out, and I have a good sense of whether a sale price is really a bargain, or whether it's still more expensive than the regular price at another store. I plan my shopping lists so that I'm stocking up on often-used items when they're on sale, and not just buying them at full price when we run out. I research travel, appliance, healthcare, and savings options thoroughly before making purchases. I take the time to walk to the library instead of buying books on Amazon.

In short, when I'm not working, I'm a housewife, doing all the things that such a moniker implies. I'm lucky in that (until the kid arrives), I have time to scrapbook and read and go for long walks and frame photos that I've taken and generally just have time to myself, but those activities don't fill the majority of my time. They're just the things that sound nice. So to all the people who've asked me what I do all day, and to all the people who were wondering but hadn't asked yet, what I mostly do are chores and errands. And you would, too, if you gave up your job but had a spouse or significant other who was still out there earning for the both of you. Some of you would go batty almost immediately, call a housekeeper and a babysitter and a financial planner and a drycleaner, and jump back into the job market. And some of you would be giddy with excitement knowing that you could almost make up for your salary by performing those services yourself rather than hiring them out (and still have a little time to yourself most days).

Right now I am having fun working, and if another contracting opportunity comes along in the future, I'll consider it—but I probably won't seek one out. I'm looking forward to getting back to my housewifing. As my friend Morrisa says, "laundry is a small price to pay for freedom." Amen to that.

Posted by Lori in pregnancy at 3:40 PM on July 21, 2004


My wife left her job about six months ago because it sucked so badly and was doing very bad things to her spirit. I couldn't be happier that she left. She's been looking for another job, only something better. What's the point of jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

She's had no trouble filling her days. When she gets a job, I'll miss the incredible dinners she cooks, but her doing what makes her happy is so much more important than my expanding waistline.

I took a few months off from working a few years back and in short order, I had trouble remembering how I ever fit work into my schedule.

Posted by: Stephen at July 23, 2004 12:42 PM

One thing I forgot to mention is that while I've really enjoyed this contract, on the whole I'm a lot happier—and consequently, our household is a lot happier—when I'm not working.

And I can totally relate to wondering how I ever fit work into my life. :D

Posted by: Lori at July 23, 2004 12:46 PM

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