Value add

I like podcasts when my body is busy, because my mind always needs new furniture. Listening to a couple of primary-at-home parents who are entrepreneurs checking in with each other about the nuance and realities of their lives was great…even though that’s no longer my season, and oh yeah, the parents speaking are male. (Why is the culture so rude to male at-home parents? <shakes head>)

Toward the end, they shifted onto the Catch-22 of: if their business takes off, it takes time, and what happens to the kiddo? but if they focus on the kiddo, <wah-wah-wah> on the business, which isn’t what’s supposed to happen either….

One of them commented that Wu-Tang Clan’s comment, “cash rules everything around me” pops up in his head all the time.

My brain flitted off to, “We don’t get out of bed for less than $10K a day.” (Which is about $19K in 2017 money; now you don’t have to look that up.)

And then to one of my big lessons from That Contract, which I’ve talked about a bunch out loud but I don’t know if I’ve been blunt about here.

For That Contract, I was exec-ing. And paid a reasonable sum given (a) my inexperience at actual exec-ness and (b) that a non-profit was paying me. For my ten months of part-time work, I made about $30K.

While I was exec-ing, while we were thinking this might become a full-time, permanent thing, My Sweetie ran some numbers out into the future. You know, the wise retirement-forecasting thing. There are some real teeth to this exercise at our house, because My Sweetie has 15 years on me and therefore is not very likely to live as far into the future as I. By, oh, a 15-year margin. 

So this would be a Good Thing. I would have an income for some years, which naturally would beat the wolf back from our door a little longer. And so forth.

And then I didn’t. Keep working there, that is. When I stopped I was sad, and angry, and tired. I’d missed the writer-life I’d been haphazardly nurturing—and had had to ignore during That Contract. So I said: there’s nothing on the horizon that I want to do for hire. My Sweetie said: But, the projections!

I said: show me that my income moves the needle on the projections, and I’ll go find a replacement.

It took a while to loop back around to the calculator… I think about six months. (We have a healthy relationship with money as long as we don’t look at/talk about it. Based on our behavior, we are better at discussing sex than money.) I remember it was a Saturday; we sat down at the dining table and My Sweetie walked me through the cool things that the calculator does—my favorite is that I’m allowed to be 15 years younger than he is instead of 5!—and his work of the year before. Good stuff, all solid. Then he zeroes out all future income entries in my column, keeping his in place.

“Hey! Nothing changed! Wait a sec…”

Indeed. Nothing changed. The opportunity of a lifetime turned into a grueling march to the sea, and not even the money I would have hypothetically made there would have made a difference. 

During That Contract my youngest was in a car accident (fender-bender, but totaled the car) and had to cope alone because I was exec-ing on the opposite end of town. And I can’t even soothe myself with: at least we could use the income.

I have a lot more sympathy for Ms. Evangelista now.


Unfortunately, putting numbers to my intuition hasn’t changed how I discount what it is that I do, outside of cash compensation, for my household, my family, My Sweetie. (What do I do? Besides write for you, and email poems into the ether? And breathe earth’s air as a child of God?)


It’s the curse of the culture of American capitalism.

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