I met someone today who asked me the question that’s become this post’s title. We were meeting with a view to me becoming their occasional babysitter, which is always an odd mixture of relaxed and casual, and job interview formality. I have profiles on various childcare and tutoring websites which set out the rough details of my work history and current situation, but without exception I have always been asked to tell the prospective client family what I do (which seems only right, if they’re considering entrusting their offspring to my care).
I liked this turn of phrase particularly, though. Not, ‘What do you do?’ or ‘What’s your real job?’ – I was once asked that, immediately after I’d told the questioner what my jobs were; apparently they weren’t real enough for his tastes – but, ‘What are you about?’ It seems to take the focus away from paid employment and onto purpose. For some people they’re one and the same, and that’s great, but for many of us there’s more complexity to it.
Over the eleven-year span of my work history, what I’m all about can be summed up as supporting families. The actual details have ebbed and flowed, but other than the six months’ worth of weekends I spent selling stoves and fireplaces from a tiny office in the back of a warehouse, the year on a till in Sainsbury’s three times a week, and my ongoing dabbling in audio transcription, all my jobs have involved helping parents to raise their children. I’m not naive enough to believe that’ll mean that having my own children is going to be a walk in the park, but it’s a useful yardstick when I’m evaluating whether my responsibilities are aligned with my values.
In Birmingham, there were families looking for childcare wherever you turned. Here, it’s tutoring that’s in high demand. This week I’ll be starting two new students in addition to my existing one, and I’m talking to another family about lessons for their seven-year-old. If things pan out, I think I’ll declare myself closed to new clients for a while! Mondays are typing and tutoring, Tuesdays are potentially tutoring and volunteering at a local charity shop, Wednesdays are sewing class and housework with a PA, Thursdays are typing and potentially tutoring, Fridays are housework with a PA and tutoring. Once a month Tuesday evening will be book club. I’m trying hard to keep weekends free from external commitments!
I like this schedule, I think. Enough work that I feel I’m contributing financially, enough commitments that I can’t lapse into unstructured laziness, and enough flexibility and freedom to suit my anti-establishment, contrarian, INTJ nature. We’ll have to see whether I can sustain it; I’ve got a lot better at coping with going out of the house every day since we adopted Benny, and more than half of my work is based at home, but I have a tendency to over-commit and then panic. Balance is not my strong suit, but it is the foundation to my strengths. See, I told you I was contrarian!