I don't even want to list all the ways I keep busy. I think if I thought about it too hard, I'd go nuts. But as I was working so hard on my to-do list, it occurred to me that I'm stressing over work I'm never going to get paid for.
Not that I didn't know that before. But most of my deadlines are imaginary or self-imposed. The consequences for not meeting them are close to zero. Yes, these projects are important to me, but no, I'm not going to fire myself if I don't finish them by the end of the week.
The thing is, I treat my various jobs as if they were actual, paying positions. Even when I was a SAHM with nothing but the house and the kids on my mind, I did the same thing. That's one reason I didn't do very well with not cultivating any outside interests--the house filled up my time and its messiness mattered more to me than it should have. And now I obsess the same way, only I spread my obsessions over my volunteer work.
There can be value in doing things for free. If you don't have actual work experience, for instance, volunteering can help you get it. I honestly believe that it's important to give back, because I can't expect rewards for everything I do. And sometimes, even if you're actually getting money, when you're just starting out, you have to work your way up from peanuts. As a writer, for instance, you can't expect to make millions from your first novel unless you're JK Rowling.
I'm helping people, I often think, and that will have to be good enough for now.
The trouble is, when do I help myself?
Lisa Gates makes a compelling case for why women shouldn't work for free as often as they do. And I agree with her that a) my work is valuable and b) I'm not exempt from stuff that happens that requires money (eating, saving for retirement, etc.).
So why do we keep agreeing to work for free? Is it because we're raised to expect that we're supposed to give? That asking for money is selfish? That we should be grateful for what we have and not ask for more? Is it because those of us who've spent some time with kids at home are accustomed to being taken for granted?
Personally, I think for me it's a habit. I'm so used to working for free that sometimes I doubt that anyone would pay me for what I do. And I do have plans to make money, but they keep getting pushed back...
Do you give away your work for free or cheap? Do you plan to change that in the near future?