By Meg Akabas
Several years ago, I took on a new project and agreed to a consulting fee far less than the amount I deserved, given the nature of the job, and my education, experience and expertise. I rationalized that the venture was worthwhile, interesting and a fabulous opportunity (all true, but irrelevant). When, midway through the work, I was frustrated by my attempts to get increased compensation, I said to a friend, “I wouldn’t be meeting with resistance if I was a man!” She responded very astutely and admonishingly, “You never would have agreed to the original fee if you were a man!”
I often find myself in the position of being underpaid for my work (or, for that matter, sometimes not being paid at all). I suppose that I harbor some guilty feelings about the fact that I get paid for doing work that I enjoy. But, where did I get the notion that it’s acceptable for a woman not to be adequately compensated? Well, that’s a no-brainer: from my mother, of course. She has worked for nearly 60 years without earning a penny. The only paid job she ever had was for the first two years of her marriage when she put my father through business school, working at the Harvard Museum mounting insects for display.
From then on, my father was the breadwinner, and, growing up, I was under the impression that my mother didn’t work. Of course, once I was an adult myself, I realized that not only does my mother work, but that she has an infinite number of jobs: mother of four children, cook, shopper, cleaner, painter, gardener, piano teacher, driver, scheduler, accountant, secretary, project coordinator, event planner, mediator, artist, tailor, costume maker, travel agent, designer, tutor....I could go on and on. And, that’s not even mentioning the volunteer work that she does on an ongoing basis. For example, she still devotes many hours each week to administrative work for the local youth symphony orchestra that I played in when I was in high school. (She’s even organizing their gala reunion concert coming up this month — did I mention she’s a glutton for punishment?)
Unlike my father who stepped down from his full-time job as an investment banker about 10 years ago, my mother never retires from any of these jobs!
Not only am I no longer under the impression that my mother “doesn’t work,” but I now realize that she works almost all the time, and certainly more than a 40-hour week. As her daughter, my challenge is to sort out for myself when I will volunteer and when I will not, and to find the delicate balance between the two. Even though my mother receives no monetary compensation for the countless jobs she performs, there’s no reason that when I decide that I want to be paid, I shouldn’t.
Meg Akabas is the founder of Parenting SolutionsTM. She is passionate about empowering parents with tools to help them successfully raise happy kids and build strong families. Meg provides one-on-one consultations, leads workshops, runs a website, and writes the popular bi-monthly Parenting Solutions newsletter. Visit www.parenting-solutions.com.