I grew up in Long Island, New York close to the New York City metro area. I was raised to believe in making something of myself professionally. My father always wanted me to be able to support myself and not rely on anyone else.
Fast-forward to the second decade of this millennium and I am wholly reliant upon my husband to provide for me and my son. I am deathly afraid that if something were to happen to him that I would not be able to support myself. This makes me feel inadequate and incompetent. This makes me feel like a failure.
I’m kind of like a guy—I derive a sense of self-esteem and self-worth from working. Not having a full-time job kills me because I feel financially and emotionally deficient.
I wish I could say I grew up putting family first but I didn’t. I didn’t have a brother or sister to turn to and my parents buster their butts working to provide a decent life for me. My mother missed out on a lot of my school events and she had no idea that I was bullied in school. She also didn’t understand the depression I dealt with.
Family never came first. That’s the model that was set for me. In practicality, work came first. I was a latchkey kid for most of my childhood. I missed out on after-school activities, Girl Scouts, and other programs that other kids were able to take advantage of.
Academics were always important. My father felt as though the better I did in school, the more successful I’d be in life.
I hate to think it hasn’t translated that way but it hasn’t. I’m not as successful professionally as I’d like to be. I wish I could earn enough to help support my family—to afford a second car and help pay a mortgage. Even contribute as a partner to the rent. But no, I am wholly deficient. It’s hard for a creative type like me with a limited set of skills to make a lot of money. I wish I could.
My son needs to be my priority; he’s 3 months old. My husband needs to be priority; he’s family and loves me. But I can’t shake the need—the feeling that I am a colossal failure if I don’t help my family financially. I can’t help but feel like a colossal failure if I’m not putting my time and energy into a profession that either provides for my family or makes a difference.
And right now, I am doing none of those things.