After years of freelancing, I officially launched Silver Tongue in 2013. I had a grand reason for it. The grandest. The greatest. I was going to set an example. I was going to be a role model. I was going to…cringe, thinking of all the people I fervently preached at.
You see, in December 2012 my daughter was born. I was alight with love for her. I wanted to provide everything I could for her. I wanted to show my daughter that she could be anything she wanted. Anything at all.
You want to be an astronaut? Reach for the stars, my darling girl.
An Olympic boxer? Knock yourself (or preferably, your opponent) out. I will be there to catch you and your gumshield.
That part of my pledge still stands. My daughters can be anything they want, as can my beautiful, beautiful boy. And if I can show them that it’s okay to reach, and reach, and keep reaching, even when others tell you it’s not possible, then that is A Good Thing. So good it merits unnecessary capitalisation mid-sentence. (Sorry, fellow Grammazis). If whatever they choose to do makes them happy and fulfilled then I am there, with embarrassing Mum bells on.
Money vs. morals
But no, it’s the second part of my earnest vow that has my cheeks a-reddening. You see, I added, “…I want to show her that hard work pays off, not necessarily in money, but that doesn’t matter if you’re doing something you love.” And most of my friends and loved ones nodded (indulgently? Not sure.) And they said it sounded wonderful.
Fast forward 3 years. I look back and wonder how and why I came to believe that doing something you love and being who you want to be stood on one side, with money and wealth on the other. Opposed. At stalemate. Or perhaps, just never destined to meet. In retrospect, I see that I viewed hard work as some sort of self-imposed martyrdom, one that, dare I say it, I rejoiced in. Luxuriating in the delicious starving artist get-up I’d fashioned for myself.
Revelling, or should that be unravelling, in the unpaid bills too.
I guess I saw my small business as the antithesis of the corporate world I’d left behind. Small seemed good, attractive, agile. The corporate bad asses were all money grabbers. Probably miserable too, I surmised, hoiking my judgey pants up. I got it into my head that being a small business, turning over precious little, and (whiningly) accepting bad rates, equalled noble. On some level, I thought that being paid fairly would snowball into becoming rich beyond my wildest dreams, which would then change my values and make me a bad person. What was with that?
Why is money bad?
To re-purpose a well-worn phrase, isn’t it what you do with it that counts? It’s a long road, but I’m starting to see that there is no grace in poverty, just like there is no grace in great riches. Grace resides within.
There are plenty of graceless, poor assholes out there. We just hear more about the rich ones.
There’s been a lot in the news about gender pay gaps. Side note: Why does this concept even exist? Why on earth should vagina owners get paid less than their vagina-less counterparts if they’re performing to the same level? We’ve also read about how it’s somehow unseemly to talk about what we earn. It’s not unseemly. And the not talking about it is damaging. So how do we get round it? We step up, we show up and we ask for more. This is tough. It’s hard work. But it’s a different kind of hard work than the “noble”, low paid work I was so keen on.
For what it’s worth, I don’t think that the ability to seek what you’re worth, what you’re owed, or what you want, is something that Y chromosome owners are magically bequeathed. A reticence towards asking for money isn’t a purely female affliction. Plenty of men find it hard too.
The difference is that they’re not usually conditioned to feel that the act of asking for money is wrong. Or crude. Or other such damaging bullshit.
So what message do I want to give to my children that they can joyously disregard? It’s not wrong to want money. Whether you want to be comfortable, secure, wealthy or super-rich, that’s up to you. Just like it’s up to you if you want to be an artist or an astrophysicist. If you love it, do it. I’m still trying to work out if I genuinely didn’t think it was right to earn money doing what I love, or whether it just felt wrong to want money in the first place. But I’m working on it. And I know this:
It’s not wrong. It doesn’t make you a money grabber. It doesn’t make you greedy. It doesn’t make you lazy. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you smart. It enables you. It opens the world. And that, all of that, is what I want for you.