Boo and I were out yesterday taking a nice long wandering walk around the neighborhood. I was reflecting on the various jobs I have had over the years, starting when I was eleven, babysitting and dog walking, moving on as I got older into retail, office work, outreach ministry, teaching, nannying, and then caring for Boo. I also starting thinking about the difference between a job, a career and a calling. A job, I think, is any task you do to earn money. You might like it or not like it, but it provides cash and makes you feel like a semi productive member of society. In a good economy, you can flit from one job to another, depending on what suits you. A career is something you go to school to learn how to do. I went back to school after college specifically to become a teacher. That was my career. This was more than just a job. I had invested time and money to get to this position. The stakes are higher but the pay and the benefits are generally better. After a few years of teaching and getting my feet wet, a career became a calling. This was something that deep down I knew I should be doing. It just felt right, even though the days were long and the work was hard. I had always told my students that I would teach as long as teaching brought me joy and I could bring joy into my classroom. In 2015 a toxic work environment combined with a tragedy in my family meant that teaching no longer brought me joy. I bid the classroom farewell.
Well, after nearly twenty years in the classroom, what it one to do with onself? I did some tutoring, which was fun, but really just a job. The pay was not high, but the students were bright and engaging. It was a way to pass a few hours now and then. About this time I realized that I really missed working with small people and became a nanny. This was more than a job, as I was definitely commited and had a contract. It did not really feel like a career, though I know many career nannies. It did not feel like a calling, as these were not my children. Whatever nannying was or wasn’t it worked for three years and I was fairly satisfied. Towards the end of my nannying stint Boo developed epilepsy. The seizure were sudden and random, demanding that I immediately leave work and head off to his school or the ER to pick him up, depending on the severity of the seizure. It soon became clear that I could not hold a job outside of the home, no matter how flexible it was. I was on call 24/7.
At about this time I switched companies that managed the payrolls for my PCAs. It turned out that the state of MN would pay me to be a paid parent and my income would not be taxed. I was stunned. Someone would pay me to stay home and take care of Boo? Yup! It makes sense. Boo would do much better living at home than in a group home or treatment center and it was much less expensive for the state to pay me to care for him than for them to house and feed him. So, I became Boo’s paid caretaker for 24 hours a week. In March, Covid 19 hit and everyone went into quarantine. I had no one to come help me with Boo, so I was given all 40 of his hours of care. This suited me just fine. I am a mom. My job is to look after Boo and Mouse. If the state of Minnesota wants to pay me to stay home and care for my kids, so much the better. This was made even better by the fact that working from home with Boo paid much better than nannying and about as well as teaching.
So, this is my occupation, probably for good long time. Or, until Boo gets completely sick of me, which does not seem like it is going to happen. But, is it is a job, a career, or a calling? I can’t call it a job, as the stakes are too high and I am too emotionally attached. I don’t think it is a career, because I did not have to go to school to learn to be a mom. Being a mom is something that just happens, by trial and error over the years. I think, what I have now, is a calling. This just feels right. I am totally responsible for the wellbeing of this vulnerable young adult. From managing his medications, to helping him with bathing and grooming, to educating him when school is on hold, to holding his hand as we wander the neighborhood. For some reason, by the grace of God, this young adult was given to me, to delight in and to take care of. This is my calling.