Nice girls don’t charge… and other lies!
Drum roll please…. This is Dreaming Aloud’s first guest post. Ever. In the history of the blogosphere.
And it’s part of the Abundance and Enough Week here on the blog.
Who better to kick us off than my dear cyber-friend and soul sister, Paula Cleary. We first met via the letters page of JUNO magazine – she was responding – full of heart, love and kick-ass passion to an apology piece I had written. Gosh I loved her from the moment I read her words.
This woman rocks. And her words have power. So listen up! (Want to guest post on Dreaming Aloud – see here!)
It might surprise some people to know, that in all the years I have been offering help to other women, and writing articles about all sorts of topics, from home-schooling to travel writing to birth, I have not earned a single penny from any of it.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had all kinds of lovely gifts over the years – some hand-knitted bunting that says ‘Go With The Flow’, a beautiful pair of hand-knitted socks, freebies of the magazines I write for, and have made some fantastic friendships.
No one will lie on their deathbed and remember the pennies they earned. It will be the beautiful memories and experiences that sit in the treasure chest of the heart and these will be the riches that really mattered. I know this. And those kinds of riches – the memories, the experiences, I have by the truckload and I am grateful for each one –
But these won’t put the bread and butter on the table and keep the wolves from the door, many years down the line, and I’m starting to think of this reality more seriously as I grow older.
No, I’m talking about Moolah. Wonga. Dough. Dosh. Money. A dirty word I have a mixed relationship with, and mixed feelings about. Guilt for having it. Guilt for asking for it.
Something in me has always felt somehow it was wrong to charge others for something I could so easily afford to give away for free. I think my upbringing is partly responsible for this.
How much should I charge for my work?
I’ve really struggled with this. My mum has never worked since she came to England nearly 40 years ago, and my hard-working Dad from up North raised us as many folks up North do, with a particular kind of inverted snobbery towards anything that might be considered getting too high and mighty. It’s a common thing, and I don’t think there’s even much real malice in it, it’s more of a cultural inheritance than a much thought about malignant lack of goodwill – the age-old us and them class war that’s been raging, albeit peacefully in my families case, since forever. On my mother’s side, I think I swallowed the equally crushing idea, that there was something distasteful about working and being a career woman, about being go-getting, or assertive in any way. This was fed to me by a diet of comments all through my childhood and those seeds, once they took root, just grew in my internal garden, and I have never thought to weed them out – till now.
So I inherited a strange mix of this Northern scathing for folks getting too ‘above’ themselves, with a heavy catholic dose of blessed are the meek, the humble, and the poor. My mother was very proud of her Polish heritage, rightly so, but I grew up with strong messages that said better to be poor for at least they aren’t stuck up bastards like those people who work and save up and have security and a pension and all those middle classy-bourgeouisy trappings. Better to be poor than comfortable, or even worse – comfortable and smug to boot.
And she has a point. The Bohemian in me has always been drawn to the nobility of the starving artist. The Spiritual Searcher in me felt that riches can spoil a person, and distract them from the true purpose of life. The socialist in me has struggled to ask others for money, whilst my husband was earning a decent living. But that’s the thing – he no longer earns as much as he did, through choice, and I find myself in a position of questioning why it is I feel so unable to charge for my time, my energy, my passion, my knowledge and my skills.
I don’t imagine for one minute I am alone in this. It’s a common problem amongst women. We feel somehow a collective shame perhaps, that if we are good mothers, we should be content just to raise our babies, and not put our energies to things that will distract us from that. Especially when they are little. This is the unspoken law of ‘good mothering’ in some circles. Babies first, before everything else, and being such a nurturing softie…. why not just extend that…. and be a nurturing softie to everyone else to? Why charge for being caring? Why charge for something that comes as naturally as breathing? A little voice that has always popped up and said ‘You don’t need that money, so why charge?’
And I have made a virtue of the fact that I don’t charge for my work, convincing myself that this is what all nice girls would do, if they had a husband earning a decent wage, as this is the honest, and socially responsible thing to do.
But why? Why is everyone else’s time more precious or valuable than mine? Why – when I have been more than happy to pay for a cleaner for the last few years? I am always so grateful for the work she does for me, yet haven’t earned a single penny myself in all the time I’ve known her! Why, when I give so much energy, love and passion to my birth work, to understanding birth, researching it, sharing good information about it, writing about it? Giving my all to the women I serve, whom I have helped on their mothering journey by giving up family time, missing special events, even spending my own money to help them? Now don’t get me wrong – these are women I love, so I have no regrets. But, I must start to think of my own future, my own needs, and wants, and dreams, and those of my family.
And why, when I have written so passionately for others over the years, with great pleasure I might add, has it taken me until I am nearly forty, to start thinking it is ok for me to start charging?
It’s been an enlightening time for me, realising that it is not shameful, or greedy, or wrong to start to ask for something in return for my efforts. That other folks can choose what to spend their money on, and that this might include paying for my services!
People charge for all sorts of silly things – the most ridiculous I heard of recently was paying someone to come and clean the inside of their wheelie-bin – for crying out loud, I mean WHO NEEDS THAT??? People pay for silly stuff like that, such petty, superfluous things, yet here I am scared to charge for what is so much more vital to people’s health and sanity! And I am not a silly thing. I am person. I am an intelligent, creative, loving, passionate woman who gives up A LOT of her time and energy and thinking space to helping others.
I deserve to be paid!
So, next time you ask me to do some work for you, please consider making me at the very least a donation. My life is just as precious as yours. My thoughts, my love, my dedication to you will remain just the same. I will give you my all, and it will be good.
But from now on, unless you honestly don’t have tuppence to rub together, in which case, I will give you the shirt off my back – then I’m going to ask for something in return.
It might be…. A basket of food…. Tickets to the cinema… Offers to babysit… a trip to the hairdresser (my hair looks like shit on a stick right now)…. or just plain old, good fashioned hard cash.
I don’t mind.
But this nice girl, just woke up, and do you know what?
I’m just as nice as I ever was, and now I’ll have a little more respect for myself too.
Paula Cleary is a mother of five, birth doula, and freelance writer who loves to write about her twin passions – natural birth and home education, for various publications including Juno magazine, and she believes in and defends, freedom for both.
Paula is currently travelling in a bus with her family around Spain and devoting a lot of energy to her grass-roots Birthplace Matters campaign to reinstate a homebirth service back home in her local area. To find out more, and to read her musings on birth, please visit her website www.gowiththeflowdoula.co.uk/
Her facebook page is – https://www.facebook.com/
To read a back-catalogue of her home education articles for Education Outside School Magazine, visit http://