Unemployment is a void

You can put so much effort into not saying this word:


You dodge it. You come up with alternative things to say. I’m working on my book. I’m looking after my kids. Of course these are both true. That’s what makes them good euphemisms.

But somewhere in there, there’s still a void. The void of having your self-worth and your self-concept defined by wage labor, and then not having any labor, and not any wages. A three-part lack, really: lack of money, lack of social recognition, lack of anything to do outside home. They go together but they’re separate.

Arguably in a house with small children, it ought to be enough to do childcare. To clean the house and cook. To get groceries and do laundry. To bring in the mail and do emotional labor to keep up our social ties. To fix broken gear and make the house livable and change sheets and empty potties. To put away the dishes. To plan outings and bring your kid to daycare (a daycare which underpays its workers, but is also a vital source of sanity for you because if you were alone with a toddler the entire week, your composure would shatter).

But when you say you quit your job, most people don’t say, Care labor is also a valuable kind of labor. They don’t talk about feminist theories of social reproduction. Instead they say, What’s your Career Plan B? What’s next? What’s next what’s next what’s next what’s next…

A powerful academic writes to me that my publications are impressive, and I should put the publications section higher up on my CV. But I’ve been out of graduate school five years, and it seems to me that the academic job market has no interest in me. I’m a worthless commodity in that market.

Hey, at least I have some gig work starting, I tell myself. It will help pay for groceries. The line between unemployment and precarious employment is so blurry, really. Gig work never provides much of an identity, even if it provides some cash. Not very much.

Faye, our second child, was born since I started writing this.

Gradually, I begin to realize that this is an interminable text, and that to maintain its honesty, I would have to rewrite it every week, as life changes…

And it’s spring and the wind is consuming the blossoms.

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