By Liza Zoellick.
Not too long ago I wrote about reclaiming your independence, but there is a flip-side to this which is everyone else’s perception. Normally, I am the sort that doesn’t dwell much on people’s perceptions; however, when your appearance gives the mistaken perception you are healthy, people can be truly confused why you don’t work or participate in life more. This then leads to the idea that you are living some posh existence, eating truffles while lounging around in your pj’s all day long and watching Netflix. I know I am not the only one who has been told by a friend or acquaintance, “Oh, how lucky you are you can stay home all day.” Some of my other favorites include, “Man, if I could stay home all day I’d catch up on my favorite shows.” Or “You should pick up a hobby! Or take a language!” Let me dispel a few myths right off the bat.
· I have buckets of time: No, I go to the doctor a lot. Not just one but a few. So many, in fact, that my dear husband can’t keep track of their names or specialties. Those days where I don’t have to go to the doctor or get bloodwork done are precious to me.
· The whole bon-bon thing: Eating food is like Russian Roulette for me. I never know what is going to spell catastrophe so no, there isn’t any binge eating of truffles, bon-bons or any other food. Not if I want to function.
· Binge-watching shows: Netflix and I are insomnia friends. I do watch some shows with the family, but if I start binge-watching shows it’s because it’s 3am and I can’t sleep because I am in pain.
· I must languish from boredom: I have good days and I have bad days. Most of the time I am pretty focused on keeping myself comfortable (pain wise) so I can function on some semblance of normalcy. There isn’t time to pick up a hobby, and besides, writing is my hobby, which I do a lot of.
· You are so lucky to stay home: I will grant you that staying home has its benefits. When I sit down to work on my blog or another article, I can do it from the comfort of my bed where I can have the heated blanket on (yes, even in the summer) all the pillows I need and take as many breaks as I need to. But contrary to popular thought, this isn’t some eternal vacation for me. I do have a life with all the unpredictability and all the responsibility.
· You have so much time to do things: In actuality no. If I am not trotting off to see the doctor because I have to, much of the time I am dealing with my illness and all the symptoms that accompany it. A lot of the time I am battling pain. So, for the most part, I get the bare bones of things done and then need help.
There are many things I miss about having a job that I don’t think people realize. I also think that there is a certain amount of jealousy that goes into this misconception and I hope to dispel that too. Here are some things I miss about having a job and a few things people may not realize a family goes through when there is only one person working.
· I miss the money: Having my own paycheck was important to me. It allowed me to buy things I wanted and also contribute to the household. Not bringing a paycheck leaves me feeling guilty, wishing I could do more and sometimes leaves me feeling angry. We can’t always do the things we want to do and you have to prioritize when things break down.
· Just because I stay home doesn’t mean we’re financially able. There is a misconception that you must be doing well or you’d still be working. The sad reality for many of us is that it was a tough choice staying home and one that was made with full awareness of how things were going end up. Sometimes, that can be pretty desperate. I am waiting for a hearing date for disability. It could take a year just for the hearing date and there is no guarantee I will be awarded the disability. But in the meantime, I can’t work. In my state I have to be a year without employment because of whatever is causing my disability.
· Trust me on this, don’t be jealous. There is a lot of stress that comes with staying home unless you are one of the lucky few who can manage your household with only one paycheck. And even if you are financially sound, there is still the very reason you are home, your health, that becomes very stressful. Many of us live with the unpredictability of our illness, which means that plans are never set in stone and we cancel a lot.
· I miss the social aspect of work. This is actually an ironic one because I struggle with social anxiety, but work helped me deal with that. I find it more difficult to get out with each passing day because I don’t have to. So many stores are going to delivery or even in-store pick-up that I don’t have to socialize or do it for very long if I don’t want to. And though it makes things easier for the disability aspect of my life, it makes things harder on me socially.
So, remember these few things before you think it’s great that someone gets to stay home. It’s not always as glamorous as it seems to be.
Liza is a chronic pain warrior from Houston who has been chronicling her journey through chronic pain and illness on her blog: http://lovekarmafood.com. She is a frequent and valued contributor to the National Pain Report.