On Money And Self Worth

Okay. So. I was going to write something totally on-topic today, but I can’t. I’m still so immersed in all the things I started thinking about this weekend at Mighty Summit that I gave up. I have to write about that.

As I mentioned, a huge part of this weekend was about thinking and talking about life goals and life lists. Not just life goals like I would like to visit the Greek islands (which I would, but in the end that’s pretty simple—I just have to buy a ticket), but the big huge scary things. Like, I want to sell a book, or I want to start a foundation, or I want to speak at a conference, or I want to write articles for major magazines, or I want to get control of my finances.* You know, the kind of stuff that you think about how you want to do them, and then you immediately throw up a million obstacles in your own path, and talk about how it’s really not possible, and then quit the project before you even start. You know, THOSE goals.

Well, one super super amazing woman at the conference, Cecily (whose blog you must read when you finish with this post) talked about how she wanted to work on her relationship with money. Or really, how she wanted to move past being broke all the damn time, and she was totally overwhelmed by how to do that.

(Side note: I’ve been there, by the way. Once I told David that I’d probably never own a house, because, “Money was not for me.” By which I meant, I’d never really had any money or made good money, so I figured I’d NEVER have money, and I better just come to terms with that early to avoid further disappointment. I think David proceeded to smack me across the head and say something like, “Well I like having money and being able to buy neato tech toys, so get with the program.” Which I did, but I digress.)

Anyway, on the last night of dinner I was sitting next to Cecily when Maggie started talking to her about money. Cecily just wrote a thoughtful post about this conversation, so I’m going to quote her description of what happened:

I was sitting across from Maggie at dinner, she leaned back and looked at me (while wearing a stylish black turban) and said, “We need to figure out what is blocking your flow of money.”

It was a very California thing to say.

I tried to stay open minded, but I was clearly putting on my cynical face. She pressed on anyway, saying that I needed to “make money flow through me” and “open myself up to money.” I felt increasingly skeptical, but this was the host of the event, and I wanted to be polite, so I mumbled some “uh huhs” and “yeps.” I then said, “All I need to be making is (blank amount of money) a year.” Maggie looked gobsmacked and said, “You? A blogger with your influence? Can make five times that.”

I felt like I’d been punched in the chest. And I felt angry. I didn’t know why I felt so angry, but I did. Maggie then said, “Maybe you need to stop thinking about money for you, but instead think of funneling money through you out into your community.”

Maggie then moved on to talk to other people, and I sat stewing for a moment. Nicole, who happened to be sitting next to me, let me babble at her for a while about why what Maggie said wouldn’t actually work for me. But while I was talking, Nicole’s gentle responses opened things up further (with frequent hilarious commentary from Meg) and I suddenly got it.

In many ways, I’ve been on a kind of money diet. Just like I had with food, my relationship with money is “disordered.” I’ve been poor forever; my poverty as a child (and as an adult) has made me have a kind of tunnel vision when it comes to money. I’ve trained myself, basically, to financially subsist and no more. The income I suggested I earn to Maggie seemed wildly extravagant to me. I’ve never earned that much as an adult, so the bigger amount she mentioned just seems crazy and astronomical—and, most importantly, NOT ACHIEVABLE. At least not by me.

All that I’m going to add to that description is that when (beleaguered) Cecily named the amount she wanted to make, her lofty dream, you could literally hear my and Maggie’s heads exploding in tandem. I think I yelled, “WHAT?” followed by, “THAT’S ABSURD!” and “YOU’RE WORTH SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT!” You know, not that I ever have any opinions.

In the next few hours I had a long conversation with Heather (Oh my god, you need to read her blog too, she’s amazing!) about how women chronically undercharge, and hence under-earn even when they work for themselves. The next morning I had another conversation with Maile (who makes these super stylish camera-bags-as-purses and whose life story totally blew me away), about how women will set a financial target for themselves like, “If I make $60,000 a year, I’ll be RICH!” which then turns into, “I’m worth $60,000 a year,” which then turns into “I’m only worth $60,000 a year and more would be greedy.” At which point we cue never making more than $60,000 a year, because that’s your mental limit. This may sound hippy-dippy, but for freelancers it’s pretty realistic (and I’d argue it’s probably true for salaried people too).

Now. I’m not writing this to talk about money, exactly. I’m writing this to talk about self-worth. After spending two-plus days hanging out with some of the most accomplished (in a free-wheeling, freelance, creative way) and supportive women I’ve ever met, I’ve been thinking a lot about self-worth. I’ve been thinking about how as women we often undervalue ourselves, our life stories, and what we’re capable of, and that leads to lost potential. We think, “I can’t do that; I can’t dream that big; I’m being selfish to even think about this; I don’t deserve to earn (or have my company earn) that much money; I shouldn’t have delusions of grandeur.” And when this happens, we all lose. Think of all those projects that could have been created, those businesses that could have thrived, that money that could be flowing back into our communities. When we cut ourselves off at the knees we lose all that, our communities lose all that, we all lose.

So I guess this does come back to our ongoing Reclaiming Wife discussions (quelle surprise!) Because I think the minute that we get married, let alone have kids, the cultural script tells us that our most important job is to nurture others, and the way we can best nurture others is through selflessness. We’re told that to nurture, we need to give up on all our personal dreams, for the “bigger” dream of family.

On my bad days, I tell David I think I’m too selfish to ever be a mother. When he makes me define selfish, I say things like, “I want to own my own business and write and publish and go on trips, and experience things and… and, and, and.” And then David, being the saner of the two, points out that doesn’t mean I’m selfish, that means I’m ambitious and self-aware. And that being ambitious and active and happy is what will make me a GOOD mom. That crushing all my dreams so I could give up all myself for my child would probably NOT make me a very good mom, since it would make me a very sad person.** Or as the amazing Cate Subrosa said, “My baby is not the only thing that matters to me. In fact, the things that mattered to me before matter just as much. There is room in my sense of what matters for everything else to still have its place, despite this enormous space now taken up by the needs and desires of my darling baby. I am still me.”

So. I’m thinking long and hard about the ways that I undervalue myself. I am reasonably good, for a thirty-year-old woman, at valuing myself and asking for what I want, but I know I could be a lot better.

I need to keep practicing saying, “I would like this. Could you give this to me?” And then letting the person I ask say yes or no, instead of deciding that the answer must be no and not bothering. I’m fan-f*cking-tastic at asking for small things that I want (ask my poor web designers, or any waiter ever, or my husband), and not so great about asking for big things. I always think, “Oh I can just do this on my own, I shouldn’t ask for help,” even when I clearly would do better with help.

I also need to do a better job about thinking of money as a tool, instead of thinking of it as the root of all evil. I think as women we do a really good job about shaming each other about money. When was the last time you saw a guy tell another guy that because his new creative project was making money, he was a sellout? I mean, basically never, right? Guys say things like, “DUDE. That’s so awesome that you’re doing so well.” And women say things like, “Have you thought about how you’re selling out and destroying the soul of your endeavor by making this much money?” Because, you know, we’re ladies. We’re supposed to give things away for free because we’re nurturers. Nurturers of the world, apparently, for free.  So I need to learn how to turn those voices off, and see success as an okay thing. And yes, see MONEY as an okay thing.

Even for me.

As a woman.

As a wife.

I need to keep practicing being full-of-self, instead of selfless. And rocking the hell out of that.

Picture: Me making the patented Meg Face. Taken by the talented and vivacious Amber, of The Amber Show. She was my roommate this weekend, and you should read her blog too!

*Note: that’s a mish-mash of everyone’s goals, not just my goals

** Can we all agree to realize that when I say this, I’m not somehow implying that moms who stay home are the ones that give up their dreams, and I hate stay-at-home moms? Because, you know, I think you can live your dreams staying home with your kids, and crush them at a soul-less job, and vice versa. It really all depends. Maybe one day I won’t have to give this disclaimer every time…. hum….

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  • Caitlin

    So much to think about this morning. Especially as I spend my day fighting to get the job I really REALLY want, instead of settling for one I could do, but wouldn’t come close to fulfilling my life goals. You’re giving me the impetus to fight harder than I probably would have today.

    So, see? Your money-making success DOES nurture the world! Keep it up, Meg.

    • Oh I hope you fight hard for it. I recently just made a crazy move for a job I’m really passionate about. I could have settled, but I knew that wouldn’t have been fulfilling. Keep going for it!

      • Heather L

        Me too! Just moved halfway across the country for a really freaking awesome graduate assistantship at one of the best universities for my work in the US, and the only thing I regret is that fiance will not be moving down til later!

    • Go get ’em! You can totally do it, and it will be worth it!
      Good luck!

    • SingColleen

      I second Ms Bunny’s cheer! I too, just made a crazy move for a job I love (and my hubs grumbled a bit about money but supported me anyway) and it makes SUCH a difference. I will say though, for the work I’m doing, I should have asked for a little more money. The job is great, but I definitely need to learn to charge what I’m actually worth. It really is hard to just say, “hey, I would love to do this, but I need to be paid *this* to make it work.”

  • Rose

    Hmmm, getting that swirling thoughts response to a post…

    Firstly, I’ve been reading Cecily and Heather for ages and ages, and they are awesome. I read Cecily’s money post a couple of days ago and found it really interesting.

    On the one hand I feel like you in that I think I have a pretty good sense of my own worth (and being a salaried employee makes that easier I think). I also think that money isn’t one of those big, hot button issues for me (I’ve got other ones instead). And yet…my husband and I met at work, doing the same job. He is two years older, with the same degree as me and one year more work experience. We’ve long since moved on from the same company and the same job and today he earns DOUBLE what I do. Yes, DOUBLE. And it’s not a case of ‘poor me, I’ve been discriminated against’. I’ve made different choices and I have different skills, but that huge disparity is sort of startling when you think of where we started.

    And then I pause when I think of how a couple of months ago I had to tell my boss my salary increase expectations (and then subsequently tell him why I thought I’d been hard done by – fun!), and my husband saw the problem as so simple, named a big number and that was it for him. And I felt skin-crawlingly uncomfortable about the whole thing (and was coming up with all these complicated moderating factors). So, yes, I agree that our attitude to self-worth and money as women is probably something we can’t afford (ha!) to overlook.

    All very interesting.

    • Rose,

      I totally feel you on all of these counts. I’m salaried as well, at a job I like (but don’t love – I’m working on figuring out what I’d love to do still), and feel like I’m paid about what I’m worth (ok maybe a little less than I’m worth haha but I’m working on it and there’s been the whole recession thing). However, the difference between you and your husband’s salaries and attitudes toward salary negotiation definitely hit home. But here’s the thing, and please, tell me if any of you other ladies have experienced this, I’ve tried to play hardball and ask for more. And it seems like I’m not just turned down, but it inspires some sort of distaste in my bosses – men and women alike! I’m not one to play the victim, but has anyone else come across this? I’m in a male-dominated field (business) and the guys almost always seem to get what they want. I know I’ve read articles about this type of behavior before, but I really wish there were more open discussions like this about not only how you can get what you’re worth, but how to avoid judging other women by how you think they should act toward money. As a younger worker, it’s so disheartening and I think we can definitely do better. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me and the way I go about it, but I feel like I’ve heard this storyline many times. If you don’t work for yourself, how do you get what you’re worth?

      • And Meg, thank you so much for writing this!!! It really hit home, as you can probably tell. And if you have any pointers for figuring out what you really want to do with your life (side note: it’s not that I don’t have any loves or interests in my life, it’s more that I have too many), please share!

      • The one time I actually asked for a raise (I had finished my masters degree and wanted to be compensated accordingly), I was told that my “big” boss (I made the request through my immediate boss) was “taken aback” by the request. But I got what I wanted (more money and a different title), so it worked out well. I think it helped me to have that intermediary boss to go to bat for me.

        I think one cannot say enough for good bosses who are willing to fight for their employees to be reasonably compensated. I’m where I am today salary-wise because I had a boss early in my career who really advocated for me within the organizations (yes, I worked for him two places), and that meant when I moved on and worked for a new company, the number I was starting from was higher. So if you are a boss or a manager, fight for your employees. It makes a huge difference (and they will appreciate it and work hard for you).

        • Jessica

          sooooo yes to “So if you are a boss or a manager, fight for your employees. It makes a huge difference (and they will appreciate it and work hard for you).”

      • Regarding the pervasive cultural expectation that women will NOT play hardball and push for more money: I have encountered this a few times. Once involved a case where I was doing freelance consulting. I had one client who paid $x, a quite generous figure that I had set and he agreed to. Another org. wanted to hire me. I told them my rate, and my contact hit the ceiling, with all kinds of reason why I was ~totally out of line~ to ask for that much. It was a very strange experience. He could have simply said ok, we don’t have that much budgeted, or whatever, but he threw back a bunch of reasons why I, as an individual ~had no right~ to ask for that much (even though someone else was willing to pay it.) I had the feeling that it was a very gendered exchange. If a young man had been asking for that amount, he would have been saluted for being ambitious. ugh.

      • Amy

        Oh god – this is so so very necessary for so many women. I think the most interesting thing I read about the income gap between men and women went to one very simply point – when presented with an initial offer, men tend to negotiate up (even at a first job – shocking, I know!) and women tend to just accept it. Raises tend to be based on a percentage of your salary – so that one simple disparity can have a huuuge difference over the life of a career.
        And btw – I’ve made it my personal mission to have these conversations with younger female relatives. Because you will be shocked how many boys have money conversations with their dads (negotiate, here’s how to save, pay off your credit cards, etc) and how few girls have them with their mothers. And that isn’t helping the next generation of kick-ass working girls be any more prepared to demand more than we are.

        • Sarah

          I think you’re absolutely right. I negotiated my very first job offer out of college way up and it made a really, really significantly positive impact on my salary at subsequent jobs. Those of you young women who are just starting out in the workforce: negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. If they won’t come up, or they won’t come up as far as you want, tell them you’re going to need a little while to think about their offer. Then… if you still want the job, call them back and say you’ll take it. You can’t loose when you’re first being offered a job (negotiations later on get more tricky because everyone has relationships and you’ve already agreed to a lower salary than you want, the best time to do it is right at the beginning).

        • ddayporter

          so true! my husband’s attitude toward money comes from manymanymany conversations with his dad about it, throughout his life. the only thing my mom could teach me about money was what not to do! I picked up a lot of those kinds of tips, but never had any clue about the rest, until I got out on my own and kind of had to learn it as I went.

        • That’s a great idea Amy, and I will be following your lead and helping younger relatives with their finances, negotiations etc. I was lucky in that my father actually spent a lot of time talking about job offers, salary negotiations with me when I was applying to my first job (my mom was a homemaker so didn’t have much experience with that) and I luckily followed his advice and asked for more. He said, “hey the worst they can say is no” although Walking Barefoot may have proved him wrong there. :)

          I was lucky in that my company acquiesced to my request for more moo-la (as much as they could anyway, then promised another salary review after 3 months), but since then (and part of this is economic conditions) management has changed and I’ve received negative reactions to requests, where my male colleagues don’t. It’s terribly frustrating. So yes, ladies, if you can help out a younger woman who may have a steep hill to climb, in terms of getting comfortable requesting what they’re worth and overcoming preconceived notions that women aren’t suppose to ask for more money, please do! It’s really refreshing to hear that some of you are, and I thank you, on behalf of all women haha, for that!!

          • *Ugh, haha note to self: read your posts over again before posting. Used “lucky” far too many times. forgive me!

  • Angela

    oh my god!! where is the exactly! botton for allllllll the post??
    iam with you with woman nurturing the world, with guessing how big you wanna be next year, with women everywhere giving themselves permission to achieve BIG MONEY and use it, …..
    I am expecting alll those intelligence comenters that you (we) have here!!!
    Oh man!!! that´´s a more than perfect questions to ask ourselves!!!

  • Erika

    Thank you! I am a freelancer and this really speaks to my experience. Yesterday I landed a small job at a good rate and I’m damn proud of it. Because yeah, I’ve had those feelings of “I’ll work for whatever wage, just give me the job.” And as I become more aware of where my attitudes about money and self-worth come from, the easier it is to get what I need. I’d also like to add that part of not asking for enough money for a job, for me, comes from feeling out a client’s comfort level, like “Oh, I can tell he doesn’t want to pay that much, I need to make him comfortable enough, so I’ll lower the rate.” That gets back to the nurturing thing. And it’s really selling ourselves short. Freelancers do not need to “nurture” our clients, we just need to get the job done and done well. I would also argue that when you’re earning a wage you feel good about, you’re more invested and do a better job.

    • I think you’re right. I’m a freelancer as well, and I do put more effort into the higher-paying jobs. I realise that I should be doing my absolute best on all of them, but it’s something I’ve only just recently realised that I was doing (without meaning to, of course). Because like you said, Erika, when you’re working for a rate that makes you feel good, you want to do a better job.

  • Caroline

    An awesome and important post. Just like talking about wedding money is difficult, talking about salaries/self-worth is important too. Awkward sometimes. But important.

    A quick story: At my recent bachlorette party, I was talking with my college roommate, who is now a successful NY lawyer. I’ve hopped between non-profit and higher ed jobs for years since graduation, and haven’t really progressed much in my career (at least, to me). As I told her about our tentative plans for the future, I finally just said, “What really needs to happen is M and I need to come up with an awesome idea and sell it and start pulling in the thousands.” To which my friend said, “I’m sorry, thousands?” So yeah. I dream too small.

    You can take the girl out of the non-profit world, and you can surround her with awesome friends who are doctors and lawyers and consultants and bankers, but you cannot make her believe that she is worth as much as them. (at least not yet). Personal goal = work on that.

    • Kris

      Oh girl! You are singing my tune. I’ve primarily worked in the non-profit world and just got finished my usual Idealist perusing looking for a new position and feeling pretty low about my options. I’ve been *shocked* at what some of the jobs I’ve come across are willing to pay in 2010. I sorta feel like I’m stuck in the non-profit ghetto where my work/experience will remain devalued and have almost resigned myself to never making as much as I want. Plus, in the grassroots/community world I’ve come out of it’s looked at as a mortal sin to somehow want to live really comfortably and be in an office that has heat in the winter. It’s still a huge shift to realize the work I do is more than just do-gooder noodling and that the scarcity mentality doesn’t serve me anymore. I keep trying to remind myself that I’m allowed to want more!

      • meg

        Of course you are! I got out of the non-profit ghetto ;) Which, I’m not sure the path I took was better right away (in some ways it was worse), but I’m glad I moved away from the scarcity mentality.

        Not that non-profit work is bad, but it can be *painful* to be paid so much (and in my experance, also really under valued).

      • Jenny C.

        This is one of the biggest struggles nonprofits face – you have to be broke to help the world.
        I urge you to expand that thought… you CAN make a comfortable living. Nonprofits are biz – they contribute money to the economy, just like private orgs. Check out Robert Egger, founder of DC Central Kitchen and THE revolutionary in changing the nonprofit sector in the U.S.
        Here’s a TEDx talk… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tge8oMLkb70&feature=related
        Which he ends with this idea that sums it all up: “.. the breakthrough idea, the idea that by investing in your community, you can actually attain wealth, is radical. Because what it involves is the beginning of the blurring of the line between .com and .org. (…) The future is not either or, it’s both together. I’ll see you there.”

  • Carbon Girl

    This is not entirely on topic, but this line “That crushing all my dreams so I could give up all myself for my child would probably NOT make me a very good mom, since it would make me a very sad person” describes my mother while raising me EXACTLY.

    I am now struggling with the fact that my friends in the same field as me who are now all having babies keep saying how I will need to compromise my career goals for my husband now that I am married. He knew what my goals were when we married and supports them. I have no idea why my once strong, independent friends no longer see achieving their career dreams as an option and why they have indicated I am selfish when I talk about mine. I am worried there is a wormhole I will go down when I reach 30 wherein these goals I am working so hard to achieve will just be left behind.

    And I want to change that last line Meg wrote to read “I want others to see me as full of self, not selfISH.” I know I shouldn’t care what others think, but of course we all do in some way.

  • Sarah

    Yeah, money is a big one. I think women may be more susceptible to the low-balling mindset, but I’ve known a lot of men with the same problem. Maybe I just know men in touch with their feminine side, but anybody I know who’s an artist has a constant battle trying to figure out how much their talents are worth.
    My version is particularly an extension of my parents, who certainly never thought about “money flowing through them” except in the “going straight to the credit card” sense. I ended up thinking that having more than the bare minimum would turn me into a shallow, uber-consuming person who only looked out for my tax bracket. But now I understand that living without soot on my windowsills requires a certain income, and so does supporting the arts and organizations I believe in. And if I ever want to produce my own plays, I’m going to need some of that “money flowing through me to my community.” Much to think about indeed.

    • Liz

      my husband is a graphic/web designer, and he struggles with fixing a price to himself, too.

      but i find that he has a much easier time than i do, still.

      • meg

        I’m not sure I was implying that men don’t have problems with undercharging. I don’t know if they do or not. But I do think they tend to have less of a problem with doing well. They feel less GUILT about it (or maybe no guilt about it) when they are making good money.

        They have other issues, like tying their self-worth to money, but that’s another post to be written by a person of a different gender…

        • Liz

          i think i read your post with women in mind specifically only because of the other articles/research i’ve read on the same topic which compare the genders. (so so so many articles for business-owning-women about, “PAY YOURSELF, STUPID”) so that’s a me-thing, prob.

  • Jess

    I say “exactly” to the person who wanted to exactly this entire post! I finished getting my PhD last year and have just been earning an “adult” salary for a year and a half now, and so I think about these issues a lot. I came to grad school straight out of college, and spent 5 years making a low stipend while my friends were starting their careers, steadily earning more money, being able to afford “adult” clothes and “adult” vacations. I felt very much like I was still a kid while everyone around me was an adult.

    Fast forward a year and a half—I have a “real” job and make a professional salary. I am getting married in less than a month (to another professional with a professional salary), and am thinking about buying a condo. Suddenly I see other friends—single friends who are struggling professionally or financially—look at me the same way I looked at my “adult” peers just a couple years ago. But on the flip side, I still think, “What do people my age who are lawyers and doctors and people with even higher earning power think of me? Why can’t I even afford to buy a 2-bedroom condo yet?”

    It is a really strange feeling. It makes me realize that these social comparisons that we make to everyone else are just our own creations. There is always room to feel like you’re not enough, and it is up to you to make those thoughts stop.

    • Lauren

      I completely relate to this…I am just starting my PhD and I am frequently caught up the in comparison game. I have friends in accounting and teaching who are salaried, buying houses, and getting married. But you know what? I am getting paid (admittedly not much) to go to school and study what I’m interested in. And my whole life I will get paid to do what I love and help others. I will never have to work 9-5 unless I choose to, and this degree buys more than a salary, it buys freedom.

      And frankly, when my boyfriend and I look around our tiny one bedroom apartment, we smile and talk about how fifteen years from now we will look back on these days fondly- when we had no responsibilities other than paying rent, going to class, and spending time together.

      • i *love* that you are your boyfriend are present and enjoying this time in your life! your post reminds me to slow down and appreciate exactly where i am, right now, because i’m sure i’ll look back at it fondly as that time when…

      • COCO

        I really appreciate your comment on finding freedom and doing what you love. Within the last year I moved from a high paying private sector gig to working for a non-profit. I definitely struggled with the whole making a whole lot less thing and a decline in self worth, but then I realized I am not my salary. What I gave up in cash I gained in more vacation, less stress, more thought provoking conversations and an opportunity to research topics I truly love. And my good friends (as opposed to acquaintances) got it and didn’t judge me, but instead congratulated me, even if it means that condo is further off.

  • Huh. I guess most days I feel a little crippled by the idea of finding a job that pays more. I’ve always made less than $20,000 a year, working for a non-profit and now in a school. I’m just not sure HOW to find a job that pays more, and it makes me really sad to think that my goal with my next job should be to get one that pays a whole lot/as much as I can possibly make. At the same time, I really struggle with feeling like I am worth only the amount on my paycheck (there is no way to make more at my current job. I did negotiate. The union sets our pay.), even though I know I am worth SO much more. It’s tricky place to be. Lots to think about this morning.

    • Liz

      i recently made the choice to turn down a bigger paycheck for a job i enjoy doing. which is the same thing as demanding what you’re worth. “don’t sell yourself short” takes a number of forms.

      • meg

        100% yes TOTALLY. I agree with Liz.

        And also, re the $20K a year. I’ve been there, and you can fight your way out, it just takes a little time.

      • Rose

        Absolutely agree with Liz. I think the key difference is consciously making a choice about your salary in relation to how much you love your job, versus getting stuck being underpaid (whether you love the job or not) because you were too scared/shy/lacking confidence/unworthy-feeling to fight for something else

      • I allowed my ex to talk me into taking a job I didn’t really want that paid gobs of money in a very expensive location. I gave up the lower-paying job in my eminently more affordable home town, where I was surrounded by family and friends from every stage of my life.

        I have often felt trapped, and I’m fairly certain that this feeling of being trapped in a job that doesn’t really suit in a location that is far more expensive (and obsessed with Keeping Up with the Joneses) was one of the major causes of my increasing anger and resentment in a marriage that eventually fell apart.

        When I left my marriage, I was saddled with ridiculous amounts of debt that I am still struggling to pay off, and now I’m still trapped in a job that’s not a good fit for me because I earned so much money that I’m the one who pays the alimony and child support.

        So, yeah, part of being fiscally responsible is recognizing what you really want outside of money and that there are things in life more important that the price tag attached.

    • That’s one of the biggest issues with working at nonprofits, we are taught that we shouldn’t be asking for more. We should be doing our work on little pay for the good of the organization. I think it’s not such a coincidence that more women than men work in the nonprofit industry.

      I work at a nonprofit myself, and will probably work in the industry for the rest of my life. I’m struggling at how I can earn more to support myself comfortably while not asking for more, because, in all honesty, the nonprofit can’t afford to pay me any more. That’s where development and grants come in. You have to get used to asking foundations, donors, and the government for more money. It’s a hard sell, but it’s important in our line of work.

      Also, taking on side projects and trying to find out how to get paid for them.

      • meg


        • Class of 1980

          I’m not a fan of Suze Orman, but she did say something that got me thinking.

          She said whenever she goes to seminars for business women, there is ALWAYS a speaker there encouraging women to do volunteer work. When she goes to seminars for business men, there is NEVER any mention of doing volunteer work.

    • Marina

      I read a thing once that said that early career workers increase their salary not by getting raises or promotions, but by changing jobs. That people who have 5 jobs in 10 years end up with higher salaries than people who stay in the same job during those 10 years.

      The thing about nonprofits is that some of them can’t afford to pay employees what they’re worth, but some of them are committed to paying employees a living wage, from moral and social justice principles. You can work in the nonprofit sector and get jobs with the second kind of organization.

  • I am a freelance theatre director, and money/income has been a complicated issue for me during the last 10 years I have been doing this. “Emerging” theatre jobs just don’t pay much, if anything. So I have spent years doing a non-theatre full-time job to support myself and then also doing theatre. After a grant to move to Canada for a theatre project last year, I am thinking towards the future. So thank you for this post; your thoughts are a good reminder as I think ahead and dream about what I want my life here to look like. I had been thinking things like, “Maybe one day I can work at such-and-such-place…” (a non-ambitious, scraping-by only, student-type job I randomly chose because it seemed like maybe somebody would consider hiring me to do that since I am in Québec and French is my second language.) I have been putting limits on myself, despite the fact that I speak French. Maybe I should dream bigger. :)

  • Liz

    it’s like you taperecorded all of my conversations with josh for the past two months.

    opening betsy ann, i set my sights on making $20g a year. yeah. i know. but am i worth more than that? josh says yes. can i be a good mom while working toward bigger goals (like that half-written book and unfinished PhD and opening a safehouse for women and being a live-in house parent for 80 orphaned teens and and)? i’m beginning to think “yes.” but just beginning. a huge part of my changing perspective is that yeah- i totally want my girls/boys to grow up to want to pursue those sorts of things, too. so why not be a kickass example?

    many other parts of this post spoke directly to me- i can’t begin to respond to them all.

    • can I just have a mini heart attack over here at your list of wants? All of them except for the creative Betsy Ann (wow!) are on mine. In the top ten.

    • Caitlin

      YES. You absolutely can be an awesome mom while still working towards your own goals. Be that kick-ass example for the kid who will see you as the one who knows the right way to take on the world. I’ve seen it happen, and it’s beautiful. Especially when you dream big!

  • oh boy, your comment about undercharging hit right to the core with me! I keep considering raising prices for the freelance design work I do, but then I feel so guilty that I just can’t. I think you are right, its time to stop and really think about why those guilty feelings happen. Thanks!

  • Someone

    This is really making me assess how I want to be ‘flowing my money’ in the future.

    It makes me think about our wedding photographer – his rate for our wedding is almost exactly my monthly pay. For one day. I know he does post production, promotion, has overheads etc. But still. I’d like to be able to use my skills that way. Do something I love and make decent money from it.

    • I have found wedding planning to be quite eye-opening as far as creative people charging what they are really worth to do what they do! It is sometimes difficult to be on the invoiced end of those amounts, so I hope to find a happy medium!

  • My google reader is exploding with wisdom these days! Love it.

    I, too, have a completely bizarre relationship with money. Frugal is my middle name, and I’m experiencing the same issues people have referenced above in my life: getting a graduate degree, demanding what I’m worth at a job instead of helping them out, combining finances, and thinking about mothering. I often do a double take when C says something about money because he so easily states what he is worth and goes for it. We both value enjoyment and dreams quite a bit, but he somehow balances that with money well, and it’s not even on the same horizon for me.

  • While I definitely agree with the money talk, the thing that spoke to me about this post was this line:

    “I always think, “Oh I can just do this on my own, I shouldn’t ask for help,” even when I clearly would do better with help.”

    I cannot exactly that sentiment enough. Any time a problem arises, I feel like I have to figure out how to fix it, and then do it myself. Or if I am hiring someone to do it (we bought a house a few years ago, so a lot of my “problems” involve home improvements), that I need to know everything there is to know about it so that I can make the job of the person I am paying (!) easier.

    I have to remind myself that if I don’t know the answer right away, that I should open the problem up to the universe (or even just my wife to start), because someone else may have a better solution than me – one that doesn’t involve a million convoluted steps and a lot of stress on my part (since the convoluted solution was the only one I could come up with).

    Help is a good thing. I like to help. Other folks would probably like to help me occasionally. I need to remember this.

    • Ah help. When I read this post (and yesterday’s as well) I felt two things: jealousy and desperation. Meg, you just went to the Mighty Summit, which is a huge accomplishment, you have this amazing AMAZING blog that is going everywhere AND you have worked incredibly hard to get there.
      As far as the self-confidence thing goes, sometimes I think I don’t have the self-confidence to move in the right way. My indecisiveness is crippling – so much so that I feel deeply inadequate in everything I put forth leaving me at dabbling. So yes. Help.

      Even when you know that you need help, how do you know who to ask for help?

      If you were to ask me what I want, what I really really want, I would love to work for, (making nothing), someone as amazing as you, Meg. Or any of those ladies that you went to Mighty Summit with. It isn’t that I don’t work hard. I work incredibly hard, every day, all while fighting off the immobilizing lack of appreciation of my skills in an industry that has nothing to do with any of my interests. So who do I ask for help? As I’m reading through the comments I see so many of your readers who have at least a clue of what to do at the bottom. And maybe it’s all about making 20k in an industry that you love so that you can finally step up and have some self worth but what if you can’t even figure out how to get those jobs let alone make that little?
      I toyed with not even saying this here, but I feel like this blog is full of thoughtful readers with tons of positive mojo. Anyone have any ideas?

      • Class of 1980

        Ask us how many years we flailed around!!! LOL

        If I were you, the first thing I’d do is get out of the industry you’re not interested in. Then go from there. You can’t actually plan everything out. You have to take small steps in the right direction and be surprised by what opportunities come up for you.

        Not as many opportunities will come up when you know you’re on the wrong path.

      • I’m sorry, I have nothing thoughtful or wise to contribute to this. BUT. Did you quote Spice Girls there intentionally? ‘Cause if you did, I caught it. :)

  • I started thinking recently about asking for a promotion at my next review. And then I start talking myself out of it – how I’ll have been there 5.5 years and its usually 6-10 years when people get this promotion, and what have I done to think I am an exceptional employee and why should I even bother asking. So I have to remind myself that I AM an above average employee based on previous reviews and extra responsibilities trusted to me, and I AM worth more, and jeez, self, what’s the harm in ASKING? It’s like I feel guilty for expecting others to value my contributions.

    You are right, we need to work hard to fight against those feelings.

  • Kristen

    I’ve been reading Cecily’s blog for years, and can I just say how awesome it is that you’ve posted her here? I keep seeing connections like this getting made over and over – it’s like all of a sudden, all of these amazing women are coming together from all over the blogosphere. Meg, I think you’ve shown that even though they are ostensibly writing about different topics, their words all come from the same place. Fabulous! This is what power looks like.

  • Sept Bride

    Ah, negotiation.

    That is what this all goes back to, after all. Negotiation over your worth and what is worth what to you – in your job, in your marriage, in your home, for being a mother, for being a wife, for being a professional…

    I am a lawyer. (Disclaimer.) I am a born negotiator – Just ask my parents. Ha. – and I learned the hell out of the art of negotiation in law school. I could ace a mock trial competition or get the best deal for my client in a settlement or work out the nitty-gritty of a piece of Federal legislation (in my real-life job) with ease. But negotiate on the price of a sofa? Or my salary? Or my household chores? Scary.* Wouldn’t that make me… hard? bitter? un-nuturing???

    It was not until my now-husband and I were buying our first house and furnishing it that I learned the wonderful, FREEING art of “make them say “no” once.” Just once. That’s not too bad a rejection, right? After all, when the worst someone can do is say “no,” a word we have all heard and used millions of times, that’s not too painful. If someone tells you “no,” you know where you stand (instead of, you know, being racked by guilt and what ifs”… not that we would know anything about that as women). In between locking down a mortgage rate and signing my life away on the dotted line, I learned to push just a bit more anytime (if it was appropriate) someone said “yes.” Empowered my the first time I saved money simply by asking, I turned small little negotiations (while always doing my best to be polite, charming, and cognizant of the fact that the person on the other side of the deal also had a living to make), into a mountain of savings on a mortgage, furniture, and – eventually – an under-budget wedding.

    Recently, a newly engaged friend of mine was struggling with a wedding venue decision that rested on how much rooms at the venue’s inn would run guests. I had to coach her through a bit, but am proud to say there is now one more woman in the world who asked for the “no” and got a great deal (which I will appreciate when I book my room at said inn…). I am so glad that we are reaching a point where it is okay to ask for what we are worth, to question “wedding prices”, and to feel empowered to openly discuss that worth in our jobs, marriages, and relationships.

    Now I just have to get up the guts to ask for the salary I am “worth.”

    *Let’s not even start on the paralyzing fear most women have of rejection. We (I) want to be seen as accomodating, easy to deal with, full of great/agreeable ideas… and let that prevail over our need for justice, a fair break, compromise.

    **Sometimes people still just say “no” and mean it. Asking did NOT, for example, lead to a less-than-asking-price on said home. But that’s what I get for living in DC, land of rising home prices while the rest of the mortgage market goes to hell in a handbasket.

    • That is so fantastic! I need to learn this, its a scary thing but I am pretty certain there are wonderful rewards. Any tips?

  • “You know, the kind of stuff that you think about how you want to do them, and then you immediately throw up a million obstacles in your own path, and talk about how it’s really not possible, and then quit the project before you even start. You know, THOSE goals.”

    I’ve never heard this worded so perfectly. I think I’m so used to this thought process (because apparently it’s totally normal) that I never even considered what I was doing. Sometimes it takes a good slap in the face to realize that YOU are the only one who can make or break your own goals.


  • Megan

    Thank you for this. I’m a recent law school graduate and planning to open a law firm with a classmate in the next few months. In making plans for the firm, I’ve been repeatedly faced with the fear that I can’t do this, that I’m not supposed to own my own business, etc. Truth be told, when I was in elementary school I imagined myself as an entrepreneur so something shifted since then. This post is a reminder that we’re all capable of accomplishing our goals.

    Also, Ramit over at http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/ has talked about barriers to earning more money. Basically, if you think people who earn lots of money are selfish, snobby, etc. you create a mental barrier to allowing yourself to become one of them. I think you’ve done an excellent job outlining one of the barriers women face — earning more money & having a successful career is not selfless and nurturing so we avoid it.

    • Erin

      “Basically, if you think people who earn lots of money are selfish, snobby, etc. you create a mental barrier to allowing yourself to become one of them. ”

      Huh, this is so true. My husband is always calling me out on this, which happens a lot because we live in a quite wealthy area and are not wealthy ourselves. It’s a self-protective judgment — I don’t need to feel badly about not being rich because I wouldn’t want to be like them anyway. It’s also really self-defeating.

      • Class of 1980

        They don’t have to be your role model. You can find your very own way of being rich. ;)

  • I’ve been pouring over the bios of all the amazing women you attended the summit with and delving into some of their blogs. Holy balls, do these women rock! I feel totally inspired. So I’ve really got to thank you Meg for blogging about your experience and urging us to go read your fellow summiters’ blogs.

    In fact, I’ve started my own life list. In my head last night, on paper this morning. I’m up to 9 points right now, but I am sure I’ll get to 100 easily by the end of the day. It really does feel empowering to make concrete, far-reaching goals.

  • This post really connected with me. My self-worth and I aren’t on speaking terms.

    This is actually my first time commenting (despite the fact that I’ve been reading this fantastic blog for over year) because I felt like no one really cares what I have to say. Or that I’ll just be repeating what someone else said, but not as elegantly/cohesively/with more spelling errors.

    And trying to work for myself is almost torture. Trying to figure out what to charge. “I think I’m worth this much, but what if they say no, am I not worth it.” I’ve frequently worked for free just to avoid that whole situation. It’s really frustrating and definitely something I need to work on and this post is so incredibly helpful. I don’t think I can express that enough.

    • Class of 1980

      Look at what other people are charging and price yourself competitively, but don’t go drastically below them.

      Also, try some different price points. You will get feedback just by how many people are willing to pay a certain price. Then you can adjust up or down accordingly. There is usually a sweet spot where you will gain more customers than you will lose.

      • Liz

        yes, to 1980! there’s also the idea of perceived value. if you price too low, your clients will assume your work isn’t valuable- why else would you price it so low?

        • Ah! Thank you guys! That’s definitely a balancing act I was never very good at!

          • Marina

            Does it feel different if you say, “That’s a balancing act I’m going to get a lot better at”? :)

    • meg

      Plus, I noticed talking to people this weekend, that women tend to forget they can play hardball and negotiate. We think if we over price we loose a client, when that’s not true. IE:

      Me: I charge $50/hour
      Client: I was thinking more $20/hr.
      Me: Well, maybe I can go down to $40
      Client: $30 is the most I can do.
      Me: Ok. I’ll do it just this once, but keep in mind I’m giving you a deal.

      Without that you’d think, “Oh they want to pay me $20, I’ll take $20.” This way you got $10 more an hour, and the idea across that they are getting a super deal and shouldn’t expect it in the future.

      And then, of course, there is figuring out people you don’t want to work with because they undervalue you, and it’s just insulting, and they’ll be terrible to work with.

      Me: I charge $50/hour
      Client: I was thinking more $7/hr.
      Me: No. You’re clearly going to need to keep looking.

      • Sept Bride

        There is definitely something to be said for the connection the human brain makes between expense and worth/desirability as well. In my long ago life, I had dreams of becoming a wedding coordinator. I met with a couple of women in the business to get ideas about how to start a business and mentioned to one that I would start by offering my services on the cheap to get experience. She chided me for that attitude and said “no one thinks quality is cheap.” That really stuck with me – and I am surprised how often I find myself thinking prejudicially about price and worth in my every day life… i.e., that face cream is expensive, so it must be really great at preventing wrinkles; or that sweater is really cheap, so it must not be very high-quality wool.

        For all of you artists/small business owners/freelancers, I think this is an important consideration. When I am going to hire someone to do a service, if they have clients and a fairly busy schedule + are a bit pricey, I usually think, “Huh. They must be worth it.”

      • Class of 1980

        Totally YES!!!

        We ALWAYS let a customer know when they’re getting a deal. And we make it very clear whether or not the deal is a one-time thing.

        It’s good to price yourself competitively after you researched what others are charging. But if you drastically undercut your competition, what you have done is set the bar too low for everyone, not just yourself. You are then just “giving it away”. Over a period of time, what was a perfectly decent business for everyone involved can become so devalued that it becomes worthless to pursue anymore.

        Most new products make good money until someone comes along and decides to give it away. Then it’s “Game Over” for everyone else. ;)

      • Marina

        Here’s a pretty good article on consistantly using a sliding scale: http://www.acupuncturetoday.com/mpacms/at/article.php?id=30407

        The Community Accupuncture Network (http://www.communityacupuncturenetwork.org/) has a lot of interesting things to say about sliding scales and making your work accessible to people with varying financial needs.

  • Like you Meg, I’m currently the primary breadwinner between my fiance and I. And I hate my job. I want to get into freelance work or start my own business so badly, but I haven’t done it out of fear. Fear that I won’t be successful and therefore won’t make the kind of money to keep taking care of my soon-to-be hubby and our two dogs. I think it completely goes back to what you’re getting at here. I don’t expect people to value me enough to invest in me, so I don’t even try. I need to get out of that frame of mind, quickly.

    • Oh Beth I totally feel you! If you figure out how to get over that fear, let me know! I’m stuck in “how do I do something I love but not let anyone, including myself, down”?

    • I am one step beyond where you are. Or maybe two steps. I am the primary breadwinner right now too, while my husband is in school… and I hate my current job. BUT. In May I decided to quietly make my intentions of starting my own business real, and started working on it in my spare time. Business hasn’t blown up yet, but I am receiving enough feedback that it feels worth my while to continue. I think you should go for it, or at least start working towards it in small steps. It’s worth it to see if you can do it…

      Not too get all quote-y, but:
      Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat. – Theodore Roosevelt

      • Love it! And I hope to be following in your footsteps soon. :)

      • Quite a lot of freelance translators (like me) get started while working full-time in-house, slowly building up a client base until they have enough to support themselves without the 9-to-5. I think you did the right thing in starting slowly and can absolutely attest, after a year and a half of full-time freelancing, to the fact that it’s possible to get started like that and continue successfully!

  • Anon

    I totally agree with the thought that, if money is important to people, they shouldn’t feel at all bad about pursuing it as a goal. And especially that being a woman and a wife shouldn’t discourage anyone from trying to make money and get rich if that’s what she wants. (and succeeding!)

    But I wouldn’t ever want to draw a firm link between what I earn and my sense of self-worth. If I work, the best job I can get is being a receptionist, which would pay slightly more than my minimum living costs. But I’m very, very fortunate to have some inherited money — enough to fund me to do a PhD. There might be some external funding if I work at it but it’s pretty thin in my subject — it’s a rather abstract discipline. So, the choice is between using up money I didn’t earn while doing something I have a talent for, enjoy and can make a contribution in (if I work hard!) on the one hand, and on the other, doing something fairly dull but sensible and strictly speaking more independent. For me, doing the PhD actually costs money, far from generating cash — but it’s also the option that involves actually attributing some worth to myself. (OK, it’s a priviledge to have that choice. But being able to see is a priviledge and I don’t feel guilty about that.)

    I think I agree with the specifics of the post — enterpreneurs shouldn’t self-limit their success due to low self-esteem — I completely agree! But I think I disagree with the general notion of a strong link between money and self-worth. I think mainly I see a link between money and baked beans and bus fares. And then a link between self-worth and knowledge and understanding.

    Money is the most delicate subject there is — I daresay I’ve irritated someone but it’s *not my intention*. Truly! I’m just putting the other point of view.

    • Marina

      I think it’s not about everything you do generating cash, but that your conception of yourself as someone who can earn whatever amount of money you need, someone who is WORTH whatever amount of money you WANT, is one of the things that leads to that happening or not. I think the world is full of people who are objectively “only” qualified to be receptionists, but are instead leading businesses and speaking at conferences and supporting families and traveling to all the places they dreamed about. (My previous boss was one of those–no college degree, fantastically spotty career history, was the managing director of the largest community arts organization in a tri-city area.)

    • Liz

      i don’t think the point is necessarily “you’re worth less if you can’t/don’t make as much” but instead “demand what you’re worth.”

      • meg

        Yes to the above. And, rather obviously, going to school so you can do something interesting, and to earn what you are worth in the future is a very worthy goal, and all about self worth. I was not even VAGUELY saying that what you earn is a measure of your self worth. In fact, I was saying the opposite. That women who are worth everything are valuing themselves like they are worth nothing (both in monetary and non-monetary ways), and that’s painful to realize. And for those of us without access to resources other than what we earn, money in some form (or barter) is vital to building and creating for ourselves and our communities.

      • I would qualify “demand what you’re worth” with “within the industry and job you want.” I could go in to my dream job and demand what I’m currently paid, but I would leave empty handed because my dream job can’t possibly pay me what I currently earn (even though I’m worth the money I earn).

  • Kathryn

    You know what’s great about making good money? You can afford to be generous. That’s pretty darn nurturing in my book. But first you have to get people to appreciate and pay you what you’re worth. And the reality is that they never will unless you stand up for yourself and show them.
    NO ONE cares about your success as much as you do (not your momma, not your wonderful husband, either. It’s on you, girl). You are FABULOUS, AMAZING people who inspire me every day, why shouldn’t you make the same amount as what a lot of other people make? Go be fabulous and amazing, and get paid for it!

    • meg

      Ohhh my dear, I do get paid for it. But that isn’t to say I couldn’t get paid more, and create more with that money. After all, large chunks of what I make go back into the site and the community we’re building here.

      • Caroline

        Speaking of money going back into the community – please don’t shy away from asking for contributions to either keep this site going &/or contribute to community weddings. Because I will gladly take what I would have paid for in wedding-related therapy (and got here instead) to those causes.

      • ddayporter

        bring on that paypal button! call it a subscription, call it a donation, call it an investment, whatever.

        • Englyn

          Actually, you know what I’d like? A ‘Buy Meg a coffee’ button. Cos, you know, you might well buy a friend a coffee to say thanks for talking through some tricky stuff with you. You wouldn’t give them a few dollars change. Of course Meg wouldn’t have to spend it on coffee, but it would feel really good. And a few dollars might not be much, but there are lots of us :)

  • Class of 1980

    Okay I’ve been running a business with a friend/business partner since 2002. And I wish that I’d had the opportunity to do it even earlier, just for what it would have taught me.

    We were talking about our supplier one day, and his assistant told us that the man works harder than any human being she’d ever met. And I started thinking about our role in that. It hit me hard that the more successful we are, the more people we impact.

    If we sell more, our supplier can perhaps relax a little more. The guy who owns the packing business and sends our packages has his bottom line affected. Our customers save money with our service. All sorts of people in the community benefit from our increased ability to contract their services. And our own blood pressure goes down.

    And if I don’t make it happen, it doesn’t benefit anyone. There is nothing selfish about it. Money is an energy that flows from person to person! There is no glory in being so modest you become a bottleneck in the flow.

    I’ve also become interested in the management and mismanagement of money on a personal and national level. I’m pretty sure that being in business has opened my eyes in too many ways to count.

  • I agree with everyone who wants to EXACTLY this whole post.

    As a business owner, I think I sell myself short all the time. I create these projections for the next year, and think… well if I make X amount, we’ll be okay. I aim low, instead of aiming high. And then I think… I don’t want to just be “okay.” I want to have money to save for our future home, I want to have money to travel the world, I want to have money to buy an expensive dress once in a while – just because I CAN.

    I’ve never made an “adult” salary – before I owned my own business, I was working at a non-profit. I’ve always felt weird about money, weird that sometimes I DO want to bring in the bucks… like it’s something I should be ashamed of. But my fiance doesn’t feel ashamed… he never has any problem asking for what he’s worth at work. He wants to make money doing the thing that he loves, and he’s not ashamed of it… so why should I be? I shouldn’t. Obviously. And I shouldn’t let certain people in my life make me feel bad about that.

    I also LOVE: “And that being ambitious and active and happy is what will make me a GOOD mom. That crushing all my dreams so I could give up all myself for my child would probably NOT make me a very good mom, since it would make me a very sad person.”

    THANK YOU for saying that. Because I am constantly fed this whole one or the other thing. You can be a MOM – or you can have your dreams and your career – but you can’t have both successfully. Well, I might (MIGHT being the key word) want a child one day, but I’m not willing to give up my career or dreams or plans. If we choose to have a baby one day, I want to fit that baby into our lives… not the other way around. I’m not giving up my dreams for anyone – especially not my non-existent child who I may or may not decide to have. And I don’t think that makes me a bad or selfish person. I think that’s a positive example to set for a kid.

    Anyway… all I wanted to say was… EXACTLY. :-)

    • Class of 1980

      I think women who OWN their own businesses are possibly in the best situation for having children. That is, IF you can grow the business enough to hire help eventually. If you have employees, you can start to have more flexible hours for yourself, which makes it easier to care for a baby. And you don’t have to explain your hours to any employer either. ;)

    • Liz

      in found your comment so interesting because i said sort of the opposite below! i keep hearing, “do both!” when it comes to babies and profession, and i’m sort of wondering how feasible it will be.

      i’m insanely lucky in that my level of education and my degree choice leave me plenty of opportunities for at-home-work, not to mention i have many other goals i can pursue while baby is napping. but dude. i’m EXHAUSTED. and the baby isn’t even HERE yet.

      • Class of 1980


        I don’t think your remark was directed at me, but I’ll answer anyway. I mentioned one time on APW that I never had children. One reason is because I am NOT a high energy person. I never wanted to work a full-time job and come home to work a second shift whatsoever.

        However, my remark above about owning a business still applies. If I suddenly found myself with a small child, there is more flexibility in my life with this business we have at home than there ever was when I worked outside. Now answering the phone with a small child or baby who needs you would be hard. But if the business grew enough to add even one more person, my time would really truly be free enough to live the life of a stay-at-home mom and a business owner at the same time.

        Another thought is that you can hire a baby sitter while you work at home. That way you can see everything the sitter is doing with your child and take breaks to be with the baby.

        That is the only way I personally could do it.

        • Liz

          yeah, my comment was directed at the one above yours- i actually thought i was quasi-chiming in agreement with you!

          we’re lucky in that we’re starting a business and doing a few other things that can be done from home. and my mom doesn’t work and lives across the street, so there’s that. (read: overwilling babysitter for FREE) it’ll work. somehow.

          but i know it’s gonna take some effort and balancing and making mistakes to figure out HOW to make it work. which. you know. i don’t like. i like to plan and know and be sure of myself and do it all.

          plus i hear this exhaustion junk eventually subsides after you pop the person out. but right now, just the THOUGHT of doing more than one thing at a time makes me need a nap.

          • Class of 1980

            Hmmm. I know that pregnant women NEED more sleep, so maybe that’s what you are experiencing.

            But after the baby is born is exhausting too. My God, I stayed with my sister when her daughter was born and we were both exhausted.

            The fact that you mother is there and so willing is absolutely FANTASTIC. That alone will smooth over a lot of things for you.

  • When I graduated college and was offered my first job, I didn’t negotiate at all. Didn’t even cross my mind. I was more in the state of “Oh, you’ll pay me? That’s fantastic and thank thank thank thank you so much.” Which (I now know) is bullshit, and I want every woman to know that it’s bullshit. You don’t thank your employer for paying you; they pay you because you do work for them. Good work. Ergo payment. That message didn’t sink in for entirely too long.

    You want to know one reasons men usually make more? They ask for it. For reals. More men negotiate for their jobs initially, and they negotiate harder and more often. Think about that when you are scared of going in for a promotion or a raise. Employers are not going to fire you for asking for a raise. You’re not making their life hard, you’re not a burden to them, you are not taking advantage of anyone. It’s crazy to me how I didn’t get this for a long time, how I thought that I was somehow inconveniencing them by saying “This is what I have been doing in my job, this is what I was hired to do, and as these aren’t lining up and I’ve gone above and beyond in my work, I think we need to have a conversation about my compensation.” That’s it. That’s how it works. Sounds reasonable, right? Your employers will think so too. I now have gotten better about asking for more money, because, as much as I want it to, it doesn’t fall into your lap too often. Do your homework (glassdoor.com), stick to the facts (these are tangible things that I do or I can bring to the table), and professionally be a baller and ASK. Have a conversation. Negotiate. You are worth it, you are not a bad person for asking for money, and damn it all, men are doing it, some smart women are doing it, and it’s okay (really!) for you to ask too.

    Wow, yea, I have some strong feelings on this topic! Great post, Meg…

    • Pamela

      Oh my gosh, this is so true! I work in HR and the first time I heard that someone negotiated a larger salary, more vacation time, and cheaper benefits, I was floored. Mentally, I was just sputtering, since you know, the benefit rates are on the official paper! They can’t be changed! And there’s the salary range that was blown out of the water! And we had to create a special code so the computer could track the vacation time! But somehow, because this new employee asked for it, it was done. Blew my mind.

      (yeah, I had a lot to learn)

      • ddayporter

        I also remember the first time I heard someone negotiate for better vacation and whatnot. I was like, uhh WHAT. you can DO THAT??

      • Sarah

        Yes! Negotiation totally works even when salaries are super codified. The first job I was offered out of college had a salary scale and they wanted to pay me at the first step of the scale (since I was 22 and had no real work experience) and I pointed to the third step on the scale and said “no, I think that is more where I am” and then cited all of the bulls#$t summer and part-time work that I had done and to my SHOCK… they said yes. I still kind of can’t believe it.

    • Tricia

      “This is what I have been doing in my job, this is what I was hired to do, and as these aren’t lining up and I’ve gone above and beyond in my work, I think we need to have a conversation about my compensation.” EXACTLY. Its as simple as that, and I wish I had heard that sooner. I’ve had this issue in my own career but sadly did not have the guts to ask for a raise. I worked my butt of expecting to get promoted as a result, but like someone else said above, no one else cares about your success like you do (and I didn’t get promoted). I think I expected work to be like academia- you work hard, you get your due reward in the form of an A+. Its take a while to realize thats not how it works in my career. You can not approach your career, or your relationship to money, passivley.

      A few weeks ago I got to thinking about what I really wanted out of life, now and in the next 5 years or so. I forced myself to be truly honest, and ALLOWED myself to write down on paper even my biggest goals. The ones I am not positive I can meet. Just writing them out was scary, intimidating. But I realized I had no chance of making them happen if I couldn’t even identify them to myself and look them in the eye. There was a certain amount of self worth stuggle to admit what I wanted, for myself, my marriage, my career, and allow myself to start setting my sights on it.

      Great post Meg, thank you for this.

      • Jo

        I guess this goals thing is really hitting home for me. I realized over the past few days that while I want to live within my means, I also really want to be able to go out to eat (cheaply) guilt free when I’ve had a long hard work day, and I want to come home to a beautiful, pretty home. And I don’t yet know how the hubs and I will get there, because right now the school loans and the other debt are standing between us and my dreams for expendable income… but that doesn’t mean I can’t want all of it. Living frugally now to get there might be part of the strategy, but doesn’t mean it always has to be this way.

        I’m much better at honoring my insanely huge career goals and personal improvement goals than my financial goals, it turns out.

        • Jo

          Oops, couple more thoughts. After reading Meaghan’s comment below, which I totally can relate to (the idea that you’re not being socially responsible if you hoard money)… I think it helps me embrace my love of things healthy and good in my food and home life if I also commit to supporting people that are providing sustainable goods in those areas. Then I’m letting money come into my life to flow through me and support things I believe in, things that NEED financial support to continue to exist in the consumer world.

          And I love Meg’s idea of brainstorming how you would give your money away if you had it. LOVE.

          And I love that this blog blows my mind with insight, honesty, and exploration of the deeper side of life every week. Meg, you are invaluable!!!!

    • CAMinSD

      I took a new job the month after I turned 27. The salary they offered me amounted to a 56 percent raise over what I had been making at the place I’d worked at for four years. There were other perks, too, like moving to a desireable part of the country and jumping to a newspaper with a much larger (read: prestigous) circulation. On the phone, when I told people, it sounded like a good move.

      There are still people very close to me that don’t know I accepted that offer without negotiating when I had three — THREE — other pending offers. (Three years later and I’m still shellshocked at how much the employment landscape has changed.) Anyway, I am simply too embarrassed to tell people whom I respect how stupid I was then. After all, it was only a 56 percent increase because my previous employer paid me less than $12 an hour after 4 years. And considering the massive slashing of benefits, unpaid overtime and socially crippling schedule that followed my start date, failing to negotiate my pay was one of the worst job decisions I’ve ever made.

      I don’t know about other industries, but there is a very pervasive “You should consider yourself lucky just to breathe newsroom air” attitude at some newspapers. Even though I’m making a few grand less a year now, the luckiest thing for me was getting out the industry on my own terms, when so many colleagues became “cuts.” That, and recognizing at least one mistake I won’t make again.

  • KristieB

    Maybe it is because I’m inching closer and closer to 30. Maybe it’s because I’ve been pretending I’m not ambitious for such a long time to stop other people from later being disappointed in me (and my amazing ability to quit things). Maybe it’s because I put a lot of things on hold (my education, moving away, starting my own business) in the past for crappy relationships. Maybe it is because I now have some financial stability, investments, a husband with a good job and other grown-up things. Or maybe it’s because I’m just sick of not living to my potential and people having pre-conceived notions that I’m someone I’m really not.

    In less than 2 weeks, I am moving to a new city. I will reinvent myself. I will no longer sell myself short. And, I will work my ass off to finally have the things I’ve always wanted.

    • I’m routing for you! Go to that new city and make yourself into the woman you want to be!

  • oh, and one more thing: ask for a bigger number than you expect. the worst thing is that they’ll say no, and that’s where you begin. Seriously. Think of what you want for salary, bump it up, and that’s where you begin. Go big.

    • This is so true. Ask for more than you want or would we willing to take. Because odds are they are going to counter, and if you start with your bare minimum you aren’t likely to get it.

      It’s hard to ask for a particularly salary I know. I’m uncomfortable talking money (although getting better at it). But the thing is, I’m uncomfortable with the conversation whatever the number is, so I might as well aim high, that way when they counter I’m still in the range I like.

      • “But the thing is, I’m uncomfortable with the conversation whatever the number is, so I might as well aim high,”

        Exactly, 1 billion times over!

    • Sept Bride

      I am so scared of this – especially when applying for jobs where they want your salary requirements upfront. I constantly want to lowball my skills, as the number I really want to say (what I make now + a little bump for what I am worth for my next job + plus that little bump anticipating negotiation) always seems SO high. I constantly worry that I won’t even get an interview because the employer is either laughing at my number or knows right away they can’t offer it. My husband says this is ridiculous – that I *can’t* take a job for any less that than number, so why sell myself short? I know he’s right, but I hate applying for a job, not getting an interview, and then second-guessing the number I gave in my application.

      • I actually never put my requirements in a cover letter (even if they specifically ask). I will only tell them in person/on the phone. That way, they are already interested in me (and I know that, which is a confidence booster) when I give a number. I got that advice once (I can’t remember when or where), and I think it has served me well. It’s an easy way to get in a stronger negotiating position (and those of us who hate to negotiate can use those boosts!)

        • ddayporter

          I have been told to do the same thing Carrie, but I freak a little when the job listing says right out “we will not consider your application if you do not include salary requirements.” I need to work on my bravery.

          • You can do it! It’s a little scary at first, I know, but if an employer is interested in you, they are going to contact you whether or not you put in salary requirements.

          • Say something that addresses it without specifics. Maybe something like My salary expectations are in line with industry standards and my skill set. Wordsmith it a bit, but just an idea.

        • K

          Ooooh, I like this. Will definitely use, thanks!

        • I’ve read that putting a range is a good tactic. But do your research so that you put competitive numbers.

      • Sarah

        Someone once gave me really good advice that I’ve always used when looking for jobs (and it’s never backfired to my knowledge). If a potential employer asks for your salary requirements before giving you an offer, say “I’m definitely interested in discussing salary, but I’d rather take on that subject once you have a better idea of why I have to offer and I have a better idea of what you’re looking for.” I’ve always just avoided the subject until I’ve been offered a salary (I even put that in writing if it’s on an application).

  • Hmm, this post is an interesting one. For starters, I’m definitely a low-baller – last year in grad school, a group of friends were talking about money and I said, “hey, I’m living on 12,000$ of student loans a year and I have a roof over my head and good food – I’d be happy with that much a year for the rest of my life!” and everyone had a similar reaction as what you just described, Meg. But I would never tie that amount to how I value myself – it’s simply that I had enough money at that point to meet my basic needs, and given the inequalities in the world, I didn’t feel any particular need to demand more.

    A year later, I’m now making quite a bit more than I ever thought I would, and it’s something I struggle with. It’s not that I don’t think I’m worth it – I am awesome at my job, and I love it – but I don’t need all this money, especially considering that I’d happily do this job for peanuts, because it makes me happy. I guess it comes from my environmentalist background, because I have a lot of issues with consumption in general, and in some ways I feel like my earlier stance has been vindicated – I really DON’T NEED this much money. It’s great that my employer thinks I’m worth that, but I didn’t need to have a dollar amount affixed to me to know that I’m smart and will be successful in this career.

    So it’s great that you just described money as something to flow through you, because that’s what I’m trying to figure out. How can I use this surplus to support things I care about, and be generous, and help my community? How can I use money to support my values? And most important, how can I keep this attitude in the face of a social dialogue that urges me to spend it all on ephemeral consumer goods because “I’m worth it?” How can I maintain my graduate school lifestyle and enable others to follow their dreams, despite that theirs don’t pay as well as mine?

    • meg

      So figure it out!

      I think of it this way: someone is going to have the money. So, I’d prefer that someone had it that was going to redistribute it in a way I thought was awesome, and build great things with it. Bottom line: I like to make money, because then I can re-distribute it in-line with my values. I like other women doing rad things (blogging, small businesses, etc), to make money, because I think *they* do rad things with it.

      Every time you low-ball yourself (“I just need $12K”) you’re passing on ALL KINDS of money that you could use to do good in the world. So maybe, to start, make a list of all the things you would do if you had unlimited money. Maybe you’d put a kid through college, maybe you’d build and orphanage, maybe you’d invest in small businesses (by buying things from them or investing cash in them), maybe, maybe, maybe. And don’t think of it as, “I’m a nurturer so I have to give this money away.” Think of it as building something. If you just give a small business $10K, you no longer have access to that money. If you *invest* $10K, then they have money to grow, and you make profits that you can re-invest in other businesses. And it can be less literal – if you put a kid through school, you’re investing in all the great things they can create in the future.

      Then, once you’ve drawn up that massive list,think about A) What you can do, or start to do with the money you have. and B) If you’d like to get more money to do some of the other stuff.

      And on a less earnest more fun level, David told me the other day that, yeah, money is energy flow, in that it flows from hand to hand and we expend energy to get it. And, since David likes cool stuff, he pointed out that the rad thing about money passing through your hands, is that you get to collect cool side benefits before passing it on ;) True.

      • Class of 1980

        Melissa Etheridge was on The Joy Behar Show recently. Joy wanted to know what Melissa thought about Rush Limbaugh paying Elton John one million dollars to sing at his wedding. Some people were saying Elton was a sell out for doing so.

        Melissa said something brilliant and I’ll paraphrase. She said you could think of it another way. By accepting a million dollars from Rush Limbaugh, you would be taking it AWAY from someone you think is harmful and funneling it into what you think is helpful. You are transforming the situation and the money is flowing to a better place.

        I loved the concept.

      • Meg, you’re so smart. I AM going to make a list of these things I can invest in within my community, and then start doing what I can.

        I have to admit as well that I’m not still living *entirely* like a student now – we can finally afford a dog! :D And of course we do have to pay BACK those pesky student loans…

        • meg

          Start by doing what you can, but what I’m really saying is, start dreaming about being able to do MUCH MORE. See how that changes your thinking. Say, “What if I could do every single thing on this list?” See what the answer is.

  • Liz A

    Dudes. I just signed up for a magazine writing class. Because of this post. Because I got called out on my own [imaginary] road blocks. Because signing up for the class, I’m saying yes instead of saying no. I’m tired of being embarassed when people ask if I’m writing and I say no and really what I’m saying is I’m so f*ing scared to fail that I don’t try.

    Monday. It starts Monday. And now I have to do it.


    • Sarah



    • Kashia

      YAY! That is so awesome! Best of luck, you are going to rock!

    • Caitlin

      YAY!!!!!! you’re awesome– way to jump those road blocks!

    • meg

      I’ve failed a lot. I think that’s part of what taught me how to survive, and what then taught me how to build things. So go, do it. And if you fail, figure out why, and then start again.

    • Liz A

      Thanks, ladies. For serious, this is some great community going on today. I e-hug you all.

  • I feel like this was totally written for me, but, obviously, it speaks to women everywhere.

    As a writer, I think I have been sold the idea that I’m not supposed to amount to much, even if I’m talented. I’m constantly told that I will always be the starving artist if I pursue a writing career, and that even if I am successful, “to be great is to be misunderstood.”

    And this is not so hard to swallow if you are single. But if you’re like me, devoted to loving and caring for a man who, at 21, is speaking at conferences, winning awards, and doing scientific research, and has dreams of becoming a surgeon, you begin to feel a bit deflated. I can’t shake the feeling that our partnership will always feel uneven. And caring and nurturing come naturally because I love him, but I often find myself becoming anxious about it, as if it’s a responsibility….as if it’s the only thing of value I’m bringing to the table.

    • meg

      DUDE! I’m a writer! I make money, I’m speaking at conferences (starting soon), and being successful. That’s such a load of bullsh*t that people are selling you, and you have to stop buying it. OF COURSE you can be successful. You’re talented. Now go, do this thing.

    • ML

      I’m with you (but also working against my line of thinking)! I’ve been an assistant (albeit in a “glam” industry) for the past two years, and I just left that job to work for a startup that is giving me a billion things to be responsible to. I’m excited about that, empowered even, but there’s still a little voice in my head that says “dude over here is a brilliant musician and his hard, hard work means thousands of people experience what he creates with his time and connect to him through it”. And that seems REALLY powerful in comparison to what I’m bringing to the proverbial career table.

      It’s hard to shake, but we have to shake it, for the sake of our sannnity!

  • Lor

    The whole article made sense to me with this sentence,

    “Think of all those projects that could have been created, those businesses that could have thrived, that money that could be flowing back into our communities.”

    I snapped and got it – and it makes so much sense.

    Thanks Meg.

    It gives me hope that one day I will open up that bakery!

    • Meredith

      I totally want to open a bakery…well more of a tea shop bakery. It’s almost the same.

  • I love all of these amazingly supportive comments. I love that this is a community where we can cheer each other on. I wish the cheering was as easy as the doing, as easy as holding your head up and knowing you’re worth more. And shockingly, I think it’s even harder to be supportive of women and women’s worth in the real world, off the comments page, off the forums. So many times women tend to pull each other down when we should be a continuous support system. I really want the notion that you can’t have a family and a career and a self all at once to stop, that you’re a bad mother if work, or your a bad individual if you’re a mother, or your a bad employee etc. if you have children. I really think those archaic ideas will melt away with louder more supportive voices. Keep going!

  • tupelohoney

    Because of this post and comments, I just followed up with my boss about a promotion. We had talked about it a few months ago and then I never heard anymore from her about it or the progress to submit the paperwork requesting the promotion. It’s been in the back of my mind for weeks to follow-up, but for some reason I didn’t. Afraid I don’t deserve it?… But deep down I think I do. Thanks, Meg and everyone, for the reminder that we need to ask for these things!!

  • Yes, yes, and yes.

    This has been resonating for me since the weekend as well, how we hamper ourselves. It’s especially rife in the creative fields—so often people think that because their work is passion-based, they don’t need to be compensated well for it.

    And I continually wonder why we are not taught negotiation skills in school. That would have been much more useful than some of the classes I took. Especially as a woman. Even though I was raised by a single mother who supported us all, I somehow caught the message that I was not to blow my own horn, not to ask for too much, not to make anyone uncomfortable. In fact, best not to talk about money at all.

    This weekend, this post and others, is making me take a really hard look at that. It’s time to do things differently.

    Thanks for a further kick in the pants!

    • vanesa

      This discussion is so apropos.
      I just quit my job to move to a new city with my husband. He got a totally sweet job at a software startup which was the impetus for the move – I’m unemployed and struggling with feelings of guilt over my current lack-of-income. I’ve always wanted to be an artist, but never fully allowed myself that dream because – you know, they don’t make any money supposedly. It felt, and still feels irresponsible to go after it – even though financially, we’re fine. Perhaps this is at the core of the reason why women are still underrepresented in creative professions – even though it seems most undergraduate departments are packed with female art majors. To succeed, I know I need to stuff away my good-girl-guilt and immodestly hustle – but it’s definitely a struggle to overcome!

      • meg

        I, on the other hand, love a good hustle. You should try it. It’s REALLY fun.

      • That idea that being an artist means you will never make money is such a hurdle! I am working on getting over that one myself right now – its double because if you *are* successful with your art, then you are accused of selling out. I made up a slogan for a gallery where I used to work, that I am trying to keep in mind more these days: Starving artists are only romantic in the movies.

        There are plenty of successful artists – commercial, illustrators, fine art in galleries. I am sure they are no more talented than you or I, they just had the guts to go for it!

      • anon

        Check out the book ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron – it has a whole chapter on artists and money (and teaching yourself how to be an artist who makes money!) that I’ve found incredibly supportive, graceful, inspirational, and wise in multiple readings over multiple years. She also talks about the flow of money as energy a la Meg’s post.

        This is a wonderful discussion, all. Very apropos as I am about to move to a new country and start looking for a job/getting paid for my art!

  • Liz

    i do sort of wonder about the “having it all” concept that a gal can both be a giant in her career and also be a kickass mom. i’m not wondering if it CAN happen (duh- sure)- i’m just wondering aloud if we put alot of pressure on ourselves when we assume a woman cannot be fulfilled by pursuing just one of these.

    (also, this is coming from a lady who is 5 months pregnant and fully intends to spend the next year hardcore pursuing her doctorate AND her upstart business. so. i’m clearly not opposed to the idea of a working mom)

    • i’ve often wondered about this to, like I think it can work, but do I want it do it? And the answer changes with the day, and I’m left really confused. I mean, I have quite a bit of time before I’m planning on little babies, but the questions are there.

      But what gives me peace, and what i’ve realized as I got older, is that you can change your mind. You can adjust your life to what works for you now, now what works for other people or what you thought was going to work for you when you were young or pre-baby, or pre-whatever. If you want to be a mom who has a career, do it. and if you are there and you want to be a mom who is at home, do it. i know there’s a lot of real-life things that sometimes make those decisions for us, and i think i’m being very ineloquent, but i guess i’m just trying to say that i’m okay that i don’t have the answer now and i trust myself to find my way to the answer when the time comes.

    • Marina

      As someone who doesn’t have a high-powered career OR a child right now… I think it should be about what we want, each of us, deeply. If imagining yourself working hard in your career and being a kickass mom gives you joy, I think hell yes you should go for it. If imagining yourself focusing more on one or the other gives you more joy, though, then hell yes you should go for that.

      I guess my point is that it matters less what’s right for “a woman” and more what’s right for each individual. Although I did read a thing that said some very large percentage of mothers said that if money were no issue, they would choose to work part time. There is a very definite value in work, both in the cultural sense and in the sense of individual accomplishment.

    • Erin

      I do believe it is a lot of pressure. But I think this (from Meg):
      “I’ve been thinking a lot about self-worth. I’ve been thinking about how as women we often undervalue ourselves, our life stories, and what we’re capable of, and that leads to lost potential. We think, “I can’t do that, I can’t dream that big, I’m being selfish to even think about this, I don’t deserve to earn (or have my company earn) that much money, I shouldn’t have delusions of grandeur.” ”

      ….doesn’t just have to be about a career/family balance, or even just a career. It can also be just about the woman who stays home to raise her family. How might she undervalue her contribution, her capabilities, what her time and labor is worth? To turn it around, what might her big dreams be? What limits them, what keeps her from saying that her goals are just as valuable and can contribute as much as her partner’s, or her women peers with careers?

      This is another area where we should be able to build up our friends and sisters, instead of tearing them down — not just supporting the dreams that generate money, but those that enhance our perceptions of our self-worth regardless of vocation.

      • meg

        Amen, sister.

      • Marina

        OMG yes.

      • Liz

        totally. and i guess that’s what i’m wondering- can’t we encourage fulfillment no matter the venue? i think sometimes the hard press for “work+family” devalues the ability to be fulfilled in just one of those arenas- namely, staying home for family. (we usually consider the working woman more “fulfilled”)

        • meg

          Dude. Did you not see my final footnote??

          • Liz

            bahaha. i deleted the part in my comment where i said, “WHICH I KNOW WE TALK ABOUT ON APW ALL THE TIIIIME.” because i was like. meh. they know that.

            i’m not responding to what you said meg- cause. uh. i don’t think you and i ever disagree? like? ever?

            i’m responding to some comments. and thinking aloud. and hyped up on accidental caffeine, which my body isn’t so used to. (i said DECAF, damn barista)

          • Liz

            ….i guess what i mean is i’m going to be both breadwinner and caregiver in 5 short months and it scares the POOP out of me.

            i know it can be done. and i’m going to give it a shot.

            but scared poopless nonetheless.

        • K

          “fulfillment no matter the venue”
          EXACTLY x 100

          Though…. the next step is defining that for myself… no easy task with so many unexplored options in the world!

      • Marchelle

        This is what I was thinking. Only a thousand times more eloquent.

  • Wow, how topical for me right now. Thank you.

  • Marina

    This is serendipitous for me today. On the train ride in to work, I was reading The Fertile Female by Julia Indichova. It’s a little hippy-dippy so far, a little too much guided imagery for my taste, but her general point is that women who are diagnosed as infertile need to stop thinking that they’re broken, worthless, helpless, that they don’t deserve a child. When instead they ask themselves what THEY think, not what their doctors think, and how they want their lives to change when they have a baby, what they’re waiting for or putting off or leaving up to luck, then their path to pregnancy or adoption or childlessness becomes more clear. (One paraphrased quote: “I may or may not become pregnant, but I’ll definitely be the healthiest I’ve been in my life.”)

    I’m not sure how much I agree with her when it comes to fertility specifically, (I’m only a couple chapters in to the book) but I think the larger point is so true. Meg, when you posted about life lists a little while back, I wrote my own, and one of the items on it was “Start a business and break even.” Break even!? What was I thinking??? I want to start a business and make it grow, pay enough to support myself and my family, enough for me to do the things I’m really good at and love while hiring other people to do the things I’m not interested in doing.

    If I don’t say I want to do it–if I don’t set a goal that’s specific and measurable with clear steps to move myself closer to it–my chances of actually doing it diminish drastically. I have nothing to lose except complacency.

  • ka

    Aaah, this post is blowing my mind with its perfect timing today. I cannot wait to get off work (where I should be earning, ahem, my money right now), and read the comments. But in the meantime, I want to draw a quick wedding parallel: On Monday, we received a large, budgeted-related setback and I went through a whole gamut of emotions, settling on guilt at myself for wanting a stunning and [relatively] pricey wedding venue. But then I read this about the Mighty Summit : “They had said yes to life, they had asked for what they wanted, they had taken risks and worked past the fear.” and I thought about it some more. And I realized that stepping up and coming up with that extra couple $k to pay for what I want isn’t wrong or greedy, it’s knowing what I want and going out and getting it. And if I don’t start doing this now, for the wedding, then when will I start!?!

    • ka

      (I would also like to add that a new goal has been added to my life list : rock a turban!)

  • Shantel

    I love this. So true and has inspired me. Thanks.

  • Thank you for this. I’ve been thinking along these lines a bit the last week or so. And I think getting married has actually helped me recognize my self-worth even more.

    I’ve recently been given a rather high honor for what I do. And while I’m walking around wondering what it was I did that made me worthy of it and why anyone would think so highly of me, my husband is walking around right next to me and telling me how awesome I am and how great I am at what I do and pointing out all the ways I stand out and the reasons I definitely deserve this honor. He makes me feel confident, amazing, and beautiful. Why in the world wouldn’t I be worthy of this honor?

    I know my family believes in me. I’ve always had a good self-esteem. But now there’s someone out there who believed enough in me to marry me too. It’s nice to spend my life with someone who pushes me like that.

  • No time to read through the comments now, but a few years ago I sat in on a conference by the authors of “Women Don’t Ask” and I realized I was totally shortchanging myself career wise … http://www.amazon.com/Women-Dont-Ask-Negotiation-Strategies/dp/0553383876/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1285263984&sr=8-2-fkmr1

    They make the point that women often set themselves up to think in terms of “need” rather than “deserve”. So you figure out the minimum you can get by on in a year and then you settle for that, rather than thinking about what you deserve to be paid. So interesting.

    Also loved some of the sections on negotiating as a female in a world where negotiation is typically male. Women tend to negotiate differently, seeking a consensus solution rather than a win/lose situation. And that can actually be an advantage, although it is tough in male dominated scenarios. I need to re-read the book, actually.

  • Marchelle

    I love Cecily’s scepticism at the ‘California talk’. That would so be me as well.

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the relationship between self worth and money. Interestingly, not because I have any problems in thinking that I deserve more – it was always my intention to scale the heights of my profession and maximise my earning potential, and I’ve always valued myself highly – but rather, I’ve been having difficulty appreciating that unpaid labour in terms of childcare (that free nurturing you were talking about), could be seen to be equally valuable. Seen by whom? I haven’t figured that out yet. But I felt that scaling back my earning power would automatically make me worth less.

    I agree that this unhelpful approach to the relationship between money & self worth is gendered. My husband plans to take time out to do a PhD, during which his earning potential will fall. This doesn’t bother him in at all the same way that contemplating maternity leave & part-time work at a reduced salary bothers me.

    So, yeah. I know this comment sounds a bit random & tangential, but this post feels very relevant to my issues, and is good food for thought.

    • meg

      See the comment above about women not self-valuing when they are doing childcare (OR GROWING A HUMAN), and other women ripping them down too. Learning to value ourselves, whatever our job is at the moment, is HUGE. And hard work.

  • K

    Ok, what about TIMING??

    To explain, I am an engineer — Through some industry research and talking to peers, I have come to the conclusion that I AM underpaid, but I don’t believe the TIMING is right to make a move — my particular engineering industry has taken a big hit with the recession and about 30% of the classmates that I graduated with are currently unemployed.

    When is it time to just keep your nose to the grindstone and be grateful for what you DO have, if the economic climate is unfavorable to the change you want to make. As a CHOICE made in CONTEXT, not a self-imposed “glass ceiling.”

    • Marina

      Yeeeeeeah, that sounds REALLY familiar. :)

      What I’m trying to do is not only keep my nose to the grindstone but keep my ear to the ground for other opportunities, both to increase my current wage and to increase my future earning potential and my network of future contacts. I’m also trying to find the people who are getting paid what I want to be paid (and they are out there!) and trying to figure out how they got there and how I can copy them.

    • Liz

      i think you nailed it with the “choice made in context” bit. it’s not a matter of devaluing yourself as much as realizing you’ve got the best of what’s out there.

      like i mentioned above, my husband is a graphic/web designer. and that industry is taking a BIG hit right now. he’s in grad school, has years of experience and a solid portfolio- but noone is biting.

      at the same time, though, we discussed that he will NOT be taking the jobs he’s offered- which expect him to do a ton of design work for less than he’s making at the mall (literally). it’s a case by case thing, i guess.

    • K

      @ Marina, I definitely agree with keeping the “ear to the ground”! Not trying to force a change when it’s not there, but then having the courage to jump when opportunity comes and not letting it pass by!

      @ Liz, I like how you say “best of what’s out there” — it’s a complicated calculation, but sometimes it means taking a risk, staying where you’re at, foregoing an offer, pushing for more… yes. Case-by-case.

  • This entry really makes my day. I’ve been going through a rough time since raising prices where I almost feel like I haven’t been worth what I’m charging as a freelancer of sorts. When I worked in corporate America I always negotiated a higher salary, and always got it when it came to when I was hired and when raises came about, now that I’m on my own, it’s scary.

    One of the biggest fears is of failure to make it on my own at my worth, combined with family who doesn’t find value in what I do and it’s an uphill battle when things are going bad. I know there’s ups and downs in every industry but man it does take a toll on what I feel my self-worth is.

    • Jo

      Kara, It sounds like you totally and completely rock. I, and I’m sure others here, are rooting for you in both areas. Good luck!

      • Thanks! I really appreciate it :) Sometimes I think we all need someone to tell us how awesome we are, we rock, and then take a day of gracious living to feel better about the parts where we’re down in!

  • Ali

    Just a few weeks ago, a company I worked for in high school and college contacted me to see if I would come back to work for them. My fiance and I got really excited about potentially moving back to my home city. I spoke with the V.P. and told him what I was looking for financially in order to leave my job.

    Then they gave me an offer for 15% less than what I’m making at my current job. I called up the President and told him that I wasn’t going to leave my job to come work for less. He acted like they didn’t realize their offer was less than I was making, and that they would get back to me. The next day, the V.P. called again and tried to convince me that what they were offering me was enough.

    It wasn’t. And I flat out told him so. In my profession, I’m used to getting the short end of the stick because I’m a female in a male-dominated industry. But there was no way I was going to let a company that knows my qualifications de-value me by offering me less than I’m already making. In reality – they should’ve been offering me even more money.

    This article just confirms that I did the right thing, even though it means that my fiance and I are still stuck in Houston, with no friends/family here. I stood up for my self worth.

    • Arachna

      That really sucks and good on you for standing your ground. I think its key key to know that yeah, sometimes standing up for yourself shows no immediate apparent benefit – sometimes it doesn’t work out. But its still the right thing to do. And its the right thing for your future. Maybe, in a couple of years they’ll have more money and a different position and will think of you again – and if you they think of you they’ll think of someone who costs more/is valuable. And your reputation, both internal and external should be that you are worth a lot.

      • Sarah

        I bet you get another call from them with an even better job offer within the year. Seen it happen.

    • Liz

      YEP. power to ya, lady.

  • Calumnia

    This post gave me the push I needed to ask my employer for a reference for grad school. I work in non-profit (does anyone have any statistics for the % of women who choose non-profit work), graduated into the recession of 2008, and regularily catch myself making statements about how financially secure I feel making $21,000 a year. More money would just mean being financially secure for the future, not just this week. I won’t take unpaid or poorly paid freelance work, but somehow I convince myself that I’m lucky to be making $12.50/hr. Grad school is a leap of faith in my self-worth. I didn’t do a related undergrad and the program is a professional program where experience counts, so I’m competing against people who could afford to do unpaid internships feeding orphans in Bolivia. I’m going to have to talk myself up like woah in the application. The worst thing that happens is I wasted $500 in application fees. I think I’m worth it.

    • Sarah

      A great way to help your chances is to look on the program’s website for one of the professors whose research sounds interesting, read a few articles by them and then contact the professor saying why you really want the opportunity to work with them (their article about blah, blah, blah was so brilliant, blah, blah). Ask if they have any advice about reading or work that you could be doing to prepare yourself for the program and/or to make yourself more competitive (you don’t really need to do the reading or work, don’t worry). Make sure s/he knows your name and then name drop him/her in your application (“I was drawn to this program because of Dr. Blah’s work on Blah). It will help ENORMOUSLY.

  • Umm… hell yes. This is EXACTLY what I needed to hear today.

    (even better being from someone who actually has helped and supported me along the way- despite my fears of asking for help :)

  • Oh Meg, where have you been all my life? This is spot-on.

  • ddayporter

    I’m kind of in this strange place where I actually think my current salary is more than I’m worth – or at least, more than the job is worth. I mean I have time to read this blog and hundreds of comments all day, clearly I’m not working too hard over here. And it’s not like the work is suffering, I just have that little to do. It’s driving me bonkers and it’s seriously killing my self esteem, it feels like my work ethic is eroding and I’m turning into a lump of goo. At my previous job I worked my a** off and every penny I made felt earned. Now I just feel guilty for not fessing up that my position really should be part-time. But I’m supporting my husband through grad school, the job market is really rough around here, who would be crazy enough to ask to be cut down to part-time??

    so yeah I’m job hunting. and I have noooo idea how much to ask for (because everyone is demanding that you list salary requirements or they’re throwing out your application). I’m terrified to take a risk and make a move into something more meaningful for myself, because you know, “oh I can’t do that, who am I kidding.”

    BUT I’m also taking a class to start satisfying prereqs for grad school (your life list post from a while ago finally gave me the kick in the pants to do this). I may be frozen in this ridiculous job at the moment but I see a light burning a few years ahead. My husband was definitely instrumental in convincing me I was good enough for grad school, but without the APW community I don’t know how the hell long it would have taken me to take a step in that direction.

    • Shelly

      Ha! Your first paragraph made me laugh because that’s the exact situation I was in. Plus lots of hulu watching. Except that I quit my job this week because I’m preparing to move (this week) in advance of my wedding (next week!) – after a few years of doing the long distance thing.

      I don’t know about you, but I found that the boredom and ease of workload definitely plays down my sense of worth as a contributor/creator/worker. It has made me question my usual go-get-’em attitude, and makes me wonder if I’ll find work that drives and motivates me again.

      • ddayporter

        aahhh Shelly those are my feelings exactly. it’s the most icky sensation. we can still be go-getters!!

        best of luck with the move and have a great wedding! and high-fiiiive for quitting that job.

    • Liz

      ME TOO (like, two months ago)

      and now i’m busting my ass at a job i love for a measly little paycheck. and feel SO fulfilled.

      what helped me through that first job, though, was hardcore pursuing other “careerish” goals. because i felt like my day-job was a waste of my oxygen

      • ddayporter

        I’m glad you got out of your soul-sucking job. :) I’m feeling better already, just taking this one class.

      • Erin

        Oooohhhh been there. I’m still not quite in a soul-satisfying job, but I had to make huge pre-wedding transitions like DDay & Shelly: quit my former soul-sucking job, moved to the same state as my husband, got married, found job that PAYS. Now BREATHING.

        And I finally feel like I can start pursuing those “careerish” projects & self-improvement. It’s really nice to kind’ve be re-born, with all my former experience and training, into a new place that excites me into exploring new possibilities.


      I’ve been very fortunate in some ways, that most of the jobs I’ve held in my career so far haven’t been too stressful. At times, yes, but by in large, not at all. (Oddly enough, the job where I busted my a** was at a non-profit, where I didn’t make nearly as much money for doing a lot more work. So it goes, eh?) While I certainly hate to complain, it’s definitely had a negative effect on my work ethic. I’m almost itching to get out of my current job, simply because I feel as if I’m not doing what I’m capable of, and I almost feel that it’ll be that much harder to actually work again. It’s not as if I feel that I’m not worth what I’m paid, it’s that my position isn’t what I’m worth, if that makes sense.

      Marina used the word ‘complacency’ in her post earlier; when I read it, I was like, ooooohhhhh. That’s what I feel. Complacent. But I’m kind of stuck at the moment for a variety of reasons. I’ve been thinking about doing stuff on the side, although I find it difficult to motivate myself when it’s not necessary.

      It’s also difficult for me because I never really placed that much emphasis on my CAREER — I am well educated and have always aimed to have “good” jobs that pay well enough, but never thought I’d be particularly powerful or high up in my line of work. Not because I ever thought I couldn’t be, but because I don’t know if I ever particularly wanted to. Which puts me in a really weird position, and I’m not sure where to go from here.

      It’s been interesting to read other women comment and discuss their work in relation to their worth, both monetarily and otherwise.

  • Heather

    Thank you, Meg, for introducing this discussion. As a soon-to-be clinical psychologist in graduate school and someone in the business of helping people*, I have all too often caught myself saying things like, “Oh, I just want enough money to be able to buy black slacks when I need them.” Or, “These people need help! How will they get help if they have to pay?”

    Oh, yes. I have thought these things. And then one of my very smart, witty, successful, supervisors taught me differently. Only recently, as I begin to think about obtaining a “real” job, have I really thought about what she said. It was very much along the lines of your post. Yes, I have a skill that helps people…and yes, it happens to be a skill that is also nurturing BUT, my skill set is worth something. Would I suggest that my physician work for free? (Well, actually I suppose I have negotiated a bill by applying for assistance, but that’s a different subject.) Would I expect that my car mechanic fix my car for free?

    So, how do I reconcile my “bleeding heart” with a need to pay the bills and a want for much more? In private practice, I could designate a certain amount of time as pro bono. And then in my research, by demanding my worth and putting a price on what I have to offer, I hope that I can share what I learn, thereby helping people. By understanding and acknowledging my worth, by not being afraid of “no” or a negotiation, I can earn grants, I can do the research I want to do as a way of giving to the community.

    Thank you for bringing me back to these lessons!

    *I say this knowing that many, many, many other professions are about helping people.

  • This post (and alllll the comments) hit so close to home that I can’t come up with anything eloquent to say, except, thank you.

  • I love you Meg. Serious girl-crush happening right here. :) And I love all the amazingly smart women who hang out here (y’all inspire me daily).

    This post is timely and oh-so-needed. Why do we think doing what we love and what comes naturally to us isn’t worth money? That we should give it all away for free without question? That it couldn’t *possibly* be a career because it’s what we love?

    Thank you. (What a woefully inadequate two words for what I feel.)


  • ML

    Thanks meg, and other beautiful ladies out there. Reading all of this felt like taking one. deep. breath.

  • Eat Broccoli

    So I was having a conversation with my co-worker last week. I work for a small ( ie three people) company in the health care field ( ie we are occupational therapists and provide a service). Our billing rate has gone up recently, but our boss hasn’t really offered to pass this on to us in our hourly wage ( our boss is also female). We discussed asking for a raise, both of use are really uncomfortable doing so. There is this stereotype that we are in health care to help others, not get paid. We are already going against the “norm of OTs by working in the private sector ad not working for the local hospital ( and thus belonging to a union).
    I feel like I went to school for a LONG time and have all these crazy good skills to do my job, but no one ever told me how to go about asking for a raise. Like its not something I should be doing! Google wasn’t much help either!

    • K

      Yeah! They have lots of resume writing tips, but what about tips on asking for a raise!!

      I honestly don’t know how to get up the guts to walk into the office to ask…

      …but I’d say first start with research — what are other OTs (if there are other private OTs) in the area making? Exactly how much have rates gone up? Have there been any new expenses added for the company that this profit needs to cover first? (recent move, new software…etc) Have any other employees been hired/gotten raises? (a good sign that business is good and a good sign that they should share the wealth with you!)…

      I’d say if you break it down into comparisons and calcs, at least you’ll be confident that when your boss asks “Why?” you’ll have some pretty damn good evidence to back you up!

  • My best friend, who has never had any trouble earning good money coached me pretty well on asking for a good salary, she always told me that if it doesn’t feel extremely uncomfortable while I’m asking, than I’m not asking for enough. This advice has served me in good stead during my sojurn in corporate America (or corporate Europe as it were)

    Last year when I told my boss I was overdue for a promotion and a raise, I was given the promotion and a ‘raise’ which was really an cost of living adjustment for inflation. My prompt response was ‘Is this a f*cking joke? (I don’t recommend this approach to everyone) I then proceeded to make a lot of noise and bust out my saved arsenal of emails and comments from colleagues and superiors that I had collected over the last year telling me how awesome I am, along with a Power Point (complete with pie charts and stats!) describing all the ways I had majorly kicked a**. I then proceeded to methodically send them to all of the people that mattered, and kept bugging my boss – and then I got my g*dd*mn raise, dammit.


    When it comes to my own business, all this machisima just evaporates. I have no idea if I’m underpricing or overpricing and it feels much more personal – I’m selling things to actual people (brides no less!) – and I don’t want to seem like I’m trying to gank people. It’s a lot different than making sure I get my fair share from The Man.

    Sometimes it helps to just think about what I want and need – and then price backwards from that. I am sick to my teeth of the corporate world (and am basically about to leave it) but I LIKE MONEY. I’m not ashamed to say it, and not even so I can be saintly and give it to other people (although I do that too.) My husband and I have been living as DINKS (double income no kids) for the last few years with no debt and no mortgage, etc. and it’s been FREAKING GREAT! We were able to do what we want and still save enough money over a year and a half to take six months off to travel and just ‘hang.’ Everything’s relative, we live under our means (in a one bedroom apartment) but we have traveled all over the place, don’t even blink when friends announce some junket in the Alps or in Berlin or in New York. We eat good food and drink nice wine. My husband buys his gadgets and I can stockpile my cash. I don’t want to give any of this up.

    Now, as I’m writing this I’m starting think ‘Everyone is going to think I’m some kind of a**hole’ I guess my only point in writing this is to say – I really enjoy life and some of things that money brings. I don’t think I’m an extravagant person, but life is too short to be worried about and/or restricted by money and I really don’t ever want to go back to living like a student. My enjoyment and appreciation of these things is what motivates me to try and make sure I’m valuing myself and pricing my work correspondingly.

    So loving to travel and being kind of a glutton. My recipe for making sure you get paid what your worth!

    • Class of 1980

      I know what you mean by two different situations.

      We have two sides to our business. One side sells to individual people in real need, so we keep the prices as low as we can. The other side sells to businesses with plenty of money, so even though our price is better than what they usually get, we still make a lot.

      Yeah, the customer situation does matter.

    • Englyn

      Your best friend’s advice is brilliant and I will have to remember that.

      Also, is machisma a word? I get the feeling it wasn’t before, but it is now that you’ve written it, and an awesome one too.

  • Sarah

    I’m in an odd situation … part “wtf, why is *insert name here, working the same position* making so much more?” and part what DDay talking about: “I have so much free time, how is it I am getting paid this?”. In my case, one led to the other.

    Turns out, I can do all my work, DAMN WELL, and still have time to fool around. Play on the interwebs, read and comment (and read all the comments) on APW, daydream. Which for a really long time made me feel like I was being a lazy slob, and never going to accomplish what I knew I could.

    Then we get a transfer from corporate who’d been recently promoted out of my position (or rather, the same position I have). And he constantly says what a rockstar I am for handling everything I do … turns out, I do double the amount of work he was doing. And saying I’m fantastic at it all. Which is SOOOOOO heartening … I’m not being lazy, I’m just rocking it and having the time to relax.

    But why, then, when we get into a discussion about timesheets (he being new in our office and all) I come to find out (totally by accident) that he’d been making (in my position) significantly more than I am?

    It’s a freaking double edged sword. I’m getting both sides of it. I negotiated when I came in, and am happy with my salary … so why do I get the feeling that I totally got low-balled?

    • Mertem

      How annoying to realize you were lowballed like that, and that your work product is so much better! Can you go to your boss and say, “I do awesome work, I want to take on more responsibility and get paid more, also”?

      Makes me feel lucky to work for the federal government… the pay structure (for most, at least) is totally transparent!

      • Sarah

        Sadly, my boss is on my side with this. I say sadly because the pay structure is not up to her … it’s a small company, so the CFO makes the pay decisions for all employees. He, of course is at corporate and doesn’t see my work.


        On the plus side … January is right around the corner. At that point I will (and she will!) push for a significant raise. It’s nice to have someone on my side about it. =)

        • that’s a load if i’ve ever heard one. get documentation of your (excellent) work, get industry/job standards, and say you’d like to have a conversation with her, and if the CFO is making your pay decisions, it might not be a bad idea for him/her to attend as well. remember, cheaper for them to give you a raise then see you leave and have to hire/train someone else. go for it!

        • rereading my comment, i thought it came out wrong. when is said “load” i meant that the person in charge of your compensation doesn’t see your work and its used as an excuse for you not to get paid what is fair. not that you/your boss are per say at fault. i just think that even if it’s a small company, fair is fair and in the long run, paying good money for good employees will make their small company be super profitable. and waiting until January, if you get a 10% raise on a $40K salary, but you could have been eligible 3 months ago, you just un-earned $1,000. which is a load of some baloney, because your raise is deserved for work you’re doing now.

  • There is such great discussion here already – and I’m only going to add my two cents by saying I wish that women were encouraged to think of the benefits of their jobs in a more tangible sense. Women (primarily) more than men are sold the ’emotional fulfillment’ line as a way to supplement the reality of the lesser income.

    But, I’ll tell you one thing – from being in the nonprofit and super for-passion world…. nothing says THANK YOU like some extra zeros on my paycheck. And I’m not talking about selling out. I’m talking about being appreciated. And honestly – the whole ‘we’re nurturers and we give without getting’ thing that women do to themselves is TOTALLY us (women) using some made up, socially correct moral high ground to look down on a lady who is goin’ to get hers.

    There is nothing wrong with making money. There is nothing wrong with taking less money because you’re working on your passion. There is nothing wrong with being a mom whose compensation is a complicated mass of societal head nodding and baby smiles.

    There IS something wrong with women who pressures/guilts/finger wags at another woman (or person, really) for pursuing, fully, the means by which they are the most fulfilled. It’s all a balance, really – no one salary, nor job title would make me 100% happy without lots of other factors in the mix… I imagine we’re all the same kind of complex.

    • meg

      F*cking yes.

  • Katie

    This post helped me get off my booty and apply for a job at a company I REALLY love (in a new city where we want to live!) but was worried I was not qualified. I AM qualified, would do an awesome job, and really want to work there. So…thanks. :)

  • Ms.Greenjeanz

    I relied on this site to keep me sane while I prepared for my wedding (it did btw) and actually thought I might be addicted when I started to check in after the wedding, but today I know why I come back…because beyond the wedding, this site is about so much more than I realized and I continue to gain insight on what is important to me. Thank you Meg.

  • Z

    Wow, is this ever timely. A few months ago I did a short contract with a company, worked my arse off, enjoyed it a lot, and walked away to cries of “please can she stay?!”. Since then I’ve been back on the unemployment line (except I don’t qualify for benefits, seeing as I am a foreigner). Earlier this week, the company emailed me to ask if I was interested in having the job on a permanent basis. For less money. The contract is actually the same – same benefits, same entitlements (sick leave etc) as the previous contract, it’s just less money. More responsibility, less money. I agonised over it for hours and hours (and a whole sleepless night) and eventually wrote a very nice, polite email reply asking if there might be room in the package for an offer more commensurate with my experience (for the record, the salary was a basic starting wage, I have 6 years previous experience in the industry)? I was quite literally shaking as I pressed send, I thought I was going to puke. Because, truthfully? I am so in debt and so broke I’d have taken the first offer, but I forced myself to value my skills more than that. That was Tuesday.

    The response? Complete, and total, silence.

    I tell myself they are considering their options, weighing up their next move. In my heart I’m thinking “oh sh*t, I scared them off, and now I’m back to eating beans and noodles.”

    I have found the experience enlightening. I moved continents about a year ago to pursue what I though were more exciting career options overseas. And while it’s true that the industry (publishing) is a hundred times bigger and more diverse here (UK) than at home (AUS) it’s also true that it’s more competitive. What I don’t get, is that salary levels are about a third of what they are back home. And not by exchange rate, by taking into account cost of living and all the rest. Time and time again I’ve been struck by the attitude of employers that is almost as if you should be thanking them for singling you out as worthy of working for them, big, prestigious Company xyz of the publishing glitterati. As if being able to claim it on your CV should be enough for you. And while I understand the concept of working for next to nothing to gain invaluable experience, there’s a point at which that simply becomes exploitative. It’s no coincidence that publishing is a female-dominated industry, at least at my level. And there is no doubt that these companies devalue their employees because we let them. Here I am hoping like hell that someone will pay me considerabley less than a third of what I was earning when I left Aus. It will be interesting to see how much this company values me.

    • Sarah

      I’ve got my fingers crossed for you!!!

  • TNM

    Well… Clearly you do not hang out with lawyer chicks. Undervaluing your worth in terms of salary does not seem to be a huge problem. (Though we have dozens of other issues…) : )

    Although then again, there are enormously fewer female partners then the ratio of female-to-male lawyers would suggest, and underpaid public interest law skews heavily female. So maybe devaluing one’s contribution does still go on. Hard to say though whether these choices mean you are “undervaluing” your worth or rather simply making a lifestyle choice for better life-work balance or to do advocacy you believe is socially beneficial. (Of course I could unpack this further and ask why do women disproportionately make this lifestyle choice if not for the ideals of being more nuturing, more selfless, more available to family… How much of this is a true “choice” based on bedrock ideals, how much is to assuage our own guilt that is to some extent a product of socialization or of unequal expectations in terms of male/female familial involvement? I don’t know. At some point you are going in circles.)

    • meg

      My husband is a lawyer, I do hang out with lawyer chicks. The fact is, the market is so bad here that the majority of the Top 5 Law School grads we know are jobless, so words like “partner” and “big paycheck” are not often heard. “I’ll take anything” and “they aren’t paying me but they’ll let me work for free” is what you hear A LOT. And these kids went to a great school. It’s tragic. But don’t get me started.

    • Also, in “big law” the gender disparity isn’t such an issue, at least at the associate level, because all the first years come in at the same salary (and get regular, defined steps up from there). If you are interviewing at a big firm, you know going in what every one in your “class” is going to be making. This doesn’t solve the “not enough women are partners” issue, but I do think that it means that female lawyers going into corporate law are starting on a much more even playing field.

      • TNM

        True. The lockstep compensation may lead to greater empowerment (or entitlement) of female associates. It may also be that knowing what everyone makes – not only at your firm, but pretty much in all the “big law” firms in the city – allows for much more open conversation about salary and the “worth” of one’s work. I haven’t been in a big firm for several years, but I remember all associates – male & female equally – frequently b*tching about salaries, and particularly bonuses, and heaven forbid if bonuses were given out unevenly in the firm, or if a competitor firm gave out higher ones. On the one hand, given the inflated salaries of the ’00s, this was appalling, on the other hand, I guess coming from a bunch of young women, it was also somewhat refreshing.

  • maile

    Oh, I just love this. That’s all. You are awesome.

  • Meg, if I’m honest, this post both challenges and terrifies me. I think I need to go do some serious thinking this weekend.

  • “I want to own my own business and write and publish and go on trips, and experience things and… and, and, and.” And then David, being the saner of the two, points out that doesn’t mean I’m selfish, that means I’m ambitious and self-aware. And that being ambitious and active and happy is what will make me a GOOD mom. That crushing all my dreams so I could give up all myself for my child would probably NOT make me a very good mom, since it would make me a very sad person.”

    I used to believe all this too! I used to say the exact same thing. That ambitious me = best mom.
    So I feel compelled to tell you: It’s not true.
    I also feel compelled to start wearing a T-shirt that says YOUR 401K IS NOT YOUR IDENTITY, but nevermind that for now.
    Here’s the thing. Being ambitious and active does not make you a good mother. Chasing every dream you’ve ever had does not make you a good mother. Loving your child, providing for your child, protecting your child — these and a million other things make you a good mom.
    I understand that what you really mean is that you don’t want to be a resentful mom. And it’s very smart to realize that, because resentful moms are a bad lot. But it still doesn’t mean that chasing every dream and living some mythical fullest version of yourself (chaser mom) will make you a better mom than the one who allegedly gives up dreams (bitter mom). Because chaser mom can’t do it all. In the quest for constant dream achievement, someone needs to raise the kid (fulltime job) or make the money to pay for someone else to help raise the kid. Have you ever met kids who were profoundly aware they weren’t their parents’ first, second or third priority? Kids who felt like they had to compete against a parent’s hobby, career or possession for attention? These are not happy kids.
    Before you think it sounds like you’re screwed either way:
    The thing is, life doesn’t stop when you have a kid. In the past few months, I’ve traveled across the country several times, completed several chapters of a writing project, kept a vegetable garden, etc., all while also caring for a baby fulltime. I have a lot I’d still like to do in my life, and a child isn’t holding me back. What’s always lost in all the feminist talk about how important self-worth and identity and achievement etc etc is — and I say this as a feminist — is for goodness sakes, having kids can be incredibly fun and fulfilling. Having my baby is better than any career brass ring I achieved, better than any far-flung passport stamp I achieved. Having a baby also doesn’t mean my passport and resume died.
    And you’ve heard it a million times and it’s a cliche, but hell if I didn’t find it true when I thought it wouldn’t apply to me: When you have the baby, you may well care less about all those other things. That is not a sad death of a prior self (which is what it once sounded like to me). It’s an incredibly liberating reassessment of priorities.
    You can “amount to a lot” (whatever that is supposed to mean) — and live a wild, rich life — with kids.

    • meg

      “Being ambitious and active does not make you a good mother.”

      Literally, if that were true, we would not have kids. End of story.

      So yes, I get what your saying, we grow and change with kids, kids add to our lives not subtract, and of course we can’t have it all. BUT. Men don’t get asked to give up their ambitions for their families, ever. Maybe they change their work hours, but that’s about it. Will I slow my life down for kids? Make my hours more flexible for kids? Heck yeah. Will I stop being ambitious and active working for myself? Hell no, and I don’t think you have to be. If I had to pick between staying home for my kids first year and writing a book, I’d pick writing a book. My kid is not going to remember that year anyway, and they are going to remember a happy mom. So we’d make adjustments and make sure they had good care, and make it work. That’s not for everyone, but it is for lots of people.

      My mother-in-law ran her own business, earned triple what her husband did, was super successful, was home with her kids one day a week and worked the rest, and was super ambitious and active. Her kids turned out well enough that I married one. And I’d think they would argue that her being who she was (ambitious, active) was every bit as important to her being a good mom as her being protective.

      So. That’s my perspective.

      • Sarah

        Amen, Meg!
        As the daughter of an incredibly ambitious and hugely successful single mom (who really had to work hard at things other than being a mom to become so successful), I agree wholeheartedly. Even though she wasn’t like my friends’ moms… she was the best mom in the whole wide world.

      • I don’t think that’s true at all, about men. I’ve watched my boss give up promotions or the opportunity to move offices because of his kids, I’ve seen my brother’s career slow down considerably so he can take care of his kids, to the point where he’s not sure what step to take next. I know S. will put his career track on hold while we figure out the kid thing – everyone I know is pretty equal, partner-wise, and it DOES affect men’s lives quite a bit!

        It would also make sense to establish that the very random concept of good mom / bad mom is going to be different for everyone. I personally would not leave my child in someone else’s care for the first year of it’s life – but that’s because it matters to me more than a career, and that’s a choice that would make ME a happy mom. As long as your child is loved, protected, and nurtured, who cares what else you’re doing?

        • I don’t think it has to be true about men, but society doesn’t expect them to stop their ambitions. Of course it’s a choice, it’s a choice for both men and women, but if men choose to keep going to work and not slow down for their kids (like many men I know) society is fine with that, happy with that even. But if a woman makes that same decision, society often attacks her with judgment and concern over the well-being of her children. It just doesn’t always fit with the traditional roles of society, regardless of how much progress we have supposedly made.

          • Maybe I just don’t know any men with high powered careers & children. Pretty much all the ones I know (including my father) made huge sacrifices to have children, and would be living very different lives now had they not had children. I guess I don’t pay enough attention to society!

          • Which is not to say that I disagree! Just that where I grew up you didn’t see it, and in my career path I haven’t come across too many people with children. Where I was raised, if you had a family, it didn’t matter what your gender was, it was more mouths to feed and it was tougher; sacrifices had to be made.

          • Liz

            i’m not sure i agree, sera. i think the pressure is on both sexes (i’m thinking of the song “cat’s in the cradle.” absentee-fatherhood is often demonized.) and it’s not necessarily healthy for either- or for wee ones, of course- for us to expect the world to stop when kiddos pop out.

        • Class of 1980

          I think every woman has her own list of “musts” when it comes to caring for a baby or raising a child. That’s why women hurt each others feeling so easily – we don’t have the same list.

    • Liz

      but. is it always just the extremes?

      ti have many, many, many goals. lots. and there’s no way in hell i’m gonna accomplish them all (sorry meg, i think i’m saying the opposite of your post there).

      but “chasing dreams” and “building dreams into feasible possibilities” are not the same. and i know how many hours are in a day and a general idea of what i can accomplish in that day. so no, i’m not hunting down higher ed while being primary breadwinner. and when i have a kid on my breast, i won’t be in the classroom. but i do have certain goals that i can pursue while sitting at home on my rear with little one in the play pen. it’s a matter of intelligently finding a balance.

      i question that it’s fair to encourage women to pursue both. but there are women who want both, and know how to manage both smartly. certainly some women can be fulfilled within just one realm (something i was remarking on a bit ago, even) but there are others who find ways to balance both. intelligently.

      the real thing is- i’m going to give up some of my dreams to be a mom. and i gave up some of my dreams to be a wife. but i also gave up some of my dreams to be a teacher. to live in philly. EVERY choice in life is a trade-off. it’s my personal responsibility to myself and my family to find the fairest trade-off and to figure out how i can achieve the most goals while sacrificing the least.

      • meg

        But why is it women who can’t realistically do both, while we never question that men can? Because dear lord, David’s more domestic than I am, and I’m the one with her own business. We’ll be *sharing* childcare duties. I’m not sure that I expect to give up more than he does. Yeah, if I breast-feed, things will be wonky for a while, but I expect we’ll both give up stuff, and we’ll both gain stuff, and we’ll both keep doing stuff.

        Anyway, I think what I realized through this comment thread is that *for me* giving up being ambitious and active literally means giving up the core of who I am. Not everyone is like that, but I happen to be, and always have been. So am I going to give up the core of who I am for kids? NO. WAY. That would not be a favor to anyone.

        AND! I just talked to David about his ambitious and active mom. He pointed out that all reasonably good parents are loving and protective, so that is sort of a given. But, beyond that, he thinks that his mom being really successful was a huge positive influence on his life. He thinks her being ambitious and active was part of what made her a good mom. So, there is that.

        • Liz

          well, i didn’t intend to say that josh hasn’t made sacrifices. or that he won’t because he already has and an integral part of the Post Baby plan is his future sacrifice. like i said- marriage, baby, moving, picking a career. all choices require a trade. and that goes for men AND women.

          by saying i have given up/will give up dreams i don’t mean that i give up any piece of myself. i’m not giving up being ambitious or creative or socially active. i just alter and adjust the ways in which i do those things- and sometimes that requires sacrifice. (if only in the immediate)

          i want to live in philly. and i want to live in new york. and i want to live in spain. all of which i clearly can’t do at once. but by choosing to live in philly, in no way am i giving up a piece of myself or losing a dream- i’m just trading. and meanwhile, it doesn’t mean i won’t one day do the other two, also.

          i was responding to emily because i felt her comment made the whole decision into an “either/or” type thing. either you’re a mom or you’re a “dream chaser.” when really, a practical, intelligent woman can make dreams into feasible realities while maintaining a happy mother/child relationship and healthy marriage. and a practical man can, too. making sacrifices isn’t always the same as losing oneself and “chasing dreams” isn’t always selfish.

          • I’m not saying don’t be ambitious. I still am. Lots done, lots more to do! Just not this year. Life is long. Everything I’d like to experience does not need to be crammed into my 31st year. In all fairness, I did do a lot of traveling and career stuff before children, so that has helped prevent wistful “what if” feelings. But if you’re a creative and passionate person, and it sounds like everyone is, that list of places to go and things to see will always get longer. That’s good. But I can’t wait til 60 to have a child.

            Having children and making them a priority for awhile doesn’t mean everything else gets erased. But trying to do everything at once is a guaranteed method for insanity. Ditto for men. If my husband wasn’t willing/able to make major changes to his life when we had children, we wouldn’t have them either.

            It’s really easy to plan what life will be like when you have kids when you don’t have them yet. Everyone does this, lots of people here are doing this, I did this. Go ahead and make your statements and ultimatums before you have kids, but they aren’t worth much other than an interesting theoretical discussion. There is a reason people says kids change everything. It will. That’s *not* always a bad thing. It can be a great thing. You will do things you never expected to do.

            I’m not posting this to argue. This was actually my first visit to this blog. I just recognize a slightly younger version of myself and my friends in the post in some of the comments, and I suppose it’s frustrating to read people talk about something they haven’t experienced. We are all ambitious feminists. And still are. But we’re eating some crow these days now that we have kids, because we weren’t very open-minded when we made all those statements, and are finding that taking a few years off to raise kids is not actually some soul-crushing identity crisis. Life is … totally fine.

          • Also, this statement? Is the sort moms find hilarious.

            “If I had to pick between staying home for my kids first year and writing a book, I’d pick writing a book. My kid is not going to remember that year anyway, and they are going to remember a happy mom. So we’d make adjustments and make sure they had good care, and make it work. That’s not for everyone, but it is for lots of people.”

            Post a follow-up to that one once you have a 1-year-old.

            It’s possible that’s exactly what will happen. But it’s also possible that YOU won’t want to miss the first year because it’s so special to YOU, even if your child won’t “remember it anyway.” It’s possible you’ll look at the baby and fall so in love, you’ll decide the book will wait. It’s possible you won’t be able to afford this “good care” you speak of, or that you’ll decide no care you can buy is better than your care. It’s possible you’ll be too exhausted, or life will be too complicated, to make the magical “adjustments” you’re thinking of. Oh, and someone’s told you guys breastfeeding a newborn takes 12 hours a day, right?

            Anyway, I know better than trying to make a point to someone who doesn’t have a kid yet. People tried to do the same with me and I didn’t get it either. I’m done now. But thanks for the chat! Best of luck to everyone. :)

          • Arachna

            I’m replying to Emily’s post below.

            I know kids who spent their first couple of years in a different country from mom – with grandparents. And these kids are very close to mom now. Ironically don’t like the grandparents at all due to their behavior towards mom.

            I don’t know, my mom expects me and my husband to drop the kids off at her house for summers. She’s had kids…so I believe her that this is feasible. And as a kid I always knew I my sister and my father were the center of her world. But she sure didn’t stay home with me – and would never advise me to do so.

            Not every mother is hung up on not missing a minute of their kids growing. IMO most of the angst comes from moms who haven’t actually experienced being away from their babies. Its hard leaving them at first because you’ve bonded so strongly but if you do either because of necessity or desire, it becomes a lot easier and not really a big deal.

            As not moms yet we don’t know how we will feel its true. And a few of us might change our minds. But – this is as obnoxious as telling women who don’t want kids that they’ll change their mind – a few will – but many many won’t.

          • meg

            I’m shutting down part of this discussion as not ok. You’re new here, so you don’t know the APW rules of commenting, so that’s totally fine. But here is the thing, since we’re all about respect, and about being a super safe space for women to explore ideas, I’m shutting down this idea that you don’t want women without kids to not make statements about what they want, or that you find statements of women pre-kids laughable. Those are not ok statements to make here.

            No one’s statements are laughable, and you have to remember, you don’t know me or anyone else commenting in person. Trust me, if you quoted what I just said to ALLLLL the women in my life who have kids, they would look you in the eye and say, “Yup, that’s Meg and she’s correct.” But you don’t know me, and we all need to remember that it’s easy to tell someone you don’t know on the internet that you know better, but NONE of us know better. It’s about each of us growing and changing and finding our own truth, not judging each others comments.

            More generally, I really don’t like the female impetus to divide ourselves into groups. It’s not moms vs. not-moms, it’s not pre-wedding vs. post-wedding. It’s wisdom sharing, and knowing we’re all a team. And we never ever ever use, “Oh, you’ll seeee” statements. Those are damaging. We’re working at expanding the models for what’s possible here, not limiting each other by our own experiences.

            And this is for everyone, not just for Emily. I just know that most of you know all this already.

            Thanks for being awesome commenters! Sorry I had to do a rare step-in. Now back to it.


        • I’m just finally catching up on this discussion, which I find endlessly fascinating. You already know, Meg, that I am a full-time working professional woman with two kids, an ex husband, and a fiance.

          There are times when I am better at balancing (or juggling?) all of these roles than others. In my experience, working in what was once a largely male-dominated profession, the men seem to have a few things going for them (this is a total generalization) that the women do not. I have noticed that, as a general rule, men in my profession are better at compartmentalizing different parts of their lives than the women. When there are problems at home, men seem to be able to leave those problems at home and keep on functioning just fine at work, while women — I am one example but not alone in this — have a much harder time shutting out the domestic turmoil. There are, of course, plenty of exceptions to this. Men who have left my company in order to have more time to spend with their differently abled children, and women who have taken on a traditionally masculine role of power-earner while their husbands stayed home to raise and care for the house.

          But taking on a traditionally masculine work persona was not an option for me for many reasons. First, I could not seem to compartmentalize my life. The noise and turmoil followed me to work. Second, I have a bit of a split personality — go-getter take charge executive and ooey gooey cookie baking kissy mama at home. I love both of these women, and I have no interest in giving up either one. Ergo, as much as part of me wanted to stay home all day everyday with my infant daughter, I instead went back to work. Some days I am happy with my decision; others, I long to be more available to my kids during my work day.

          This does not make me a good mom, a bad mom, a good worker or a bad worker. It just is. There are choices that we make. I am proud that the other day, while my daughter and I were walking, she said to me, “You’re doing a very good job working so hard so that we can earn money to buy plane tickets to visit” our friend who has cancer and lives far away. This kid of mine — she is going to grow up understanding what it means to work to support her family, to find a career that is meaningful to her, and how to balance her career with her love for her family. I have lofty goals for her, and I am proud to be her role model.

        • Late to the party, but I’ve got to say that I don’t think it’s just women who “can’t have both.” It’s just that for men, the choice has, generally, not been between “staying home to take care of the family” and “realizing career ambitions,” it’s been between “working to take care of the family” and “realizing career ambitions.” And rather than not questioning that men can do both, we tend to assume that men will bite the bullet and give up on their dreams/ambitions/passions to take care of their families. Kind of like we do with women. It’s sort of equal-opportunity sacrifice for the sake of the kids, though it has tended to take different forms for different genders.


          -My grandfather, who in the 50s gave up his shot to play pro baseball because he wouldn’t be able to support a wife and family on a minor league ball player’s salary. Did he go to work every day, and have a career? Yes. Did he realize his career ambitions? No. His ambition was not to be an accountant, it was to be a baseball player. And he was someone who might have had a chance, too. But he couldn’t both take care of his family and pursue that ambition.

          -A family friend, who in the 70s wanted to be a sports coach. It was what he went to school for. But his new wife was pregnant, entry level jobs didn’t pay enough to support their family, and so he went into the family business, where he went to work every day, at a job he didn’t have passion for, for thirty years, until his youngest was in college and he could finally afford to close the family business and take a job that interested him. He had a career, but he gave up his career ambitions, because he couldn’t both take care of his family and pursue that ambition.

          We don’t see men as culture warriors, so their choices carry less cultural baggage. But just as women are expected to be nurturers, men are expected to be providers, and dreams and ambitions can end up taking a back seat to both sets of expectations. I think the moral of the story is probably that parenthood is a sacrificial undertaking, for everyone involved.

          • meg

            True, true, true. But I’m not saying that anyone can have it all, I don’t think you can. I’m coming from a “how can we have enough”? Place. And I think that can happen for both genders.

      • TNM

        I think part of the problem is the way the issue of work/life balance is sometimes framed: as “having it all.” That’s a bit of a strawman. I don’t think Meg was arguing that a Mom can or should pursue every single dream she ever had at the same time, in the same year – with baby in tow. But I think that even with a baby, women can (and do!) stay the course in terms of their *principal* career goal (or avocational goal). I personally know women with babies/young kids who are: (1) still finishing their grad degrees, (2) finishing their medical residencies, (3) are still on partnership track, (4) pursuing their academic careers/publishing, (5) continuing to advance in same job. Yes, most take a break of sorts for the first 3+ months, and have had to sacrifice other activities. And certainly they can’t chase ALL their dreams simultaneously – i.e. they are not going to be finishing their residency, living in Spain, starting a jewelry company, learning Chinese, AND raising a baby. And of course I have friends who decide that they *do* want to focus on raising their baby for some amount of time instead of staying “on track” in their career – which is great! But I don’t buy that mothers have to give up their “top dream” – there is just too much evidence out there indicating that this is not the case.

        • meg


          I actually *don’t* think we can have it all. But, the point of my post was (since we’re way off track here), that being selfless is not what makes us good mothers, wives, and people, no matter how many times we’re told that it does. Being self-full is what makes us good people. And part of that is being aware of what makes us tick.

          I think we’re told your FIRST priority is to be THE BEST MOM YOU CAN BE. I think that your priorities should be, in no particular order: to raise a healthy kid (eff being the best mom ever), and to be a good/happy/fulfilled person. You can argue that being a good/happy/fulfilled person doesn’t make you a better mother (though I would disagree), but my point is being a mother does not have to be the central point of reference, the thing that we sublimate everything else to. It can be part of who we are, and another part can be just being ourselves and being fulfilled.

          Cate Subrosa, as always, does a wonderful job of talking about that from a been-there-done-that perspective. As does Maggie Mason and Marie-Eve, and a million other smart women populating the web.

    • Arachna

      I both agree with Emily and completely disagree.

      “Being ambitious and active does not make you a good mother. Chasing every dream you’ve ever had does not make you a good mother. Loving your child, providing for your child, protecting your child — these and a million other things make you a good mom.”

      Agree. But Emily seems to be saying that being ambitious and active makes you a bad mother – and with that I disagree completely. I don’t think being ambitious and active makes you better for the kid – I think it makes you better for yourself and doesn’t make it worse for the kid. So.

      I think I’d be a good mother if I stayed home, took a 9-5 job that wasn’t challenging or stressful. But I think I’ll be a good mother ambitiously pursuing my dreams. And I think I’ll be a better person doing the second. And being a good awesome person is as important to me as being a good mother.

      • meg

        Y’all. I’m kind of sad that when the word mom comes up, it derails the whole discussion. I’m kind of tired of debating the working versus non-working mom thing, because both of them are good choices for different people. That’s all. The fact is I have work that I love (APW) and I don’t really want to give that up after so much hard work. That’s all I was saying. Because really, I just wanna talk about self worth and money right now.

        • You absolutely do NOT have to give up work you love to be a good parent. Period. Adjustments will need to be made, and you will occasionally have to do some juggling and ask someone else (er, David?) to help, but it is absolutely doable, and don’t let anyone tell you it’s not.

        • TNM

          What interesting though is that I see this conversation – though perhaps not some of the less constructive bits : ) – as definitely tied to the question of women’s self-worth and money. Essentially when we talk about ambition and motherhood, we are often talking about market (compensated) work and motherhood, and whether women, even mothers, are permitted to really value their contribution in the market, given that raising children is supposed to be (and in many senses *is*) women’s highest calling. And, perhaps more importantly, how much we as a society are comfortable valuing mothers’ market work given the needs of their children. Afterall, many already deem those mothers who also want personal “fullfilment” as “bad,” imagine how much worse the judgment would be if the issue was framed as mothers also wanting a well-deserved fat paycheck, respect from the peers in her field, fame because of her professional/academic/artistic contributions. Y’know, all those things that come of producing work that is valued.

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  • I seriously am going to forward this post to EVERYONE. You are awesome!

  • Jacqui

    Great topic thanks Meg. I live in Aus and just heard a segment on the youth oriented radio station here (Triple J) yesterday about the same idea – particularly about asking for raises and how in many cases women are paid less than men because they aren’t asking for them! One female caller to the show said that when she finally got up the courage to ask her salary was increased by 35% on the spot! and another was raised by $20k! and the expert they had on the show said as others here have that it often starts from when they are hired – men negotiate and women often don’t, so they start off behind. Definately something to keep in mind!

  • Kee

    What I find difficult is the whole “women have to DEMAND more, and PUSH more and DO MOOOOOOORE” in order to get more money. At the same time, women are taught to be caring and humble, think about others first and so on. So it’s very difficult to demand more, because you are immediately labeled as a pushy and aggressive woman, and this is not very flattering. “You are not behaving like a woman should.”

    So this lead to more requirements and pressure, and many feel that the need to be demanding and “get what you are worth” will just be another addition to their list of failures. It’s our own fault for not earning more.

    Perhaps it’s not just women’s responsibility to make sure that they get paid for what they do, perhaps it’s the job of the people in power (usually men) to acknowledge and value “female” characteristics and traits as much as “male” ones and give people the salary they deserve? Or is it just women’s task to sort out equality? Because women tend to be busy with working at a underpaid job, taking care of a family, planning a wedding, doing unpaid household work and attempting to look very sexy while doing it, it’s easy that the “change the world”-part gets pushed down to the bottom of the to-do list.

    • Marina

      It’s everyone’s task.

      But since I am personally a woman, I tend to focus on what women can do about it. I don’t see any point in waiting around for someone else to give me a raise, when I can ask for it myself.

      And really, the more women who ask for raises and promotions and become the people in power and are then in a position to give other women raises and are busting all the myths of what women “should” be while they do it… that’s what’s going to change the system.

      I mean, yeah, being female in a patriarchial society sucks, and it’s hard, and part of our struggle is trying to not blame ourselves for the faults of the system. But it’s certainly worthwhile anyway.

      • Liz

        yeah, marina- you sorta said what i was gonna.

        it’s not my responsibility to “change the world” (though i do damn well try in my own way) but it IS my responsibility to ensure that i’m treated appropriately. and it’s awesome if by doing so, i can encourage a system wherein others are treated appropriately. woman or not.

        • Kee

          What I was trying to get to was that I don’t believe it’s an individual choice to be paid more. It’s not just to go in and demand it, because many of us can’t just go in and demand it. Either we work in “female areas” that pay less (health care, teaching, organizational jobs and so on) and we wont get paid as much as lower educated “masculine areas” (electricians, carpenters and so on). Or, we have the typical female characteristics that aren’t as valued as male ones, and therefore, our bosses don’t think we deserve to get a raise.

          To then say “just ask for it” just encourages women to put their heads down, work even more harder and hope that somehow it will pay off. It will for some, but never for many. Women’s self worth, women’s salaries and inherent bad self esteem need to be dealt with at a structural level, it can never be solved by one individual.

          I don’t think APW should read Elizabeth Gilbert as the next book club book, you should all read Barbara Ehrenreich’s Smile or Die.

          • meg

            That’s true up to a point (or definitely can be), but remember I was clear I was writing this from a freelancer’s perspective. When you run your own business, salaries can be solved by one individual… the CEO. You.

  • LeahIsMyName

    Why do I want to burst into tears every time I read a post on APW?? I guess because everything seems to touch me in a profoundly real way.

    I struggle with these questions daily. I work at a job I HATE for very little money. And I’m sticking with it until I get married so I can get the health insurance (and I can’t even imagine how trapped I’d feel if my partner were same-sex and I didn’t have that option).

    Anyway, when we’re chronically undervalued (men and women, I bet), we start to believe that we’re not really worth any more money as an employee. Hell, I’m starting to believe it, and I KNOW it’s b.s.

    I’m trying to find something else that values my skills and attributes, but it’s pretty hard to find jobs here at the moment.

    I may have to bookmark this post for re-reading later, when I have a job that has, you know, raises and promotions.

  • Marisa-Andrea

    Yes, I agree, but I’d go further to say that on a cultural level, women tend to be afraid of power or having power or being powerful and money, having a sense of self-worth, knowing how to ask or demand for more and actually doing those things ARE related to power and define power and are essentially culturally male. In other words, women get cultural cues from birth that we must settle for whatever we are given because by being powerful we are not being women. Men, interestingly, are told the exact opposite — that to be men, they MUST be powerful. But we as women have internalized these cultural cues to a great extent and as a result, we don’t have to let other people disempower and devalue us; we do it for them ourselves.

    We see examples of this in the real world when women negotiate their salaries and the powers that be, even when THEY are also women, raise their eyebrows in surprise and don’t know quite how to respond. I could go on and on. I’m not Freudian by any means, but I do think our tendency to devalue ourselves when it comes to money is intimately connected to our fear to be powerful. Because that could mean all kinds of things. And yes, we have examples of powerful women, but I still feel like each woman who does it when she does it, is on the road less travelled and that can be AWESOME and scary all at the same time. Because even with all of the awesome powerful women that we have “doing their thing” as I like to say, being a woman in a position of power (of your life, your career, etc) is still a novelty for a lot of us and we don’t quite know how to navigate that or handle it.

  • Apologies, didn’t mean to offend or break rules.

    • meg

      Thanks Emily, I really appreciate it. I’m actually totally facinated in 99% of what you have to say, so keep sayin’ it!!!

  • Tina

    I never have time to read all the amazing comments anymore so I’ve neglected posting. It’s almost OCD that I feel I have to read all of them before I can say something. I see them as a conversation, and I want to be part of the conversation. But, today… Today I just want to say that you just wrote a post for me. As if you took it directly from my mind and had it make sense on “paper”. That’s why I read you every day. Or at least, as much as I can now that life has gotten insanely busy. I can’t wait to hear more on this topic.

  • Arachna

    You’ll seeee… does not create a safe environment, it shuts down discussion because women are told that those who aren’t mothers aren’t allowed to make valuable contributions.

    If you want to parent someday you better do X (what I want) does not create a safe environment either and is very much not conductive to discussion. It is condescending in the extreme.

    I’m writing as someone who has actually felt that this blog is a little closed to criticism in the past – but this current example is not one of those times.

    Meg can either cater to you and Emily and a couple more people or she can cater to the dozens who will not post and talk if you and Emily have your way – because they won’t feel welcome.

    Lastly, even if Meg’s policy did come down to “blind obedience or don’t show your face here!” there is nothing really wrong with that. Its her blog and it serves a need. Offering her ‘advice’ makes little sense. If you wish she did things differently for your own benefit at least be honest about it.

  • Liz

    i didn’t find emily’s comment to disagree with meg- though many others did. (mine at a few points, i think, even)

    i found emily’s comment to insult me personally (no hard feelings, emily, it’s just the internet) as a 5-months-pregnant lady who yes, is “theorizing” about how this child will impact my life and what i am going to do in response. being told that i “just don’t know yet” is far from helpful at a point where i’m making make-or-break decisions and trying to establish a solid foundation for my family.

    i’m a married lady and i think the majority of the readers on here are engaged or dating or not even looking. yet, when theories about marriage or guesses at what marriage will be like someday are proposed by folks who “aren’t there yet” i have no grounds to tell them, “oh, you’ll see…” because one person’s acquired experiences in no way can predict the experiences of others.

    so no. i didn’t find meg to be shutting down disagreement (i actually sorta think the lady likes a bit of controversy and argument- it’s okay, meg, i have that streak, too). i interpreted her response as a defense of others, like me, who yeah. don’t have kids yet. but don’t need to be told that we’re clueless for that reason.

    • Liz, I wish I could hit the “exactly” button about 50 times on what you just said. One person’s experience is not a perfect predictor of how things will go for others in their situation.

      Imagine if us married ladies responded to every comment and post by newly-engaged women with “awww, you think you can do X with your wedding, that’s hilarious! But actually that’s impossible. You’ll see.” That’s belittling, and it wouldn’t create a very safe space for discussion. I do think it’s really helpful for those who have been there to share their own experiences (“I wanted to do X too, but I ended up not doing it for these reasons”), but that’s different from saying “you’re wrong and I’m right because I’m already married/I already have kids.”

  • Carrie

    Al, this is a completely unfair comment. Meg’s reply was not about feeling personally attacked or demanding that no one ever disagree with her. It was the particular “You’ll see I’m right once you have kids” remarks that are not okay on this blog.

  • meg

    Mean comments tend to go away, so moving on. And thanks. Liz is right, I love me some disagreement. It’s just that it’s my blog, so I get to set the tone of *how* we disagree. I know that’s tough, but so it goes. I’ve put enough of my life into APW at this point that I’m pretty comfortable with getting to make the rules.

    And sometimes I close comments not because disagreement is wrong, but because people are attacking me personally in comments and emails you don’t see, and making me cry. I’m imperfect like that. So in sum, disagree all you want, just do it in a super safe and supportive way. And discussing all the ways you think I’m a bad person is ALWAYS off the table for discussion. Oh well.

    Ok, back to the topic at hand, ya’ll!

  • Ghana

    Awesome. Simply awesome.

  • Tessa Frey

    Wow, this is a really helpful post to me! I identify very closely with the feeling selfish part. I always said that I thought I was too selfish to be a mom, and I still say it. My list is similar to yours, Meg: I want a successful career, I want to travel the world, I want to write a book, I want to make my own money, the list goes on. But you made me think about whether these things really ARE selfish or not. I mean, my boyfriend-practically-fiance has a lot of the same goals, and he in no way thinks he is too selfish to be a dad. So why am I the selfish one?

    I realized that it must be the cultural script, as Meg was saying. Women really are supposed to be the nurturers, especially of the weak! And since my talents and desires most definitely do not lie with children or being supreme nurturer (I can take care of my man, but that’s about it), I feel like I must be a selfish person. My boyfriend, though he likes to think the is open minded, is actually quite traditional and set-in-stone on many things (I tease him about this often). One day we happened to talk about having kids, and he said that if we had kids someday, he would want one of us (preferably me) to stay at home with the child for at least the first five years of it’s life (it’s his parent’s model, and he thinks it is “the best and right way to do things”). And that scared the hec out of me. You see, I’m the kind of person who would be supremely unhappy as a a stay-at-home mom, and he knows this; I need to mentally stimulate and push myself, I want a career and not just a job. I actually admire people who do stay at home with their children, because it is something that would be very difficult and stressful for me. But I felt so selfish for feeling this way, and it’s still something I struggle with. I’m still not sure if I should even have kids because of it (I really don’t want to stay at home). I felt a little lighter after I read this; it’s nice to know that I’m not a completely selfish person :)

    • meg

      Lady! There are so many bad-ass working moms. Some people work in a job that’s flexible (that’s my goal… working for myself I can do a mix of daycare and not, and more to the point know that I’m free to pick up the baby if they get sick without asking anyone’s say so), and some working moms work 40 or 60 hour weeeks. I think we can’t kid ourselves that it’s easy, or that we can ‘have it all.’ But I do think we can find ways to find enough of what’s important.

      I’m like you, I sink into depression really easily when I’m isolated or not frenetically busy, so the classic stay-at-home gig would not work well for me (in less I decided to go old school with no appliances or electricity and grew our own food and made our own soap… which when you think about it is what staying at home used to mean, workworkwork backbreaking work.) So, I need to weigh that when I make choices. But I think it’s RAD when we all have choices – that ladies who want to stay home can, that dads who want to stay home can, when those of us who want to work can make that happen.

      The only thing I’d add is that to make things work, you have to have your partners support. If you’re going to try to ‘have enough’ your partner has to be on board (and willing to pick up a sick baby when you can’t…) So talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. Boys can change their minds over time. I think all of us tend to think we want what we grew up with, and then over time realize, “Hey! Maybe something else would work better for my family.” So get him talking, and don’t be afraid to state what your needs are.

      You’re NOT selfish. You’re awesome. Different.

  • Thank you Meg.
    Your feeling of being too “selfish” to be a good Mum totally resonantes with me. Its the argument I most often give my DF about why we should possibly reconsider thinking about kids.
    Because my fears are rational. I fear I will resent my kids for stopping me doing things.

    The only way to get through it is to take the risk I think. And hope. And trust that DF will keep me honest and sane. And have him promise to keep me to my promise to love him more than our kids.

    And yes, I also see the lack of valuing self. I gave up job hunting because I had developed a complex that told me I was only worth what I was doing.
    I got made redundant, and am now earning 50% more again than I was at that role. Still not even doing the work I really want to do, and that actually challenges me. I am astounded at what they will pay someone to do such simple work! Roll on the New Year, when the contract ends and I can throw myself into the next challenge – trying to sell some of my own photography as art :)

  • Steph

    Oh my god. I am doing the same thing. I have been wondering what my problem was… where is my ambition? No drive to do better. Thanks for clarifying my situation. It is nice to know it’s not just me, but I am not sure how to be brave and reach out for it. Still, actually stating the problem goes a long way toward fixing it. Thanks.

    PS. I linked over from Maggie, who has been such a good influence (mostly – ha).

  • I think I need to read your post several times to let it sink in and wash away all the doubts. I’ve been very frustrated lately and I think it is because I am hedging in my dreams with negative self-feedback. I want to be a full-time photographer. I want to know where I am going and pursuing it with a passion. I want to believe in what I love enough to fight for it. How in the world will I be able to afford the equipment I need if I don’t have the resources to purchase anything?

    About a month ago, lightening struck near our home and sent an electric shock through to the computer. My photos were saved because they were on an external hard drive, but everything else was destroyed. It is a good thing that the office was empty at my day job because I sobbed like a baby believing that I was back at zero with my dreams. But that only lasted a day because my photography goals tormented me and I was unable to stop the work. So I chased clients with my camera and ignored the fact that I didn’t have a computer to process them. Today I am clawing my way out of this mess with a new computer and new programs. It is frustrating and slow, but I am still heading toward my dreams.

    It is all about the struggle to grow, learn, build and begin to live life the way that we imagine. Worse than the financial problems we can encounter in our pursuits is the self-doubt. I am raising prices in January because I am worth it. And because my clients love me and I love them, I will provide them with a nice incentive for getting the word out to their friends and family.

  • Thank you so much for this. I’m 22, college-educated and working yet another retail position. Thankfully my wages seem to be climbing each time I change jobs, but just yesterday something interesting happened. My boyfriend, who just began his master’s/phd program in Chemistry (I got my b.a. in English), interrupted my money worrying by saying, “Do you think you could ask your boss for a raise? Even a dollar?” My response: “I really don’t think I’m performing well enough to ask for a raise.”
    Whether or not this is true, I think it’s a pretty interesting exchange. Especially because it would not have even crossed my mind to ask for a raise, and to him it was such an obvious solution.

    Every once in a while I have these beautiful moments of clarity where I am charged from my head to my toes with electric ambition, and then, in a matter of minutes or days, I do throw up those obstacles. It was so wonderful to read that other women have this problem. I thought my ambition-o-meter was broken!


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  • I’m new to your blog and I love it! Reading this post was like reading a letter from a much wiser me. Self worth! Whodda thunk it. I think another obstacle for women is that we think we shouldn’t be talking about money. I was certainly raised that way. I see friends who either seem to be making more or saving more money than me. I wonder how they do it. Heaven forbid I ask! Thank you for opening up the discussion about money.

  • Chryseia Brennan

    Ladies, I am listening to your blogs and hearing still that you value yourselves based on monetary figures; which is valid, and immediate. But, we are worth so much more. In any area, we cannot limit ourselves with our own thinking, which is the important lesson. Becoming happy, and satisfied, in life, is not always tied to money. So limiting ourselves to a dollar salary, or a dollar worth, is only part of the equation.

    My time is worth more to me than anything. When I volunteer that; it is a true gift. When I teach someone to fish, rather than giving them a fish, I have made a difference. My value then, whether compensated financially or not, is the true measure of my worth.

    I’m not saying give your work and talents away; absolutely expect fair, un-gender-biased payment with no guilt. But understand that while happiness is linked to security; it does not stem from money. Good luck in all endeavors!!

  • Wow! Well its so refreshing to read something…so frank. I couldent agree or relate more to the above! Personally I think its probably the way you are bought up…not just a women thing. I know I work my arse off, feel guilty, don’t always no my end goal, too proud to ask for help, and generally wear myself into the ground! I’m defo in the same frame of mind regarding babies. In fact the ‘Im too selfish’ is a sentence thats past my lips too! On that subject its life changing and underneath I’m scared..that that will be it. But of course it won’t. Im waiting for that marternal thing to kick in… but I’m not that type of person.. but I do love kids. So moral to the story like you said is practicing being full-of-self, instead of selfless. Nothing else matters apart from you, hubbie and family xxxx

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  • Hi there,

    Thanks for writing this. I did post a blogpost about the same thing yesterday and was pointed out here by one of my readers. Thanks a bunch for sharing your thoughts. I feel the pain and hope you’re doing well money-wise (and in all others things too off course)

    All my love,

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