If you want to know what I’m thinking about look at the books stacked on my nightstand, on the ledge of my bathtub, or on the dining room table. Right now, the stack includes an embarrassing number of titles on topics such as becoming a millionaire, what is money and its role in our lives and society, and how one can adopt new mindsets around work, wealth, and ambition.
Considering these few facts about my relationship with money and work, my latest obsession and interest seems a bit bizarre to say the least.
My last paycheck was from Spaghetti Factory when I worked there as a hostess for a few months during college.
My living expenses between graduation and getting married came from a handful of donors, mainly family, who supported me during my time as a missionary.
Since being married, I haven’t opened my own bank account, except if you count Paypal or Venmo. Honestly, up until a few weeks ago, was quite content not having to listen fully to my husband when he tried to explain to me anything concerning our finances. Since I wasn’t contributing to our income (at least not with an actual paycheck) I assumed I could remain ignorant and aloof.
Over the last 10 years, I have launched a few different creative endeavors and continue to publish my writing in various different spaces, but I have never allowed myself to consider making any sizable profit, breaking even or going in the hole was my normal mode of operation. I often blamed our culture for undervaluing the roles of mother, caregiver, artist, or writer.
People over profit, right? A phrase I hear thrown around when it comes to doing business with integrity and soul, but upon closer look, I’m not sure has been entirely helpful for me through the years, and has only perpetuated my skepticism surrounding the acquisition of wealth.
I’ve had a rather difficult time envisioning another version of myself outside of being a woman who stays home with her children and deems them her priority, a woman who also offers all of her creative work and writing into the world without expecting pay.
These perspectives, thoughts, and stories about money came through internalizing how prominent women in my life talked about their careers and finances, as well as my own constructed fears of earning a substantial income (and judging others who did). This led me to assume, as a mother, staying home with my children was the most honorable and loving thing I could do with my life and I didn’t need to make a dime.
As you can imagine, I felt slimy when I sensed the desire to make money begin to take center stage in my mind. When I realized I wanted to contribute to our income (and not in a small way!) and stop viewing myself as only an unpaid mother and the typical starving creative, I wondered if I had lost my mind.
Within a day, I started listening to and honoring my desire to be a successful professional with a lucrative career and thriving business. I said yes to the Charissa who dreamt about living in France for a few years, adventuring with her kids, owning a home beside the beach, supporting causes she cared about and funding her own creative endeavors as well.
It felt sinful to admit I now never wanted to start another project or entertain another innovative idea, or even continue sharing my creative work without first charting a clear path towards earning a profit.
But here I was, sitting in my minivan, confronting my unconscious desire to become a millionaire.
Honestly, being financially dependent on my husband felt safe and comfortable to me. It reminded me of being a happy, carefree child, releasing me in some ways from not ever worrying about where my food or clothes would come from and simply trusting all my needs were taken care of. But this, I am learning, is not a healthy or sustainable way for me to carry on living anymore.
I am on a steep learning curve. It’s been over 20 years since I’ve made any sort of salary, but I am determined to cultivate a new mindset around motherhood, work, and money. I’m devouring information and resources around these topics and tucking away all the wisdom and new language I’m discovering with the hopes it’s not too late for me to tell another story.
For instance, this week I was reminded that our society defines a “good mother” as always being around and always devoted to the needs of her children, sociologists call this “intensive mothering.” When the truth is, “Exclusive maternal care was not related to better or worse outcomes for children.” Furthermore, “Some data even suggest that having two parents working outside the home can be advantageous to a child’s development…” (taken from Lean In: Women, Work, and The Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg)
Having a successful and exciting career, working towards financial freedom, does not have to be at odds with being a tender, engaged, and energetic mother, I tell myself every day now, and it also doesn’t have to stand in contrast to leading an intentional, meaningful, and inspiring life. If you want to change the world, Mother Theresa says, “go home and love your family.” And I think it could also be true, “If we want to change the world, go out and find ways to make a lot of money and go home and love your family.”
Perhaps confronting my unconscious desire to become a millionaire is merely the beginning of what it means to throw myself all in to this gorgeous life, becoming a woman who sees beyond her smallness and fight for significance, who thinks generatively and seeks to leave behind a legacy far greater than she’d ever dreamed.