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I'm convinced that if I had a typical "9-5" job, I would have been fired by now, multiple times over. My colleagues would despise me. I would be unemployable in most work places. But, I love the work that I do and enjoy working because of that, so why in the world would I get fired?
9-5 doesn't work for me. It doesn't work for my family.
I had a mostly typical job before having kids. Once kids came into the picture, I realized how difficult most work places make life for parents/families - particularly primary caregivers. And really, I worked for an association that had some flexibility - not a ton - but if I had an appointment that had to be done midday, it was acceptable. Not ideal, but doable. Shortly after my husband and I welcomed our first child into the world, I left the "9-5" environment - every day in the office plus travel to events - for a technology job that allowed me to work mostly from home and when needed, occasionally going into client's offices.
THREE more kids later and after a couple of life-altering experiences, I felt myself wanting to get back into association work and event management. Even though most of my technology work was with associations, I missed the other aspects of associations and discovered my unique niche of understanding a lot of technology and understanding the day to day of association and event work. Enter Event Garde. (Kudos to Donna Oser for seeing the future success that would come from introducing me and Aaron Wolowiec to each other!)
So why a contractor arrangement? I cannot work 8am to 5pm. Life outside of work doesn't pause from 8am to 5pm, leaving me to freely work for eight or so straight hours. My kids' school days start and end at three different times. Two different bus pickups and drop-offs. Sometimes I'm the one driving the non-bus kids to school or picking up. Sometimes there's an event at school that I want to celebrate or share with my kids. Sometimes my kid's wheelchair breaks at school and I have to find the right hex wrench at home then run up to school to fix it. Sometimes I'm working for a month from a hospital room. Sometimes I'm working in a remote location while we're on vacation. Many times I'm working in a capacity that feels like it's all day long and never-ending. But on the days where I need to be somewhere else, do something else, care for someone else, I can walk away for a time period and things won't fall completely apart. And let's not forget that pandemic when ALL. THE. KIDS. were in virtual school FOR MONTHS. Was it hard? Absolutely. But I could work while they did school. Not all families could juggle that if the caregivers still had to report to a physical job. We made it through because I was already working from home. And because of the flexibility being a contractor affords me in getting to pick the work I do.
Certainly all of our in-person events were cancelled (during the pandemic), but events themselves didn't go away. They all went virtual. And most association staff didn't know the first thing about how to make that happen. Enter my unique skillset of understanding technology and events and associations. I had more work during the pandemic than I had the five years prior to it. Where association employees were being let go because there wasn't enough money or work or members, we were getting called in to support all of those groups for temporary time periods to get an event off the ground and launched online.
I know I'm fortunate. I'm grateful for the flexibility being a contractor allows me. I appreciate the team I work with on a regular basis because we're all contractors and we all get that we're contractors. We understand the constant need to secure business, keep current business more than happy, and say no to projects that simply don't bring us joy.
This arrangement isn't for everyone. I'm fortunate that my husband has strong medical benefits for our family through his teacher's union. I don't know quite how we would manage the medical challenges we have in our family without his insurance and I'm sure attempting to get it ourselves would be an astronomical cost to bear. I also know that if I lived further from immediate family or in a different neighborhood even, this might not be a feasible job. We have a tremendous village of grandparents, aunts and uncles, as well as a neighborhood group that acts almost like a cooperative with kids going house to house and eating wherever they happen to be at meal times, ride sharing to get kids to activities, and watching out for each other. (Also consider my husband is a teacher, so he's HOME all summer as well - another tremendous support piece of our puzzle!)
I'm not sure what brought about this type of blog post. It might be because we're currently bringing on new team members that are learning the ropes of what it's like to be a contractor instead of an employee. It might be because we've spent the past two weeks in a post-surgical environment for one of our kids and the immense value of the people around us and the type of work I have make it easier to get through each day. Not easy, but easier, than if we were reporting to 9-5 jobs.
There's a lot to think about when making a move from an employee arrangement to one of a contractor. It's never an easy decision and there's always hurdles and adjustments. But I would rather be doing this work, with this team, with these clients, with my family and village, then working any 9-5 job.