By Liuan Huska

I'm Giving Myself a Raise

We saw this reflection in Liuan Huska’s newsletter (you can sign up here!) and thought it was worth sharing with you, dear readers. You might be a freelancer, but even if you’re not, you might be asking yourself the same kinds of questions about how to spend your time and money — and how those two things relate to each other. What does it look like to get clear about meaningful work and the issue of fair compensation? How do we invest the resources we have into things that are important, whether or not we are paid for that time? We think Liuan’s thoughtful exploration of this topic can help us as we all sort through these questions.

It’s a new year. Inflation is skyrocketing. It costs more to live. So, I decided to give myself a raise. But as a part-time freelancer and full-time mom, I don’t earn a regular salary. So what does that mean?

In the big picture, giving myself a raise means taking on outside commitments and responsibilities knowing that my time is valuable and rest is crucial. I can only be fully present to the needs of the world when I’m well-rested, fed, and housed. And I can only discern where to best offer my gifts when I have the margin space to hear the quiet voice of the Spirit. I want to take on work that allows me to care for myself and my family well enough to extend that care to others.

Practically speaking, giving myself a raise means:

  • Raising my rates as a freelancer. This is really tricky to do when working with non-profits or faith-based organizations, because we have the perception that anything associated with “ministry” should be freely given, or that people in ministry should be happy with less competitive wages. While it’s true that people in the non-profit and faith-based realm shouldn’t be misusing others’ generosity, sometimes this perception turns pernicious when we also assume that these people don’t need healthcare or retirement funds or paid time off.
  • Thinking carefully about what I’m earning hourly based off a flat rate and asking whether it’s worth it (to further my goals, support groups and causes I value, or make income to support my family).
  • Saying no to opportunities that aren’t worth it or negotiating a higher rate.
  • Giving myself permission to spend money on myself. This is not a ticket to self-indulgence but saying things like, “Yes, I value myself enough to have a well-made winter coat that fits, that I didn't inherit or find in a thrift store.” or “Yes, paying money for an exercise class that I enjoy is worth the investment in my well-being.”
  • As a full-time parent, prioritizing time-off “benefits” – in the form of hiring a babysitter, scheduling regular date nights, taking mini-retreats, and leaving the house to meet up with friends.

I’m speaking as a woman who has been socialized to undervalue myself and my time, energy, and body. Depending on your own life position, this message may or may not be what you need to hear. Billionaires like Jeff Bezos and Jack Ma may not need to consider giving themselves raises as much as giving their employees raises.

But for many of us in the workaday world, this is a period of rethinking our relationship to work. The Great Resignation is showing that workers on all levels are no longer settling for dehumanizing jobs that pay little in terms of income, respect, or general well-being. Whether you are a stay-at-home mom, student, pastor, or plumber, it can be empowering and transformative to ask these same questions: What is my work worth? For what am I willing to work? What am I working toward?

Of course, many of the roles and responsibilities we have can’t be simplified into numbers and transactions. Caring for children, loved ones with disabilities, or older parents is work that is immeasurably worthwhile, yet this inability to quantify the worth of caregiving can put many people into untenable positions of constant overwork.

Many of us also work on a volunteer basis. Again, we can ask, what am I working toward? Is this role a life-giving form of service – where my deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet (in the words of Frederick Buechner)? Or am I succumbing to external “shoulds” and “oughts” that deserve to be shed?

Late last year I sent out this tweet: “Honor your margins, friends. There is so much life, energy, and originality in spaces unoccupied by the demands of production or neglected by empire.”

I’m giving myself a raise in order to protect these holy margin spaces – the spaces where productivity stops and the prophetic imagination activates. I’m giving myself a raise so I can work less and play more. So I can discern what work I really want to be doing. So I can live into a world where everyone has meaningful work and receives enough in return to eat, play, rest, and be fully alive.

Photo by Kristin Hardwick on StockSnap

About the Author

Liuan Huska is a freelance journalist and writer at the intersection of ecology, embodiment, and faith. She is the author of Hurting Yet Whole: Reconciling Body and Spirit in Chronic Pain and Illness, a book weaving memoir, theology, and sociocultural critique. Liuan has written reported and opinion pieces for Christianity Today, Spirituality and Health, The Christian Century, BioLogos, and other publications. She is a regular columnist for Sojourners magazine and a fellow with the Religion and Environment Story Project.

Liuan lives with her family on the ancestral lands of several Native tribes, including the Potawatomi, near Chicago. When not writing, she might be found gardening, trying to identify edible plants, dancing in her living room, and breathing.

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