Maybe I’m just a naturally defensive person. Maybe I value the validation of others a little too much. Maybe I’m drawn to lifestyle choices that call for a little more justification than the more commonly taken paths. I’m not sure. Whatever the case may be, I oftentimes find myself in a position where I feel compelled to defend myself and my decisions.
Maybe in explaining to other people why I chose what I did, I am ultimately convincing myself that it was the “right” decision to make in the first place. This could be as ultimately inconsequential as choosing what camera to buy. Or it could be as profound as deciding on the “right” career path to best suit my personality, preferences and skill set. Maybe I think too much about the “what ifs” in life.
Early on in my freelance writing career, my parents wrote off what I was doing as just a phase. It was a harmless hobby to keep me busy until I found myself a “real job.” To them, it wasn’t a realistic occupational choice. And so, I felt compelled to convince them. I demonstrated to them that my home-based business was (and still is) just as legitimate a business as any other.
I recognized that my career choice was unconventional, but I yearned for their support. It’s not that they ridiculed me or berated me. It’s that they dismissed me and my choice in career. But here I stand, ten years later, with a business that’s still up and running. Maybe it’s the “I’ll show you” mentality that kept me going.
Almost two years ago, my life completely changed again when I became a dad. And while almost all the other new dads had to fight for some semblance of parental leave from their jobs, I stayed home. This is a position of privilege, to be sure, and one denied to many. And yet, I felt I was once again put on the defensive.
I felt like I once again had to justify my decision, this time to be a work-at-home dad (or stay-at-home dad). I had to convince everyone around me that I was reasonably competent as a new parent… or at least as competent as any overwhelmed new parent might be. Why, as a man, would I choose to change a diaper or hand-wash stained clothing?
It blew their mind that I could take care of the baby alone. It blew their mind that I could make a living working from home, running my own business, even if they really had no real idea of what I was actually doing. Maybe it’s not that I put myself in a defensive position. Maybe it’s that I put myself in a position of advocacy and education. “Here is what is possible,” I might say. “I am living proof.”
But I’m not sure. In the meantime, I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing, because it seems to be working just fine. At least that’s what I’m trying to convince myself.