Family Business

I’ve always been insecure whenever someone asks me what I do. It’s been ages since I’ve had a nine to five job, which makes me lucky by so many standards. At first I supported myself by tutoring and allegedly pursuing my writing career on the side. And with my parents’ encouragement invested in real estate. But my dad always told me to downplay the real estate lest people get jealous. So for much of my twenties I described myself as an aspiring writer/ tutor.

I stopped tutoring after having my first child but continued with the real estate, no longer as shy about it perhaps because my husband’s friends were so successful or before children their fiances then wives had jobs with a title. I never felt comfortable calling myself a writer because I did not achieve the success I longed for (and still do). And since I do not work full time managing my property nor do I actively represent clients it feels disingenuous to refer to myself as a real estate broker.

When my daughter was born four years ago, my mother aware of my struggle commented, well now you don’t have to figure out what to do with yourself. A few years later I was filling out a preschool application that asked for mother’s employment and I called my mom. She intuitively knew the reason I was calling and we agreed that real estate manager was accurate and compelling enough.

Less than a year later my mom passed and I assumed the role of managing her real estate on behalf of my siblings. Again, it is not a full time job with some days requiring more work than others and I hesitate to define myself by this newfound responsibility. My mother owned and operated a bead store in addition to her investments and when people asked her what she did, she brought up the bead store, rarely commenting that she owned the building and the impetus for originally opening the store was a vacancy she was unsure how to fill.

I know I’m lucky that I do not *need* to work and I’m thrilled that I have an identity outside of my children even when work calls can interrupt our time together. Having my siblings for partners definitely complicates things but it must be better than at least some alternatives? I read Cleopatra: A Life and thought of the young Queen inheriting an empire, forced to marry her brothers, fearing a death ordered by her brothers and reminded myself that family businesses are double edged swords.

This post was inspired by Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff. As part of the From Left to Write I received a free copy.

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7 Responses to Family Business

  1. Family businesses come with a big backpack of family issues—for MOST families. Cleo had a tough time; hope it’s easier for you.

  2. Thien-Kim says:

    Titles are a double edged sword as well. Once we choose a title it feels like we’re boxed in. At least that’s how I feel sometimes.

  3. […] Helen P at Milf Alert hesitates to define herself by her new responsibility. […]

  4. My husband’s family inherited a real estate business and I’ve had very similar issues. I’ve worked for a salary at various times, most recently as a librarian so in some situations I still call myself that. I would love to call myself a writer, but that seems to indicate some completion of projects and success that I have yet to achieve. I’m getting just old enough now that I can say semi-retired and not look too ridiculous, but I’m not even sure that’s true — I may yet get that writing career going or I may work again for a salary, or health insurance!

  5. Alicia S says:

    I guess I’m lucky that I’ve held so many jobs. I always joke that I’m a jack of all trades and a master of none, but I’ve worked everywhere from a dental assistant to a bill collector, from a funeral home counselor to an insurance agent.

  6. Patty says:

    You are very fortunate to be able to have a business relationship with your siblings. Not in a million years would I go into business with mine. Our relationships, though not as perverse as Cleopatra’s, are contentious enough without an additional obligatory requirement beyond sharing the same DNA. Hope yours always stays manageable.

  7. Eunice says:

    You are definitely a writer! When I had that question on my children’s forms before I started blogging, I would cry a little inside. After I started blogging, I could put down “writer” with confidence. And now I’m a blogger outreach manager for an internet startup, a long road from the corporate attorney I used to be before kids.

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