No visible means of income

April's guest blogger, Andrea Mulder Slater, writes about her family of entrepreneurs.

Photo: Andrea Mulder-Slater
Photo: Andrea Mulder-Slater

I was back to work just a few weeks after my daughter was born. Mind you, I was dressed in cozy pyjamas and slippers, I may or may not have showered every day and I snoozed with great regularity.

Oh yeah, and I never left her side.

Because I work from home, I was able to update websites, write words and create small paintings while my newborn slept (just a few feet away) in her bassinet. It’s much the same today (three years later) only the bassinet is long gone and my work windows are shorter now that my girl naps sporadically, if at all.

I come from a long line of entrepreneurs. My maternal grandparents sold home goods from their “winkel” in Holland and my dad’s father owned and operated a bus-building factory, also in the Netherlands. When I was a kid, my father ran his own high-end audio store while my mother split her time between making art and running a bookkeeping business. Self-employment is also in my husband¹s genes. Geoff was a farm kid who grew up surrounded by self-sufficient family members. Neither he nor I have been officially employed since we graduated from art college (and that’s getting to be a long time ago).

At our house, no one pulls a regular paycheque from a steady job, and we’re not alone. According to recent statistics, New Brunswick is a province where self-employment has been on the rise over the past decade. It’s a scenario that freaks out some of my friends who can¹t imagine living without some sort of job security.

But how protected is anyone, really?

I don’t have to worry about the company I work for going through restructuring, layoffs aren¹t a concern and I never have to wonder if I am being paid what I’m worth.

And, we have a comfortable life, most of the time. But I know what you’re thinking. How can artists with no visible means of income, manage to travel, build a house, or even eat, for that matter?

I’ll let you in on a little secret. We fly by the seat of our pants.

I kid, but the truth of the matter is, we, like most Canadian families, try to live within our means. Some months are harder than others, but we always make due, in part because we take on any work that¹s even remotely creative (from murals and store signs to logos and web designs). In addition, we sell paintings from our seasonal art studio, we teach art and we earn advertising income from our website. My dad always used to say that the harder you work, the luckier you get and this has certainly been true for us all these years.

Having a good relationship with the bank also helps.

Then there’s the money we save by not having “real jobs”. At our house, the dress code is pretty relaxed, the commute from home to studio or office is only about 10 or 20 steps, lunches are home cooked, coffees cost just pennies and the three-year-old hangs out at home with the rest of us.

As a result, we are able to take the money that we might otherwise spend on expensive office wear, gasoline, train passes, bus tickets, cab fares, latte breaks, restaurant lunches and daycare fees and use it for things like travelling to Europe, buying magazines or obtaining fresh halibut steaks.

My daughter may or may not grow up to be her own boss. (At the rate she’s going, she is destined to become a dog whisperer/mathematician/pianist/marine biologist.) But whatever her path, my hope for her is to never feel trapped, to always feel competent, to love what she does and to do what she loves.

 

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