“I’m grateful because that taught me how to work.”
This thought came up in conversation the other day while talking about the difference in the childhoods of yesteryear and the challenges the young face today. We were talking about the jobs we had when we were young, 10, 12, 15 years old. These were the jobs where you did the dirty work of cleaning and pushing a broom, digging dirt, mowing lawns, and babysitting. These were the jobs that were at the bottom rung of the ladder. You weren’t there to move up the ladder either. You weren’t there to get a bonus, benefits, or to support a family.
You were there to learn how to work.
With the economy changes and the crash that found people with Masters’ degrees working at McDonalds, these on the job training jobs were passed onto people with much more experience. If you could get someone with more experience to do the same thing for the same money, why wouldn’t you?
At the same time, schools moved into focusing on testing and college preparedness. The jobs of washing dishes and cleaning cars became seen as less than desirable for our children. We wanted them to have careers that required education, smarts, and know how. We turned to the school systems, after school curriculum, and sports activities to give this to our kids. But what happened was our kids got too busy for those part-time low end of the rung jobs. We put value on their extra curricular and that left little time for work.
So now we have a whole generation of kids who know how to play sports, can speak Lation, code computers, and understand advanced biology so they can get the jobs that require a degree. But what they haven’t learned and what we have forgotten to teach them, is how to work, just for the sake and satisfaction of working.
Life is difficult; the working world is no different. The job market has become harder than ever as corporations take over small companies. They can pick and choose their best hires, and wait if they can’t find them. You don’t’ just get a job for having a degree anymore. Kids today are going to have the face the fact that they might not get their dream job right out of college. They may have to work at a job they hate. They may have to work at a job that is less than, or beneath, what they are capable of or educated above. They may have to do the dirty job in order to prove them can do the big jobs.
This is a skill we are not providing our kids. The skill of work for work’s sake.
This is not to say an education is not work, or that an education is not important, but there is a mindfulness skill in being able to do something you really don’t want to do for a set amount of time just for the sake of doing it.
The motivation to work comes with rewards in money, of course. But there are other rewards. The feeling of satisfaction in a surface you cleaned that was once dirty. The feeling of helping someone who really needs a helping hand is rewarding. The knowledge that you can handle a tough job and that you are strong enough to handle a tough situation is not only rewarding, it is huge boost for self-esteem and feeling capable in the world. The joy in a job well done is a tangible thing. It is a mindfulness tool to be able to not be co-erced or bribed or forced into doing something, but instead find the motivation to want to do it. That comes with practicing work. And practice only comes if we give our kids the opportunity.
Recently an actor was Social shamed for working, just because the work was at a Trader Joes and not on TV. If our society is a point where we feel that people playing imaginary characters on a screen is more real, more important, and more valued than the person in care of our food, money, and nourishment (ie: groceries), then perhaps it is time that we do take a look at what we are teaching our kids. What do we ourselves believe about the honor, the respect, and the ability to just work?
Take the time today to honor work in all its forms, no matter where or how it happens to be. (And the work that you do as a parent is valued too!!!)
- Jeannine Proulx
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