from the Editors archives
It’s happened again. One of the children said something to me that made me completely rethink this parenting gig. Or at least one major part of it.
My 18 year old works at a local grocery store, and has since she was 16. That, in itself, is a huge accomplishment and she should be proud of herself. As I am proud of her.
As she posted her upcoming work schedule on the refrigerator, she was upset because she works the next two weeks, with only each Tuesday off. No real weekend, her hours scattered here and there, intermittently and with no pattern or consistency.
As I asked her why her schedule was so crazy, why she was working so much and so inconsistently, I hadn’t realized the message I had been sending lately, until her reply knocked me back a bit.
“Because they hate me!” she said.
What? Where did that come from? What made her think that? They hate her, so they want her to work MORE for them? That made no sense.
So I sat and I thought about where she may have gotten that mixed up message. And I realized that it was from me. Not just from me, though, from society as a whole. Because that’s the way we say it when it comes to work.
I have to work today.
HAVE to work. Like that’s a bad thing. Like we are being punished.
Shouldn’t we be feeling lucky? Privileged? Grateful?
We don’t HAVE to work today. We GET to work today.
How many people in this country don’t get to say those words? How many families in this country had uttered those very words for years, decades even, and then found themselves in a position where they no longer get to do so?
Unemployment and underemployment is a very real problem. As a matter of fact, according to our 2016 census, 47% of children in my area are living in poverty. 47%!!
That’s a lot of children. I think that what’s even sadder is that a lot of them aren’t even living with completely unemployed parents. They are living with underemployed parents. Under paid parents. Parents with jobs, and sometimes more than one job. Jobs where, like my daughter, there are hours here and hours there. Hours that change on a weekly basis, with no consistency.
Add the fact that these jobs don’t even pay a living wage, and having to work can really become a nightmare.
Companies like my daughter’s do this because it’s profitable for them. Everyone except the managers are part time. and have no benefits or healthcare. When so many parents across our country are forced to have jobs like these, it makes it hard to say the honest truth. That we actually “get” to work today.
I think that should be changed. And I think that these very children have the chance to change that. But not if we keep presenting work to them like it’s bad. We need an attitude change, and that starts with me. That starts with us.
We really need to focus on redefining work. We need to focus on making work actually work for us. We need to make sure that is a priority.
After all, in 20 to 30 years, it will be these kids who have the responsibility of this. It will be our kids who run the show, and who dictate what work is.
Maybe if we start presenting our jobs in a positive light, while also explaining the difficulties, they will be inspired to make some changes.
My daughter is going to be missing those hours as she starts college full time next fall. She will also remember them and be facing the new challenge of not getting enough work. Maybe if I start changing how we look at work around my own home she will be inspired to make “get” to work something she strives for after she graduates.
So as my younger daughter asked me from the living room just now if I have to work tonight, this time I replied “Yes, I get to work tonight,” and I will take with me an air of gratitude rather than drudgery. My children and I will start a conversation tomorrow about how they can start to do the same, and try to change what they don’t like about “having” to work in the future.
Because another, younger, daughter of mine has been looking to get to work, too.