Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Hard Work Ethic

...Spend yourself on the work before you, well assured that the right performance of this hour's duties will be the best preparation for the hours and ages that will follow it.
Ralph Waldo Emerson










Since its inception in January of 2011, I have been participating in a 
monthly, live, story-telling event, for adults, here in Pittsburgh.  During my first performance, I told of my sons' paper route, and the circus-like drama of learning the ropes, on a dark and very cold, snowy, winter night the week before.  Afterwards, and since, I have been asked, repeatedly, by a fellow story-teller, who was born and raised in a different culture than ours, why I feel the need for my children to have jobs (as if I am breaking child labor laws).  The answer is always the same and simple:  because they want to work (human beings are wired to perform manual labor...my youngest child would do it all for free) and I want them to become self-sufficient human beings who do not feel entitled because they are (fill the the blank here) ______ (white, middle-class in an upper middle-class neighborhood, educated.....).  My parents, along with my husband's parents, raised us both with staunch work ethics, as they had also been raised.  Speaking for myself, I "worked" from the time I was very young, doing extra chores, ironing my father's police uniform, hemming my mother's clothes, babysitting, working retails, office jobs,etc.,  in order to earn money to save, as well as purchase items that I wanted.  
When Tom and I bought our home here, in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania, almost six years ago, we both were elated- we felt we had finally "made it" - being able to provide our children with a single family home in a family-oriented neighborhood, which offered the feeling of safety, well-funded public schools with enthusiastic teachers/support personnel, and a close knit community with a large majority of at-home mothers (crucial to relieve me of the isolation of our former residence).  For me, it was the first time in my life where I had any of the aforementioned opportunities.  I felt blessed beyond measure.  But, as someone who has walked on both sides of the fence, lower-income-higher income living, I can tell you that an enormous misconception exists, amongst many of the more affluent in our country, that children who are provided with everything are happier than those who must work to afford them.  While, as a child, I may have preferred the lifestyle of my fantasies, the reality is that a great majority of my wisdom and intelligence was directly derived from my experiences, both in the paid and unpaid workforce.  From my perspective, many young people growing up in this neighborhood, where we live, are robbed of the opportunities of the "real world" by spending all of their spare time playing sports and participating in leisure activities.  On so many occasions, when we (and many of our friends) have wanted a babysitter, all of the adolescents, whom we solicited, nearby, were too busy skiing or going out with friends, to be available, and frankly, didn't have the motivation to work because they didn't need the money.  


I read this article today, which, unfortunately, is poorly written, but expresses a similar sentiment. 


So, yes, all four of my children, ages 13 down to 3, have jobs to earn money, every week.  Whether by delivering newspapers, raking leaves, shoveling snow, selling lemonade and brownies, or babysitting, my kids are learning the simple but profound lesson that hard work is a part of life, and should not be avoided. Hard work is to be relished, as a means to endurance, self-respect, and the experience necessary to be a well-rounded individual, young or old.




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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Forty-three year-old, mother and staunch advocate of four young children, passionate warrior of truth and self, finding the soul in each day, sharing my struggles and triumphs as I live them. Mostly I do this for me, so my thoughts don't race as much at night as they used to. But I also give this to those of you who need to know, in any or every way, that you are not alone.

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