I Will Give To My Children The Privilege Of Work



by Olivia Langeveldt
Originally published at easyupstream.wordpress.com

The dishwasher has been on the blink for a while now. It’s served us well these last three or four years, but we seem to be past needing it now. The kids are ten, nearly eight, nearly six, four, two and 9 months old. Most are big enough to pitch in and, when we work together, we can clean the kitchen in no time.

Last week, a few things I read seemed to be having a conversation with each other. All had to do with work.

“We live in a culture of instant happiness and comfort seeking… no-one is telling us to “buck up” get on with it.” When you are struggling with something we are taught to back away from the problem, find a quick fix, an appliance can do that job for you… or pay someone else to do the dirty work… “remember you really need a break.” –se7en :: Sunday Snippet: Life Lessons Learnt on the Mountains

So, you see, we really are not in despair about the dishwasher. The value of learning how to get on without it and just do the work is too precious.

“We’re raising future men who know how to work and future women who know how to dig deep and kids who know that you’ve got to have dirt under your fingernails to plant good things and procrastination can be a sin that sends you only a lot of sorrow.

It’s worth living a life so you’re kids can see it: there’s a lot of happiness in this world that depends on being brave enough to keep working when it’d be easier to quit.

Nothing good gets started without getting to work. And nothing great gets finished without staying at the work.” – A Holy Experience :: What We & Our Kids Need To Know About Their Work – Life Balance & How To Thrive

Dishes is not just dishes. It is loyalty, self-discipline, perseverance. Too many good things to pass up.

“Understanding the concept of “process” is difficult for children because they don’t get to “see” it anymore. Older generations were in contact with agriculture and trades and could easily understand that everything had a beginning, a process divided in phases and an end result. Nowadays, urban kids can’t appreciate the effort that goes into growing a carrot or the time that it’s needed to make a pullover.” –The Adventures Archive :: Teach your kinds that it’s the process that counts (With Teach a Talent and Perfect Days)

A simple thing, it may seem, to grow a carrot. But adults (not just kids) need to know and feel and see these processes.

“Good work takes many different forms. Farmers, carpenters, teachers, and tax attorneys can achieve rational mastery in their own distinctive ways in their own specific fields. In common parlance, we might call this “expertise.” In Aristotelian terms, it could be seen as a rarified form of the virtue of prudence. This explains why being good at our jobs is not just necessary, but also enjoyable. Prudence, as Aristotle tells us, is pleasant. The exercise of rational mastery is fulfilling in a way that few other things are.

“Alienation theory examines how workplace conditions can artificially separate workers from those elements of the job that are naturally fulfilling. Marx worried especially about unskilled, assembly-line jobs, wherein workers perform repetitive tasks as part of a larger operation. In this environment, workers’ relationships to the final products of their labor are distant and heavily mediated. They are unable to take pride in what they produce, and they feel distanced from those rational, human powers that should be developed through work. Pushing a button over and over is work that could be done by a machine; thus, when humans do it, they feel “dehumanized,” as if they were only cogs in an industrial machine. Their humanity is subordinated to the company’s pursuit of profit.” –The Public Discourse :: The Pleasures of Prudence: How Over-Regulation Hurts Doctors, Teachers, and All Workers

All these ideas seem to me like common sense. Otherwise I wouldn’t do what I do. May be it’s not so common any more. I often see parents shielding their children from real life and work.

Some may feel sorry for my children doing dishes. I would feel sorry for them if they grew up and didn’t know how to conquer their own laziness or tiredness; be a teamplayer, not a grumbler; and feel that pride at being part of a job and knowing what it takes to get it done.


Olivia is a Capetonian who blogs at easyupstream.wordpress.com where she looks at the world and its ways, society and the culture, and how strong a pull these have on how we live. Follow Olivia on Twitter – @OliviaLang.

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