This was part of a way bigger post I have shrunken due to excessive… me-ness.
This is something I need to make sure Penny knows before she leaves our house someday: she’s got to know where money comes from. I mean, I know she knows I go to a job, and I know most kids know that’s where money comes from, but where it really comes from.
I go to my job and there are things that need to be done. It’s not a hard job – you don’t need any experience or special talent to become a good employee really quickly. But you have to work. You have to show up and do all the things that need to be done. I’ve got an eight hour shift, and I go there, and I do things for eight hours – the whole eight hours, I do the things that my job requires. Then they give me money for that.
It’s not a hard job and it’s not a hard concept. But the kind of turnover you see in food service and similar make it clear that not everyone – like maybe people who are new to working or maybe just this type of person who exists – really has a firm grasp on the concept. Talking to my sister, who is a manager at a restaurant, makes it clear that it’s obviously not just something I’ve noticed.
I need to make sure Penny knows where money comes from. That you go to a job and do the job and that’s how you get the money. Not by just showing up, not by getting a job and then calling out a lot or not calling at all and not showing up, not by doing as little work as you can possibly get away with. If someone is going to pay you to do a thing, you must do the thing. That is how work works. It is not going to always be fun, but it’s also not very difficult – show up for your assigned shift and do the tasks assigned to you. That is the whole thing. You get money for doing that. No, there’s not a lot of time to socialize, and no, you can’t really dick around on your phone the whole day. But all you have to do is do the work you’re supposed to do during the time you’re assigned to be there. That’s it.
If someone is willing to pay you to do something, that means your work has value. If you’re taking money for doing something, that means you have to do it. If you don’t want to, or you find ways not to, or you make things difficult on everyone else, there is someone else out there who is willing to do those tasks for that amount of money. The money comes from doing the work.
I know Penny knows we go to work, and I know she knows we have money to buy things. I’m reasonably certain that she gets the work/money connection. But before I send her out to get a job of her own someday, I swear to you, Penny’s future employer, I will make sure that she understands that the money you are willing to give her is conditional on her doing the tasks that need to be done. That anything that someone will pay you for is work, and that the work matters to her employer. That if she won’t do the work or tries to find ways out of the work, then she won’t get the money. That there is no task or work duty that she is to good to do, no matter how tedious and un-fun. If someone wants to give her money, the work has value, and she needs to do it. Even if she thinks it’s a stupid way to do things. Even if she’s bored. Even if she’d rather be somewhere else doing anything else. Money comes from work and work (in most cases) is not just showing up.
There are a lot of things we need to teach Penny, so much that it’s overwhelming when I start to think of it. How to be a good person. That she doesn’t have to light herself on fire to keep other people warm. That she’s in charge of her body. That not everyone is going to like her and that’s okay. That she’s not going to like everyone and that’s okay, too. How to honor commitments and make phone calls and take care of her belongings. So this is just one of them, in a really long list of stuff, and I’m not saying anything about any other parents, or about any particular generation of children, or anything about anyone specific when I say that I hope you will make sure that your kids know this, too. That they don’t just understand that you leave all day and then buy them things. That they really get that when you leave, you do things that have value, and that value is reflected in your paycheck. That you have to earn the money, it doesn’t just appear. And that they’ll be expected to do the same thing someday, too.