Parenting Solo: Worker Bee

My daughter and I shared a grown up moment tonight. It was a milestone that snuck up on me before I realized it. This evening we swapped work stories. That’s right; my itty bitty baby is part of the work force. But getting her there was about as painful as bringing her into the world.

When my child first begged me to let her get a job I could tell she wanted one for the wrong reason. She wanted money and she thought a job was the quickest way to get it. A job is actually the longest route you can take to money. It is the honest way to it but it is the longest, most tedious, often most frustrating way to get to the cheddar. So when she first asked me, I was not in favor of her working.

That was two summers ago. Then with each passing summer I warmed up to the idea. Now I’m fired up about her being gainfully employed but there is just one small stumbling block – the economy. Our nation has barley recovered half of the jobs lost during the worst recession this country as seen in 70 years. Unfortunately our youngest wanna be worker bees are really feeling the sting.

Many government job programs for teens are shrinking or disappearing all together, because they are losing their funding. Private industry is passing over younger workers for older, more experienced ones. I mean I can’t really blame them – grown folks can stay up late, drive their own cars and won’t ask for time off to go to the prom.

Still I wonder what it will cost society in the long run. In five or six years we are in danger of having a generation of adults being dumped into the workforce who have never held traditional entry level jobs. I mean a teenager’s first job has much more to offer than monetary benefits. It offers things like structure and discipline and a dose or two of humility.

My girl was unable to get on anyone’s formal payroll; so this year her auntie and I created some opportunities for her. She is helping me with the Power to Prevent Diabetes program that is part of the Parenting Solo Promise Series. It pays a small (and I do mean small) stipend for assisting with the data collection.

My sister also hired her temporarily to stuff tote bags for her company’s convention. It was there that the real worker bee was born. I stopped by and peaked in the conference room where she was working and saw her with her head in her hands. She was bored but I saw her push through that and focus on the task in front of her.

That one week assignment showed her that before she can get the financial gain from working she first has to complete the job – no matter how mundane the task. That may sound like a simple principal but many people of all ages miss it. Working does other things too:

• Working chases away the lazies. My couch looks funny to me without a teenager glued to it. During her tenure at her auntie’s job, my daughter got out of bed around the same time I did every morning. As soon as the sun came up I would stick my head in her room and say that famous Dunkin’ Donuts catchphrase “Time to make the donuts”. She hated it – that made it more fun for me.

• Working keeps teens out of trouble. Idle, bored, unsupervised teens are a recipe for disaster. Giving them something to do allows them less time to invent their own activities.

• Work makes them work-minded. You understand the reality of work when you actually hold down a job. I remember being shocked when I realized that I would have to show up to my job every day and do the exact same thing over and over. I got past my shock quickly and I’m still showing up.

Working is what we were made to do for at least part of our lives – even the Bible says so. In 2 Thessalonians 3:10 the passage reads. “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” As much as my child likes to eat, I guess she’ll be working for a very long time.