The working Girl

Okay, so at some point of this post, I will likely offend someone.  But, I hope I also inspire someone. 

Sydney is in her second week of working for me.  She's doing general housekeeping and some gardening.  She's doing good work.  I don't overload her, but I do give her all the jobs that need doing, broken down into small, bite sized chunks so she doesn't spend her summer with dish pan hands.  And, I pay her. 

The first time I paid her, she was so excited.  It wasn't a lot.  But, she nearly danced to her room with her cash.  She doesn't make minimum wage, but she doesn't pay taxes or benefits either, and I still cover her room and board.  I explained all that when I gave her the job for the summer.  Yesterday, she was complaining about her hourly wage and the First Lady happened to be in an interview on the news, where she talked about minimum wage earners going to jobs they hate, just to put food on the table.  I backed that up and played it again.  Real loud. 

And, she complains that there have to be laws to protect her from child labor (washing dishes and mopping floors and dusting don't count as child labor...I hope.  When I was a kid, they were the weekly chores.)   But most of her complaining is in jest and I don't take the challenge on any of it.  I just laugh or dispense good parental advice.

Every morning, she starts by making me breakfast.  If she forgets, I go wake her up.  That's how it is when you have a job.  And, while I eat, we sit at the table, her with her cup of coffee (Jeez, I hope that's not a mistake) and me with my breakfast, and we lay out the day's tasks.  Some are easy.  Some are crappy jobs that I hate and don't do very often.  She writes it all down on a piece of paper.  She writes down the time she spends on each job and at the end of the week, we add it up and figure out her pay.  When I get home, she sends me around to see her work.  I don't have to go check it out to evaluate whether she did a good job. I assume she did a good job and that I don't need to check it.  She's doing good work and she knows it and she's proud of it.  When she had to clean the fridge the other day, she explained how she scrubbed some stains out, and we laughed about what she had to do to clean under the vegetable bins.  And, I said "Looks good".  She beamed. 

I have to keep my jobs of "boss" and "parent" seperate because, like all teens on a job, she needs to come home and complain about the boss and say things like "I'm not doing that anymore".  As her parent, I can empathize that cleaning out the space under the sink where we keep the trashcan is a crap job, but, she does get paid for it.  And, she doesn't have another job, so she needs to keep the one she has.  And, as her boss, I have to insist that the job can't be done without taking everything out of that cabinet.  And, sometimes, I have to ask her to do something again...not fussing at her over doing a half done job, but explaining that my expectations were higher and it's okay, she can do it again tomorrow, but focus on the part she missed. 

Last night, while we were doing dishes after dinner (there are still some chores I won't pay her to do) she asked me to fire her.  That was pretty funny.  We were laughing and having a great time.  She said not to call her "housekeeping" anymore and I explained that I wanted her to know exactly what it was like for thousands of women in Austin, who get up every morning and go to underchallenging jobs, where they are underpaid for the work they do, mostly because they are undereducated.  Most of them didn't get the chances that Syd gets, and she chooses to do the minimum in school, studying just to pass the test and doing her best not to embrace the material.  What she is experiencing this summer is the extreme end of what can happen if she chooses to be undereducated. 

She pretended not to listen and near the end of my speech, she was trying to speak louder than me, calling me a racist (okay, I kind of deserve that one for calling her Lupe (pronounced in Texas as Loo-pay) after a badly treated Maid in a local play from a few years ago (i.e. telling Rob, "don't worry about it.  I'll get Loo-pay to do it tomorrow")), but she was also listening.  And, she's learning.  And, she's showing off the things she's learned over the years that she's been with us (believe me, when she got here, that girl didn't know clean from anything). And, she's got pride in her work.  And, we saw how she guarded over her wages when we were on vacation last week, stretching her pennies until Mr. Lincoln squealed. 

And, I'm proud of her.  She's really growing up.  And, most of the time, she's fun to be with, even if she does still make me a little crazy and I have to pretend to be listening when she's gone on for 15 minutes about her hair. 

Every day, I'm amazed at where we started and where we are.  There were a lot of bad days.  We were making a person out of a lump and that's hard work.  And, unless something terrible happens between now and then, I can see myself being proud to send her out into the workforce.  Maybe this little lesson about taking pride in her work will carry over into her school work, too. 

This morning, I saw a news segment about parental stress.  People studied said they had stressful jobs and enjoyed being at home and relaxed.  But, when their chemical levels were checked (I think it was cortisol levels), the blood chemicals indicated they were more stressed at home.  The reporter speculated that it was because parents want to get it right at home and trying to make sure they do is stressful.  I think it's because we know what we're doing at work.  We've been educated and trained to do our jobs.  At home, there is no manual or step by step instructions on how to do the job, and a mistake could affect a child for a lifetime. 

I've spent a lot of time, wondering if we are doing the right things with Sydney.  The answer is always the same.  When I look at a single day, we make a boatload of mistakes.  But, when I look at my daughter overall, I see that we get a shipload of stuff right. 

Have a good Wednesday.  I'm still unpacking from vacation.  I haven't downloaded pictures.  I just got caught up reading blogs in a marathon that didn't leave time to comment.  Slowly, but steadily, I'm getting caught up. 


hemmafru said...

I have only been reading your blog for a few months and have enjoyed you writing about raising your daughter. I don't know how long she has been with you but as an outsider I observe that your daily commitment to goals, boundaries, and love are surely being absorbed by your daughter. I have three daughters and boy oh boy is it tough work! I am taking a page from your book and creating housekeeping jobs for pay for my two oldest this summer. It is so important to learn about how much work a job can be and why not do well in school and try to find work you love.

And I enjoy your sewing posts too. I am a garment sewer but am slowly being inspired to try my hand at quilting. Best regards to you and your sweet family.

Mary said...

You are spot on with the education lecture, kids need to know the downside of taking their schooling for granted and slacking off. Which is what my son did, which is why he hasn't his mechanic papers even after 4 yrs in college and is working in a factory making lids for ice cream tubs (the little single serve ones) at $11/hr rather than +20 as a mechanic. Excuse the rant, you are doing a great job. I don't know if I can say the same about mine.

Laura said...

I think you are doing a great job with your daughter, but I also think a lot of parents take the credit when kids turn out well, and get a lot of blame when kids don't. I have 3 sons. We raised them all the same, but at some point, personality takes over. One child is a spender, one is a saver. One is a hard worker, one is a minimalist. Good parents do the best they can, but a lot of the end results depends on the kid.

Kathleen said...

Go Lane !!!! I have always thought every young girl should have to spend one summer cleaning hotel rooms or waiting tables.
Best college-prep program I know!

Dre in PA said...

Next up a stint of babysitting to enforce the merits of birth control!
(I mean this...)

Coloradolady said...

"a mistake can affect a child for a lifetime" No truer statement...but also the things you guys are doing right will also have staying power if not more.

You are always an inspiration. I need to work on a lot of the things you have worked on and over came....Sydney is very lucky to have so much love and devotion to her! When she is an adult, you can bet she will really appreciate all you have done (or made her do) for her!

Anonymous said...

It's the love. Love is a verb, not a noun and you are doing love. It has the staying power you hope for.

With Admiration,

Anonymous said...

I simply love your insight and what your are teaching Syd. She is going to turn out just fine as what you and Rob have taught her is to love herself, hardwork, and responsibility. I cannot wait to see what she will aspire to when she leaves the "nest" as I truly believe she is going to do wonderful things. Keep up the good work in ALL you do. Your blog is my inspiration and I miss it when there is no new addition.
Give Syd a big hug from a cyber Mum and tell her to keep on smiling and keep on doing the great work!

Becky said...

You and Rob are doing a great job with Sydney. There were days that I thought my two boys would never amount to a piece of poopy, but they are both great workers and contributors to society. It all works out in the end for all the hard work you have done over the years.

Enjoy these days!

Lakegaldonna said...

I also love your insight and the fact that you share so much with us. We have raised three kids with much of the same approach that you guys are doing. We are so proud of all three. They are all so different from each other too. Our youngest had a pre collage job of unloading semi trailers for Target. He started at 4 am every day. Of course it was minimum wage and he didn't miss a day when many of his co workers would call in sick on the weekends. It was a miserable job.
It was one of the best learning lessons, what I don't want to do the rest of my life.
Keep at it.
Syd is a lucky gal.

Rebecca Grace said...

How old is Sydney now? I think your housekeeping job for her is a great idea, especially if she has been underachieving in school. My kids are transferring out of the charter school (where they had a very vague, nontraditional grading scale that made it impossible to really know how they were doing)to our local public middle school in the fall. My oldest sounds just like your daughter when it comes to school work, doing the bare minimum to get by, perfectly happy "passing" instead of shooting for the best grade he could earn. So I'm going to test out a new "Mom Pays Commission For Good Grades" program in the fall for both of them: An A is worth $10, a B is worth $5, a C is worth nothing, and if we get Ds or Fs (God forbid!) the kids would have to pay ME. This is for the core subjects only, and I know it sounds awful, but in the real world people try harder to meet their goals in order to win monetary incentives. My oldest will be an 8th grader next year so it's his last "practice" year before he's earning grades that go on his high school transcript an impact his options for the future.

I might borrow your janitorial job program idea, too, though. After all, it's important that they learn how to do those kinds of jobs just as basic life skills. Of course, if my 10-year-old was in charge of my breakfast in the morning, I would probably eat some VERY WEIRD THINGS for breakfast... :-)