Entitlement, an American Work Ethic

I really felt this topic was deserving a blog, especially since we are in the month that celebrates "Labor Day."  I also feel that our work ethic is not talked about enough, sort of taken for granted.  Now I can't speak for all of you out there, I can only speak for myself and my own experiences, but have you noticed something different about our culture?

My father worked at US Steel Wire Spring for as long as I have been alive (44 years).  He died 10 years ago but before he died he worked for the same company for over 40 years.  The plant he worked in I'm sure was dusty, dirty, noisy, etc.  I don't really know first hand because my dad never let the girls come to where he worked, including my mother, but the boys in my family used to go.  My brothers started their work careers sweeping the floors in my father's plant.  Eventually they moved up to a few other menial tasks and then they eventually went on to work somewhere else.  That experience for my brothers had to be difficult, seeing their father slaving away all day in a dirty place like that....I'm sure it was the driving force behind their decisions to work hard and have "good" jobs.

Today, our kids see their parents (both of them) working in nice air conditioned offices with windows and a view, and they think, "that's gonna be me someday."  My generation came from a place where we saw how hard our parents worked, not just dedicated to their work, but actually doing hard, physical labor day in and day out. Because we cringed to see our parents working so hard we vowed to never live like that ourselves.  My mother was a beautician on her feet all afternoon after she worked all day in the kitchen of our high school on her feet.  I know that that single witness scared me enough to say, "I'm going to college!"  My parents could not afford to send any of their kids to college so I had to figure out how to pay for it MYSELF!  That's right, myself, with absolutely no help from mom and dad!

Today, our kids feel they are entitled to a first-rate education courtesy of mom and dad.  Period.  They think it is their right!  Parents who do this for their kids get a rush themselves.  They feel good about themselves because they are letting others see that they are good providers for their kids, that they are earning a great wage, and that they are making a "sacrifice" for their children.  To that I say, my mom and dad made the sacrifice.  True, they did not give me a penny towards my college education, but they did give me an incredible work ethic.  That is something I am so grateful to have received.  That's not to say that every job has appreciated my hard work and dedication, all but one job has though. Oddly enough, Catholic Church I worked for did not seem to appreciate my gifts as much as my other employers had. That was quite a shock to me!  I guess the Church isn't used to working with someone with my "go-getter" personality, but I am digressing.

The point is, I learned to appreciate my parent's hard work and sacrifices but I also learned that it was what they DIDN'T give me that made me who I am today.  I hope to return the favor to my kids.  My husband and I agree on the following: at 16 they must  have a job or they can not have a car or drive.  They must understand that we will help them pay for their tuition at a local state college but we are not required to pay for their "room and board" experience parents think kids need.  If they want to live on campus...they have to pay for it.  My kids have saved their Communion money, birthday money, and Christmas money, ever since they were born and they have over $10,000 in the bank!    Although they did not appreciate me taking their gifts and putting them into a savings account, they would have rather spent the money on something useless, they certainly appreciate it now when I say "if you want to buy a used car...you can!"  I'm not saying we shouldn't help our kids.  My husband is giving my oldest son his old car, but Nick must have a job to pay for gas, maintenance, and insurance.  There is a fine line between helping our kids and enabling them.

This is beginning to look like a culture of spoiled brats rather than kids who are motived to work hard because they are scared to end up like their parents....working their fingers to the bone.  A nice balance is needed here.  Let's start developing some character in our kids, some work ethic, some responsibility.  Come on people!  Don't be so scared of disappointing your children.  Instead, teach them the things they need to be full-functioning, independent young adults.  Giving them a full-ride to the college of their choice, no responsibility or accountability, and free trips around the world is not doing them any favors (in my opinion) because it is enabling our children.

Let's celebrate Labor Day with a labor of love, acts of charity and responsibility to those who are truly in need.    Trust me, you'll feel much better in the end!


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