Two blog posts in two days, unheard of for me, but there’s something on my mind and I can’t let it go.
Today I heard a conversation.
A woman was contrasting her job (serving food), with that of her husband’s (he was a headmaster). She said that out of the two of them, he went to university, so she would like her children to go too. The implication being that she would rather her children get a degree and have more opportunities than she did, (lest they wind up serving lunches).
She clarified that she knows it’s not a given that university is an indicator of a happy life, and was clear she wasn’t putting herself down, but it stirred up a lot of emotions in me.
I had an urge to talk to her more in depth, and passionately, about my views on the topic, but I don’t know her that well and I needed to get it straight in my head why I felt such a visceral need to talk to her.
I processed it on the walk home. It’s because I could see myself reflected in her words.
The regret of wasted potential, the desire for my children to be better than I am, to do better than I have.
Except I did go to university. Twice, and with excellent results.
Many years ago, I had a job that would be considered a profession.
Today I have a job serving lunches to small children (and looking after two children of my own, but that’s not paid, so my brain doesn’t allow me to count it as a job).
But how much of the job I do is a measure of my worth?
It was certainly easier to introduce myself to others when I had a job title that at least sounded impressive.
The woman before me today was a bright, energetic person. She’s a mother, and a wife and she likes to exercise. She’s always got good banter, and I look forward to seeing her.
She brings value to my day because she’s a pleasure to be around, and I’m certain she brings value to the many other people in her life.
During the pandemic we’ve seen that many of the jobs necessary for society to function are not necessarily the ones that earn the most money, have the most status or require the most education.
Some are, like a doctor or a nurse, or a scientist, and it’s these kinds of roles we often wish for our children. But if you asked the people doing those jobs if they could do them without the porters, the cleaning staff or the administrative staff, then I know what the answer would be.
If you asked a doctor if they thought they were worth more than their support staff, I also know what the answer would be (at least I hope I do).
Yet we continue to do ourselves a disservice in perpetuating this hierarchical thinking.
I continue to do myself a disservice.
As a society, we need to lose the idea that letters after your name signify your worth.
There are plenty of uneducated people with letters after their name, and there are plenty of educated people with none.
Education comes in many different forms, and it’s mostly found in life, not school.
I feel like I’ve only really started my education journey over the past couple of years, and the stuff I’m learning and the ways in which I’m learning it can’t be taught in standardised lessons.
Experience teaches us.
Most importantly (and I’m saying this to myself more than anyone), work should not define a person’s sense of self-worth.
My children aren’t ashamed of me when they see me scraping the plates at dinner time, so why should I find myself lacking? We are socialised, by high school, by consumer culture and by life, into thinking that people with certain jobs, authority, status or income are somehow better.
I’ve been really focused on wanting to be a good role model for my daughter lately. I’ve been worrying that because I’m not a professional woman that I am doing her a disservice in showing her what she could be.
But I think the real disservice, to her and to me, would be to not value who I am.
My daughter sees me writing every day. She’s not interested in reading any of it (she’s 10, and it’s only right that I cannot compete with the magic of Harry Potter), but she sees me doing what I love every day. Perhaps that is enough.
You see, this is my life. I am not a high-flying executive. I am not an academic. I am a mother. I am a wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend. I am a dog lover. I love to write, to read and to walk. For some inexplicable reason, I love to do High Intensity Interval Training (I blame the endorphins).
I am me, and I am more than my education or my employment status.
There is plenty of value in my ordinary life.
There is plenty of value that I can bring to the lives of other people – ordinary people – who I encounter every day.
I just have to be brave enough to be myself on the outside. This blog is helping me do that.
One final thing I need to remember, is that most days will be pretty ordinary, and that’s ok too.
There’s plenty of value (and more than a little magic) to be found in the ordinary.
10 thoughts on “Work, Worth and the Value of the Ordinary”
You express yourself and your ideas so clearly and wonderfully in writing. You have a real gift. It is such a pleasure to read. As a stay at home mother, I also relate so much to what you’ve shared here. I struggle to see the value of my contributions.
What you shared about the value of the ordinary brought to my mind a quote I read and really loved just recently. I believe you might enjoy it as well:
“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”
Wow I absolutely love that quotation how true that is. Ordinary is definitely what we have lost in our strive to be perfect, successful. In doing so I would say less people are happy – starting with the children. The delight on children’s faces when they pick flowers etc..
Rach that quotation is true. I know how you feel in terms of the awkward feeling you have when you say you don’t ‘work’ etc.. I have felt it too. But since reading this I won’t anymore. And I will try and remember that quote the lady wrote above. Let’s all plant some trees in our gardens. X
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It’s a fab quote from Flow Into Words isn’t it?
There are some great posts on her blog that really hit home for us mothers.
I so agree with you that kids just need the simple things to be happy, then we go and grow up and complicate it all.
I’ve struggled with these feelings on and off for a few years now, but I finally feel like I’m starting to gain some level of acceptance.
The irony is that if I was a working mother I have no doubt I’d be feeling guilt for that, & it would be that I’d be working through.
Either way, it helps to remember that the most important things in life are often the simplest.
Yay for the trees 🌲 💓 x
Thank you so much for your kind words.
I’m never quite sure if what I write comes across as I mean it to, so to hear that my writing has resonated means so much to me.
Thank you so much for this beautiful quote. I keep reading it through and thinking how true it is!
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My parents didn’t raise me the best. And when they died I was alone. But also because of how I was raised, I had no idea what I was good at. My mom wanted me to go to college. But I had no idea what I wanted to major in. Everything was so confusing and mysterious.
I ended up joining the army. Which gave direction to an extent. But I learned that education doesn’t stop after high school. I’ve learned more on my own and it’s been vital. Even survival skills. Which has given me a confidence beyond making it in this world.
Raise your kids to love learning and continue learning. They may or may not go to college. But it shouldn’t stop learning. Knowledge is power.
Such good advice John, I think a love of learning is key, as is the awareness that we never stop. It’s something I’m trying to impart to my children, though it’s tricky because they seem to see learning as being synonymous with school (and therefore resistant to anything that looks like learning outside of school!).
But I suppose I shouldn’t worry too much as it is inevitable that life will teach us what we need to know (though not necessarily all that we want to know).
It sounds like life has taught you many hard lessons, which has in turn given you a lot of wisdom to share. I always look forward to your comments as you always give me more to reflect on. Thank you 🙂
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I’m glad you enjoy my rants 😆
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Haha I would say considered reasoning 😂😉
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Wow, that’s very powerful writing Rae. Don’t you think there has been a hierarchical structure in society since man ( or woman ) began ? We will always compare ourselves to other people to some extent, so I think a worthy goal is to try not to do that. If we truly value ourselves then others most definitely will. There’s a whole night of discussion on this topic alone….don’t get me started !! Xx
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I’ve had a plethora of thoughts and questions for myself since I wrote this one.
I suppose there’s no getting away from some form of hierarchy, but what’s happened over the past 18 months has shown how quickly we can change our patterns and values, it would be nice if there were a shift in a direction that takes us towards a society that’s focused more on who we are and less on what we do.
I wrote a whole post on comparisons too, I have lots to work through 😂