I was watching the tape (VCR, we’re old school here) of Sunday morning’s version of a news program we like to watch, and there was an interesting discussion about the whole “dignity of work” phrase. As someone who not only speaks with a lot of SAHMs and WAHMs, as well as someone who worked from home, both for a corporation and for herself, the discussion struck me as quite interesting…and frustrating as hell.
Let’s start with the obvious, moms work! A lot. Being a mother is a tremendous responsibility and extremely hard work. I may only be a “mom” to my kitties, two birds, and two bearded dragons, but I know how exhausted I got keeping the “war kittens” out of trouble when they were little. (The phrase commonly used was that I was too old for twins.) I cannot imagine being a mother today and dealing with everything a mother has to deal with, even if the family household income is very comfortable and easily allows one parent to stay home full time. Raising a healthy, well-adjusted child is probably the most important job we have in this country, and individuals who chose to stay at home and focus on this calling, and yes, it’s a calling, deserve our utmost respect.
Some European countries pay women who stay home with their children; that’s how much this work is valued. And it says a lot about a society that doesn’t value this work as “work”.
So, too, do women who work outside the home. My mom worked two jobs. Without help from my aunts and my grandma, even she admits, she doesn’t know how she would have been able to work and care for me, and I was a pretty self-sufficient child with minimal extra-circular activities. Working eight hours, then going home and taking care of kids, by yourself… it’s a daunting task no matter any other circumstances.
Whether a mother stays at home, works outside the home full time, or works, volunteers, and raises her kids, let’s just all agree that it’s damn hard work.
So now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I want to talk about the “dignity” of work.
Do you know that one of the biggest complaints WAHMs have is that their time is not valued? The PTA wonders why she isn’t volunteering, after all, “she’s home all day.” Family members think that she’s just “playing around on the computer”, not realizing that she’s building her business. Phone calls come from friends wanting to chat, after all you’re “not working” they say. At what point does a WAHM’s job go from being a “hobby” to a job that’s respected? Well that differs with each person’s circumstance, but the bottom line is that it’s always a job. And someone working from home, whether that’s a consulting business, a healing business, selling Avon or Mary Kay, or sewing and selling her creations on etsy, is WORKING. (They may just need to set boundaries with friends and family members and enforce them strictly.)
Listening to some of the quotes given during the program, they were always the same. “The dignity of working OUTSIDE the home.” What? There’s no dignity working inside the home? Come on!
Let me put it to you this way…someone telecommuting for a major corporation but still works INSIDE her home….does that have no dignity? Yeah, that’s what I thought. This person is working, and in our global world, if you believe that the location of the work actually matters, then that says how very out of touch you are with our current world. In fact, let’s just take this one step further and decouple dignity from work.
You see, you can not work at all and have dignity. You can work in the home and have dignity. And you can work some pretty sucky jobs and not have dignity at all.
Dignity is something that comes from inside. It is not bestowed from on high like a crown or prize.
In fact, my partner made quite the astute statement. He said, “dignity of work sounds like a power statement.” And he’s right. Because as Elinor Roosevelt said so famously, “no one can make us feel inferior without our consent.” Those politicians standing up and telling us how we can have dignity, why they just want power over us. And that’s not helping all of us live to our fullest potential.
If you truly loved your fellow human, then you would not pass such judgements on them. I know, I know, I just said above that these people were out of touch, and if I believed they cared about other people’s perceptions, why I’d be first in line to educate them. No one is perfect. And it’s a struggle to operate from a heart-centered standpoint every single moment, especially when people infuriate you. But to get back to the point, each individual human has dignity. Period.
Just because I don’t work outside the home, doesn’t mean I have less dignity than when I did work (from home or even in the office) for a corporation. Just because someone decides for whatever reasons to stay home with her kids, doesn’t give her less dignity. Dignity is a human right, as are a great many things including a living wage and health care. Work doesn’t give us human rights. It (hopefully) gives us a means to support ourselves and our family. And if you’re blessed, as I am now, you can follow a course that allows you to utilize your gifts and skills to help others and follow your soul’s path. But even if you’re just putting in your forty-hours and taking your paycheck home, you still have dignity. And no one, especially not a politician, can take that away.