Toddler and I at Hoos Brews today, the place empty, and she starts asking me for a real-time play-by-play of everything the kind woman behind the counter is doing – “Emptying the soup bowls,” I say, diligently. “Scooping ice cream, I think.”
“What she doing?”
“Making a smoothie, maybe.”
The woman notices, and erupts: “Enjoy your childhood, because this is work, and it sucks!”
“Yeah,” I say, sympathetically. “To kids it seems like so much fun.”
“You just wait,” she says.
And so I start thinking about my daughter’s play activities – imitating cleaning, imitating cooking, making things, pretend shopping… her playtime is all about going through the motions of what I do, what adults do, most of it perceived and experienced as drudgery… rote, boring tasks…
But what makes domestic chores burdens – and what makes a job feel like compulsory torture?
Part of it, I think, or most of it, is the compulsory piece – the fact that you have to shop, you have to clean, you have to Bring Home the Bacon, to survive – you don’t really have much of a choice. Most jobs require that you follow someone else’s rules and procedures, subverting your own ideas and questions, your own style your own imagination your own rhythms to a hierarchy that often doesn’t seem to deserve its power.
Would working in an ice cream/coffee shop be fun if it was play time? If you could do it fearlessly, lovingly?
Would your job be fun if you didn’t have to do it everyday? If you could do it your own way?
Or is it that people tend to be doing jobs they don’t like in the first place, at all, ever?
Because I don’t think the answer is that things are “hard.” Hard work that you love, that you find challenging and rewarding, can be a heck of a lot of fun. I loved studying for the SATs, for instance. I liked mastering the analogy portion of the test. I also enjoyed sweating while swinging a hammer to help build latrines at a women’s music festival. I also loved writing papers in school, having to think out hard issues and find the right words to explain and clarify my points.
On the other hand, I hate doing financial paperwork. I hate data entry. I like the challenge of typing fast. But I don’t like having to be on time to a 9-5 job. I like when I get to question how things are done and develop new, better ways to do them. I don’t like when I have to go through the motions someone else invented that feel slow and redundant.
Meaningful, engaging, fun work that makes one feel like a whole, worthy, respected, happy person – what does that require?
Why does my two year old love sweeping and mopping and I hate it??? And what do I do to reclaim my joy for the mundane and to help my child retain it as she ages?
Answer me, people!!