When Older Son was young my constant refrain to him was, “Careful!”
Now that he is an adult I say, “Be thoughtful” which is pretty much white noise to someone who is 23. All they have are thoughts. Being young is a lot of work, you have an entire personality ot build.
I’m 46. I’m pretty much built. Everything is either hardening into place or just getting worse. But for young adults, it’s all thinking and building and becoming all the time.
I’m rather glad I had a kid at 22. I threw the mom persona into my personality cauldron and it took up so much room I didn’t notice I wasn’t much of an individual until I hit 30. And by then I was married and my parents had entered their 70s so my role as daughter became much larger.
Mother. Wife. Daughter.
I became who I am while navigating what I was and did for others. I defined myself by who I represented to them. And that was fine. All the other women I knew lived their lives pretty much the same way so we floundered along together.
But now I am no longer a wife. And my parents have passed away. Older Son lives in Sacramento and seems to be doing okay. It’s just me and Six at home, two goofballs who watch too much TV and really need to stop eating ice cream for dinner. We have cheese and apples for dessert so we aren’t a total lost cause.
The point is my life used to be about other people but there just aren’t that many people in my life anymore.
I loved my old family focused life. I was good at it and I had a lot of fun. There were camping trips and holiday BBQs and Halloweens that looked like something out of a movie. Swimming parties and traveling for Christmas and endless lunches and dinners with family.
There were also weeks spent in hospitals, arguing with doctors and nurses and social workers. Tense discussions about giving up driving as well as moving into assisted living. There were crying jags in diner bathroom stalls, weeping in security checkpoint lines and just flat out screaming in the car when I was alone because I had no idea what to do.
And the endless cycle of cleaning out people’s possessions as they transitioned from a large house to a small apartment and then just one room in an assisted living facility. Cars to be sold, papers to be sorted, phone calls to be made.
I have been cool, calm and collected when all I wanted to do was sink to the floor and howl until someone gave me a sedative.
If my life from ages 22 to now had been a job someone hired me to do, I would be a millionaire simply due to the sheer number of hours I have worked as well as the breadth of tasks I have performed and often mastered. No one schedules better than me. No one can calm and lead a group of people like me, with humor and just enough steel in my voice to make sure everyone keeps up.
Middle schoolers do not scare me. Neither do teenagers. Old people are my specialty because they are the only group that can be reliably reasoned with.
And yet, if I applied for a job today I would have no work experience beyond a few part time jobs I held here and there over the years.
You want an employee with emotional resilience, the ability to work without having to be supervised every second and that HR holy grail, executive function? Which in reality is the ability to look around, see what needs doing, make a plan to get it done and then actually follow through on it.
If you want all that, hire a homemaker. But you can’t because you have no way of translating all their skills into a form you can understand.
How to quantify the hours, days, months, years and decades of work homemakers perform? There is no salary to prove their work had value. No titles and business cards and LinkedIn pages to tout their climb up the ladder.
Americans love to say that the people who stay home and tend the home fires are doing good, important work. And yet there is no way to translate the skills learned and endlessly performed into a paying job outside the home.
Why can’t we translate all our good work into a paying job when the kids grow up or the marriage ends or the elderly parent we were taking care of passes away?
If we are so valuable, why are we so financially vulnerable?