In a moment of social media weakness, I shared a post that said:
“You are totally replaceable at work. You’re not replaceable at home. Home is your real life. Keep that perspective. Always.”
I tend to shy away from sharing things like that on social media because I almost always think “inspirational” or “though-provoking” memes need more context.
Like the one where people are pointing at the ground saying, “it’s a 6, no it’s a 9”, and then it’s supposedly some lesson about not understanding the point of view of the other person. I don’t know about you but any time I’ve seen numbers painted on the ground they are painted in a specific direction for a specific purpose (usually as a speed limit warning), but I digress.
After sharing the meme, I felt a little uneasy but so many people responded to it so I didn’t feel I could take it down. I firmly believe in the sentiment of the meme for MOST people. However, this meme doesn’t represent people who don’t have choices, paid vacation, or sick days, and people who own their own business. This meme doesn’t represent the hard work ethic that has been drilled into people and in some cases traumatized people. There are some, my partner included, who feel defined by how much work they do and contributing the bigger, better paycheck even at the expense of their home life (this is a point of much contention in our marriage).
We have been conditioned to “get a good job” and the job (or paycheck) determines how good of a member of society you are. One of the first questions usually asked when you are getting to know some one is “what do you do?” (Sidebar: as a mother this feels like a completely awkward question because it comes off incredibly judgmental and I have yet to find a comfortable way to phrase it when it comes to the SAHM vs. working mom debate……. Why is that still a debate? But that’s a topic for another post) as if we are defined by our jobs. It’s as if our jobs dictate how much value we bring to society. We are seeing this rhetoric play out in the minimum wage/fair living wage debates currently raging here in the United States. Nationwide value judgements are being placed on people based solely on what they do for a living. This rhetoric is harmful and plays into the “unskilled” labor myth.
We all have different skill sets and it is this diversity that allows us to create a fully functional society. I was a terrible tollbooth operator — I worked as a toll collector during a couple college summers and it was dreadful because there were many hours where I was alone with no one to talk to. There were cameras in the toll booths that the cops in the station could watch and I imagine they spent a good many hours laughing at this poor college kid who was talking to herself, dancing, doing anything possible to keep her energy contained in this tiny little box. Now someone who is an introvert might love that job but for me it was complete torture.
Anyone who’s ever worked in food service, retail, or other service industry jobs knows how hard they are but when we talk about those being “unskilled” jobs and they should “get a better job if they want more money” we are playing into the hands of the oligarchs. All our skills are valuable, all our skills are important, and we deserve to be treated as such.
If you have a screaming kid in the car because they’re hungry, the drive-thru workers will save your ears and your sanity — I think those workers are incredibly valuable in that moment.
We are all valuable because we are human beings contributing to the whole. My job is valuable, but it is not more valuable than that my friend who manages a restaurant (and teaches) or the one who is keeps lawyers and court reporters straight so legal proceedings can move forward. My job is different but I also value the landscapers who take care of our lawn — they are being paid to do a job I COULD do myself but frees me up to do other things (I’ll save the suburban lawn environmental disaster discussion for a later date). But so often we put ourselves in relationship to others in the hierarchy of “skilled” or “unskilled”, college educated or not and this plays into the hands of the puppet masters. Pitting us against each other instead of realizing that we need this diversity in order to thrive. The global supply chain issues have taught us that so many industries are interconnected and rely on the other puzzle pieces to work. We are all part of the puzzle that makes society work.
While we are all replaceable at work and should lean more into a true work-life balance we also need to remember that WORKERS are people who use their skills to keep society afloat regardless of the industry.