There is an old song called Low Bridge. It talks about life, long ago, working on the Erie Canal; the hard work of dragging barges by mule. It’s an old folk song and we used to sing it in Girl Scouts. That must have been a lot of work to walk from Albany to Buffalo. There was no easy way to do it. No technology invented yet that would make this an easy job to accomplish. I think of the men who would lead their trusty mules and how all that walking probably kept them healthy, well healthier than people who didn’t walk all those miles back and forth.
Then there’s the other classic song, 16 Tons. It talks about the hard working miners and it isn’t just about the back-breaking work but it’s also about the spirit of the working man. Those men who work tirelessly to provide energy for thousands of people risk their lives every day they go to work. Remember the Chilean coal miners?
When I think about the question, “how hard do I work?” I know that I do not work like those men did. I know that I do not do manual labor. So in that sense, I do not think I work hard. Does that mean I have never worked hard like that? Of course not. I worked in housekeeping making beds and scrubbing toilets. I have worked at McDonalds. I have unloaded 18-wheelers full of furniture and merchandise for a famous home design store with really funky items. I have the knowledge of a hard day’s work.
Now, I work on the computer. I write, I blog, I monitor social sites. It’s not back-breaking labor but it’s work. I work hard to make sure that they are properly monitored and kept up to date. It’s a different kind of work. It’s something that does not require me to break a sweat but it does make me think. It takes time and the willingness to log into different sites, make sense of trends, make up “compelling content.”
Raising a child is a whole different definition of hard work. It is a work that comes naturally for most parents. There is so much that goes into it and every tear of frustration, every smile of gratitude, every sleepless night – most parents will tell you they wouldn’t trade it for the world. Does that mean it’s not really work though because you are not paid in money? Does it make it any less difficult or hard because you are not paid money for it? But here I go again on all that talk about being a parent…
So, dear reader, the real question is if you do all this hard work, what is there to be gained? It’s not a simple answer I’m afraid. Aside from the feeling of accomplishment that you are doing something productive with your life, whether or not you like doing it, people depend on the service you provide by working. Warm fuzzy accomplished feelings aside, work helps people feel connected. Hard work builds character too, at least someone somewhere told me that. It really does though. Scrubbing a toilet or filling out the same form day in and day out requires one to keep working with the same dedication every time. Some people really do make an immediate impact. Others may never meet the people that their work impacts but it makes a difference in someone’s life.
When I think about my life today, at this very moment, I realize that I do work hard. It’s a different kind of hard though. It’s the kind of hard that has me realize that there are people who do depend on me. It’s not just me making a bed for an arrival or unloading a truck for a paycheck. This work is just as hard, if not harder at times. I realize that just because I’m not working a 45 hour work week anymore, a choice that was not easily made, I am still working just as many hours on different tasks and projects. I agonized over that choice to not work a full-time job and to be a part-time worker/stay-at-home mom. I was afraid it would mean I wasn’t a hard worker. It wasn’t until I was actually working part-time and being home with the Daughter that I realized exactly how hard this work really was.