The Value Of Unvalued Jobs

Yesterday, I received my AMAZING book, The Things We Do, from Aimee of Artsyville.  Handwritten wisdom adorns one colorful page after another, describing, "A (totally incomplete) list of the tasks we take on to raise our little ones."  

And while there is so much I want to share (you'll just have to buy your own), one page in particular sticks with me this morning.  (Parent or not, pay attention:)


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This particular page got me thinking was how we value certain positions, roles, and careers.  And allow me this assumption for the sake of this conversation (though I know it isn't always true): value is usually measured by monetary compensation.

Now here's the tricky part.

What exactly is it that we value in a career path? 

Why do we value certain paths over others?  We all say we value education, yet why are our teachers paid so little?  And I'm fairly certain we value living outside of a trash pile, yet sanitation workers definitely don't make oodles of money.

Do we pay more for hard work?  The education required for the career?  How the role benefits society?


A thought that came to mind - and I invite you to agree or disagree - is that perhaps we value that which we believe we cannot do.


We believe surgery is hard (rightfully so).  Surgeons make big bucks.

We believe management takes powerful confidence, hard work, and an operational, almost mystical knowledge of business - CEOs make tons.

We believe the abilities of some sports players are so far beyond our reach (an innate talent?) that we pay them insane amounts of money to entertain us.


We're willing to pay someone else to learn it for us, to do the work we believe we cannot do.


Yet  (sticking with the value = what we believe we cannot do theory, if just for now) what does this say about education?  Parenting?


We believe we can drive.  So we pay our bus drivers a very low salary (even though they hold our children's lives in their hands twice a day).  

We believe we can stand in front of a chalkboard and write a few things down, so we pay our teachers an insulting low salary.  (Speaking for the United States, of course)  

We believe we can paint that, draw that, build that, so we pay our artists money equivalent to what we'd give our kids as a pat-on-the-back.

We believe anyone can dust a bit, throw some food on a plate to feed the kids, and click "power" on the t.v. remote, so we pay stay-at-home parents nothing.


Obviously, our impressions of the details of many paths of lives are a bit skewed.  Many of us still think the role of a stay-at-home parent mirrors that of the mom on the 50's t.v. commercial: a vacuum cleaner in one hand, drink in the other, perfect hair and perfect smile.  She isn't stressed because her job is easy - anyone can do it!  (Moms and dads, feel free to stop suppressing your laughter and groans here.)


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I'd be willing to bet our impressions of the day-to-day jobs of teachers are incorrect as well.  The same with so many other jobs.  Every job has its hidden challenges, the things that no one tells you about when you sign on.  These are the things each of us deal with every single day, no matter how much we are being paid.

What if we could understand the nuances of a vocational path?  

What if we knew of the heartache of repeatedly letting a child go on their own after spending years trying to protect and keep them close and the unexplainable pressure of constantly making decisions that have no right answers but severe consequences?  

What if we knew of the endless hours of artistry, the mental toll it takes having a job that never ends (even in dreams)?  

What if we knew of the stress of driving 30 kids who are screaming and moving around while navigating traffic and trying to keep to an exact schedule?  Or of the stress of trying to teach 22 kids who would rather kick one another under the table and are so restless they can't focus for even ten minutes (all the while parents and bosses are telling you it is your job to educate them, not parent them)?

I'm exhausted just writing all of that.


If we knew the truths of these roles, would we value them more?

Perhaps, after staying at home with her/his children for a week, might a legislator be begging to go back to work and happy to sign a bill to provide support for those willing to do this monumental task?

Just a thought.


Or, if we knew that truly our abilities are unlimited and that we can do anything, would we value certain jobs less?  

Perhaps, after following the prescribed techniques online, getting thousands of followers, earning six figures and vacationing around the world, a CEO might realize that anyone could've done what she/he did by just doing the same steps.

Again, just a thought.


My point?

We need to examine our assumptions about what people actually do in certain roles instead of just accepting or fighting about the compensation.

We need to understand what we value, why we value it, and how we offer over our energy (money, time, etc) based on those values.


Take this personally.  Question yourself.



I know I've made MANY assumptions in this post, and open discussion around any of them.  Just play nice.


And a disclaimer: Aimee's book inspired this wild line of thinking, but she is in no way responsible for any of the statements listed above.  I just want to relieve her of any responsibility of my insane thought train.  If you ARE positively moved, though, be sure to visit her here  and definitely purchase her book and art here .


What do YOU think?  Is vocational value measured by monetary compensation?  Do we value that which we believe we cannot do, that which we think is beyond our reach?   

Do you believe you are valued and/or compensated fairly for the job(s) that you do?


Comment!  Let us know...

(I'll respond to your comments via email!)