Can Flippin Burgers Be Life Changing?

by Sandy L on August 6, 2010

Growing up, I was one of those kids who couldn’t wait to become an adult and do things my way. After all, I was a teenager and teenagers know everything. My first babysitting job gave me a taste of that independence that I craved. I finally could go out and buy new clothes, go to the movies and do all those things that others were doing.

I can think of a handful of events that defined the major life choices I made up until now. I’ll share a very distinct one but first some background.

As much as I love my dear old mom, we fought a lot during my last years of high school.  We lived in a tiny 900 square foot apartment and she’d do things like go into my room and randomly throw things away without my knowledge or consent.  Most of the time I found out about it, but sometimes she would do this dastardly deed on garbage day. My room wasn’t the problem. It was the  porch, basement, attic and her bags and bags of fabric that was the problem.  Her efforts to organize MY STUFF, the cleanest and most uncluttered space in the whole house drove me bananas. Plus after growing up in a one bedroom log cabin with 11 people, she had no concept of my need for privacy and/or personal space.

At around that time, I decided I was going to move out of the house the minute I graduated from high school. I applied for and was accepted at 2 local places.  I was happy. I was making money and I was going to escape and be free of Mrs. throw my stuff away and never give me a moment’s peace mother.

I eagerly anticipated that first check. I worked 5 days that week (for a total of 20 hours) and I was counting down the days to payday. When payday arrived, I quickly ripped open my check to discover that after taxes, I only made a measly $113. $113 for 5 days work????!!!  Wow. I did the math to figure out how many hours I would have to work to pay for an apartment and a car.  It was about 87 hours per week.  Ugh.. My plan had fallen apart.  Luckily I was only a sophmore in high school and all was not lost.

This was a life changing moment for me because until that point,  I didn’t particularly like school and didn’t want to go to college.  Even if you’re not a math whiz, it doesn’t take a genius to realize there was no easy way to get ahead making minimum wage. I needed skills.

I took a typing class and tried working at the local paper but I failed the typing test miserably. In hindsight, it was the best class I ever took. At the time I was annoyed because I got a B (I hate being bad at stuff), and it brought my grade point average down.  I went onto college, worked all kinds of odd jobs and had very little downtime. What kept me going is knowing that lifestyle  was temporary and the alternative would be worse.

I sometimes speculate whether my kids will learn similar lessons. They (hopefully) won’t be roughing it like I did but I think a job would be good for them.

So my question to you:

  • If you have kids, will you make them get a job when they get to be working age?
  • Was there a moment or experience in your life that defined the path that you are on now?
  • What advice do you have for those teenage kids that think they’re smarter than you?

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Squirrelers August 6, 2010 at 7:30 PM

My kids are younger, but thining ahead to the teenage years – and learning from my own experiences – I would steer them toward taking some type of job if they could get it.

Now, I’m not thinking this way because I want to save myself money; rather, I take it upon myself to be a provider for the important things. That said, I want them to get the experience because they need to know what jobs are like, how hard some jobs are, and how tough it can be to make money. Also, I want them to be able to practice money management by using their earnings appropriately.

There are a lot of life lessons that can be gained by working a job when younger.

As for the teenagers that think they’re smarter than adults…well, in some specific instances they have some skills we don’t. Case in point: technology. That said, they don’t have wisdom – and they don’t realize they don’t have it either.

As I look back on many things my own parents told me when I was much younger, they were right – and I just didn’t get it. Now I do:) It takes personal experience to figure that out.

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Nicole August 6, 2010 at 7:48 PM

DH’s mom made him flip burgers at Hardee’s (and his brother throw pizzas at Pizza Hut, and his sister work the register at Wendy’s).

I had to beg my mom to let me do a job over the summer my senior year instead of taking college classes again. I asked people about their sex lives over the summer for one dollar above minimum wage. (It was a scientific survey!)

I don’t think that either of us was on the margin of not going to college and getting a minimum wage job. So I don’t think his mom forcing him and my mom not letting me made much of a difference. Though I’m glad my mom didn’t let me detassle corn in middle school– she’s right, I would totally have passed out in the hot summer sun. My little sister worked for a law office during vacations in high school and college; apparently working hadn’t destroyed me so my mom didn’t give her any trouble.

My kid can get a job if he wants and can not get a job if he doesn’t want to. He WILL have to spend summers productively no matter what he chooses job-wise.

Um… defining moments:
1. An internship showing me that being a geneticist is an incredibly boring job.
2. Going to an informational meeting for consulting and realizing I did not want to be a cog in a corporate machine.

Kids who think they’re smarter than I am: I’ve never met one. Apparently I’m fairly good at proof by intimidation. Watch–next year my students will be totally obnoxious. That always happens when I brag. Right now I’m trusting that my own DS will either make good decisions on his own or he’ll learn from his mistakes without the mistakes being too disfiguring. He’s not yet in kindergarten so we’ll see how things change in 10-15 years and take it from there.

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Sandy L August 7, 2010 at 4:11 AM

Squirreler – You are so right. Some of the things my mom told me that I thought were nuts actually make some sense now…some are still nuts, but at least I understand her point of view. You also get to make dumb mistakes without any real consequences. I once complained publicly to my coworkers for my $0.25/hr raise. (I was 15). My boss pulled me aside and told me someone else may have gotten $0.05 and I shouldn’t share that info publicly. Much better to learn a lesson like that in high school vs your first professional job.

Nicole – were your parents college educated? Perhaps you already had some good role models to understand that college was a good thing to do. Most of my family and neighborhood were not college educated so it wasn’t an automatic thing you do. My mom worked in a dirty factory, so her best advice was to get a job in a clean and safe working environment.

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Nicole August 8, 2010 at 8:52 AM

Yeah, my parents were college educated and then some. DH’s parents weren’t…. eventually his mom got a PhD but she finished about the same time DH finished college. DH’s dad also got a college degree after DH was born because he was denied disability and had to retrain to a career that didn’t require lifting. Still, DH grew up as a quiet well-behaved nerd and wasn’t in any danger of becoming a drop out.

It’s really weird how our families view college very differently. My family sees college as a coming-of-age experience, a time to explore, find out who we are. The major is immaterial. My parents completely cut the strings (except the money ones) and forced us to make our own decisions on where to apply and what to do. DH’s family sees it as a path to a future employment– job training and nothing more. DH’s mom picked universities and even majors for her children (with some input from them). The results weren’t actually all that different. The oldest kids in both families are professors. The second kids are both engineers. All children are college educated and employed.

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Budgeting in the Fun Stuff August 31, 2010 at 1:05 PM

If I have kids, I expect they will feel similarly to the way I did at 15-18 – “I need a damn way to move the hell out”. Jobs come naturally to those who have an independent nature. :-)

My mom didn’t go through my things, but she had a dang cow once when she caught me making out with my boyfriend at 17. I knew I’d never have sex until I moved out since I didn’t want to be stuck with my parents forever, but she didn’t know that or trust me when I said it.

I drove away with my stuff (well, two boxes of my clothes and some pictures) after a big fight during the summer off between my freshman and sophomore year of college. She wanted more control over my life and I wanted her the hell out of it. I finished the last 3 years by working part-time on 2-3 jobs at once, scholarships, and borrowed a total of $8000 from my parents (I had to sign papers to pay it back at 5% once I graduated, but they forgave the loans a month or two after my actual graduation…that was a situation that led to a whole other story).

So, yes, I’d think my kids would get a job, but I doubt I would have to convince them to…it kind of comes naturally to the kids in my family to figure out ways to go out on their own.

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