Sunday Reflections: The Reality and the Myth of Just Get a Job and Its Impact on Kids
This Saturday marked a monumental moment for us in the Jensen household. For the first time in Things 2’s life – and for clarity, she is 9 and 1/2 years old – the Jensen family was able to get up together and have a family breakfast together around our table. The Mr. woke up and made waffles, eggs, bacon, and toast – yum. We then spent the day lounging around our house. We had friends over on Saturday night for a little BBQ and then we sat around and played games.
It was glorious.
This may seem mundane to you, but I have to emphasize an important point: this was the first time in my second child’s lifetime that we are able to have what is considered a boring and typical Saturday afternoon as a family. You see, The Mr. has been stuck working a weekend nights job for the entirety of her life. He spent the weeekend afternoons sleeping so that he could get up again and work from 5 PM to 7 AM. And if you have school age kids, you may understand what it means to have your 2 days off a week be during the regularly week and work every weekend. Here is just a short list of the things my second child has never gotten to do because of work schedules:
Go on a weekend camping trip
Go to a theme park on a Saturday with her entire family (we’ve gone, but I take them while The Mr works/sleeps)
Go with her entire family to a weekend movie, play or sporting event
Go to church with her entire family
Go out to dinner on a weekend evening as a family (sometimes early on he wasn’t so exhausted he could get up and eat lunch with us, but as the years progressed he needed more sleep and we also ate lunch alone)
I have strongly held opinions about work/life balance and work schedules because of the way that The Mr.’s work schedule has negatively affected our life. When he originally took the job that we moved here to Texas for, it was to get off of nights. But soon after we moved they put him on nights and just refused to take him off. Even after he started having extreme health issues. Even after new people were hired. Even after they knew he was looking for a new job. He made the night shift awesome and they rewarded him by never taking him off the night shift, and it hands down sucked for our family.
So look for a new job he did. For over 4 years. He has applied for thousands of jobs. He had a first interview for probably around 100 of those jobs. They always were for significantly less money than he currently made. They almost always told him that he was overqualified. They never resulted in an offer and he kept looking.
I am so excited and happy to announce that one month ago, he finally got a new job! And this weekend, we are laying around as a family doing absolutely nothing. But loving every minute of it. I have missed him. I have missed us. I had forgotten what family feels like.
I’ve been thinking about jobs a lot because I have a lot of librarian friends who are looking for new jobs. The library profession has been changing a lot over the last ten years and I can see that shift in the stories they share about their job searching.
For example, now, very few libraries are hiring YA/Teen librarians. In the early 90s that was a huge push to give dedicated teen services, but that dedication is eroding and teens are being pushed aside and absorbed into either youth or adult services once again. If you have paid attention to the name of this blog, you’ll know I have strong feelings about this. YA librarians are actually some of the most well versed librarians I know because they must work with both youth and adult services in ways that other librarians don’t because we get stuck any and everywhere and our patrons read up and down their age just as frequently.
Many libraries are posting job opportunities for MLS librarians with experience but only offering part-time hours.
Many of these people are going on job interviews and then hearing . . . nothing. They never hear one way or the other, they are just left dangling in the wind.
Like in other fields, there are a lot of applicants for very few jobs and it is very competitive. You’re either under qualified or overqualified. Or you don’t have the exact same set of skills needed for the job, as though potential employers have forgotten how much a librarian has to be a jack of all trades and how most of us can do a lot of things and how those skills can easily transfer to a different skill set.
For the last 4 years, my life has been all about people getting a new job. The Mr. desperately needed a new job because we wanted to be able to do something – anything – on a weekend as a family and because we wanted to put him in a position where we didn’t keep going to the doctor with a variety of bizarre health issues that no one could figure out except that honestly sir, working nights takes a toll on the human body and you should get a new job.
Just get a job. Just get a new job. Just get the right job.
We live in a capitalist society that favors the rich and the corporations, not the people doing the labor that keep those corporations operating on a day to day basis. Many employees today lack benefits, work/life balance, career mobility, livable wages, and more. Yes, even in libraries.
This weekend, my family is celebrating because The Mr got a job that is better for his health and allows him to be home on the weekends with his family during the school year. This means that for the first time ever, we’ll be able to do those things that many people take for granted, like sit around on the couch on a Saturday night and watch a movie with the family.
I am a huge and vocal proponent for a variety of issues because I see the way they impact our kids today, and here I mean kids in the universal sense not just specifically my biological kids. Though I obviously care about my biological kids a lot. Ask any teacher or youth services librarian and we will be able to tell you about how hard it is in today’s world for a family to be a family, for a parent to parent, and the impact it is having on our kids.
And the lack of livable wages, that is devastating to our families. 1 in 5 children goes to bed hungry each night, even in homes where parents are working 2 and 3 part-time jobs.
Remember when we cared about kids and understood that working together to take care of our children helped to ensure us a bright and promising future? I miss those days. We have never been perfect, but we’ve been better. Though there are whole other posts about what it means to grow up as a child in a marginalized group and you should read those. However hard it has been and is for us, a privileged white family, it is so much harder for people of color.
I don’t have a great wrap up for this post. No pithy punchline or searing sentence that sticks the landing. I’m just both grateful and angry for the jobs situation in the United States. I’m personally grateful that The Mr. got a new job and I got to have the type of Saturday I could only dream of for years, and personally angry because I know how hard it was to get to this point and how many other people are still struggling to get there themselves.
I am also not unaware that it can be ripped away from us at any moment. There is a lot of instability in the world of employment today.
We’re supposed to be a great and rich nation full of wealth and opportunity, so why are our families struggling so hard just to barely survive? Maybe that’s the only wrap up I have. We need to do better for one another.
Now if you’ll excuse me, we’re off to go to church together as a family.
*Please note, for the purposes here I am referring to a family as any family unit, not just a family with two kids and two parents. Single parents raising their kids are a family. Single people. It doesn’t matter what a family is made of, all families deserve health, wellness, and the opportunity to thrive.
Filed under: Sunday Reflections
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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