Would you like fries with that? Why teenagers should have part time jobs

Would you like fries with that? Why teenagers should have part time jobs

A hot topic in the parenting world today is whether teens should work. Let me re-phrase that. A hot topic in the la-la land-parenting world is whether teens should work. La-di-da……

Of course they should work.

Teenagers should do homework, chores, practice whatever thing they are doing for fun or sport. They should work on their social skills, learn to be charitable and most of all, they should learn what it means to have a good solid work ethic. They should also have a part time job before the take off for college, trade school or whatever adventure they choose to go on after they are old enough to get the hell out of your house and make their own way. They should know the value of their time and talents and experience the reality of the world of work.

But in La-di-da land, many parents are saying that their kid’s job is to go to school and to get good grades so that he or she can get into a good college. True that. School is their job. And I suppose there are parents who can easily afford to buy their teenagers everything they need and then some. Maybe these parents had parents who could do the same, but that doesn’t mean they should.

La-di-da. Good for you all, but um….NO.

I can’t agree with the parents who think this way. I think teenagers need to work. I’m not talking about full time, slave wages, up all night long, stress them out work, but work – work. Some kind of regular work that they are required to do in a timely manner with clearly defined expectations for performance and a fair wage in return. I do think that working outside the home is a better way to learn about the world, the real world, and what it takes to survive outside the four walls of mom and dad’s safe, warm house and flimsy parental standards and expectations for chores. I mean let’s be honest here, nobody fires their teenager for not making the bed or mowing the lawn. Not getting paid for a teenager doesn’t mean not being able to pay the mortgage, it means not being able to go to the goddamn movies with your buddies over the weekend.

What? You say that your child DOES know what it takes! Your teenager is learning enough in school and on the football field (soccer, baseball, etc.) and doing their own laundry and keeping their room clean and mowing the lawn?

Wrong. You. Are. Wrong. Wrong-ola. Wrong-olino. Wrong-riffic. Wrong-duck-dong!

Teamwork, deadlines, and clean clothes are indeed important things in the world of work, but you know what trumps ‘em all? EXPERIENCE. But there’s another inarguable reason I think every stinking teenager needs to work a crap job for minimum wage, even if they do plan to go to college and become a teacher or an engineer or a lawyer or whatever, and that reason is this: They may not be able to get a job after college doing what they want to do for the amount of money they think they should be making.

Reality is a motherfucker.

In 1986, my parents insisted that I work full time in the summer. I didn’t have a car, so I applied at McDonald’s, which was in walking distance from my house. Within a week, I was reduced to tears by both my manager, who I overheard calling me a spoiled, entitled snot (my second day on the job) and several unhappy customers who received the wrong order in the drive thru. I made hash browns and French fries for hours on end, slipping on puddles of grease, sweat rolling down my body under my green polyester uniform. I walked home at the end of my shift exhausted and complained to my parents who told me to suck it up and deal with it, so I did. We talked about the world of work and how hard it could be and they encouraged me, without letting me sissy up and quit. Quitting was not an option. I was to work and that was not negotiable.

The troll-like manager soon saw that I was a hard worker and recognized my efforts. I was able to work at the counter and in the drive thru. I learned not to take the angry rants of hangry (hungry/angry) customers personally. I worked for a company that was not only fair, but also set high expectations for their employees and product. I learned how to do things right! I learned how to be on time, to take pride in my work and to work and play well with others no matter how difficult it was or how tired I felt or how much I would have rather been sucking face with my boyfriend or going to the beach with my friends. I learned about sales, marketing, customer service, time management, and the complexity of the working world. I didn’t just learn about money and hard work that summer, although I did learn a lot about those things. I learned about people. I learned about LIFE.

You know what else I learned? I learned that I can do anything and any job at any time and I can do it well. Give me a task, something new to learn and hold me accountable. I can take it. And I can take it because I took it for years and years, working shit job after shit job to get through high school and college and even graduate school. Guess what I else I have learned? That having two master’s degrees didn’t guarantee me jack squat in the job market.

Jobs I have held since finishing master’s degrees (I have two of them and I busted my ass to earn ’em too): Cocktail waitress, waitress, Salesperson at Pottery Barn, Stock person at Target, Babysitter and Freelance writer. After I’m done with publicity for my book, I’ll need to find a full time job in my field, so I’ll scour the mall, and the internet and I’ll network hard in order to find work.

I won’t whine. I will work.

I have busted my overeducated ass to make sure that when my family needs cash, I do what it takes to make sure that happens. I am not above OR below anyone else when it comes to work. I’ll continue to do it too. And while I do this, I will fulfill my responsibilities as a wife, mother, daughter, friend, sister and small business owner. I CAN do this because I learned to do this and when I was learning to do this, I was being encouraged by parents who told me not only that I must, but also that I could.

I know too many people who can’t and won’t do what I’ve done. People have asked me why the hell I would get up at 3AM to be at Target by 4:30 AM to unload trucks.


Because Christmas was coming and we needed the extra cash.

Because credit cards aren’t real money.

Because I am a strong, capable, enthusiastic hard working grown up that wants her children to see that all work is important.

Because money doesn’t grow on trees.

Because I want to contribute and be a part of something so that I am not alone.

Because until I find full time work in my field, I still need to contribute to the financial stability of my family.


So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I don’t care what anyone else is doing with their offspring and I’m not sure why people feel the need to explain their parenting choices to others, However, if they choose to do so with me, I’m telling you right now that and all reasons they might try to give me in an attempt to convince me that their teenager shouldn’t work are invalid and wrong and someday when their grown kids are all about borrowing money or moving in with them because they can’t seem to manage their grown up lives I’ll only have one thing to say –

Told you so suck-wad. Oooo and I’d love to stay and chat, but I’m going to MY grown up kid’s house to have some grub and hear about his awesome job. Whatever the food we eat that day and whatever job either of my kids ends up having, will be fabulous and I’ll be one proud mom! But for now? I’m committed to raising kids who CAN, because I’ve taught them now that they must and will and I believe that they CAN. My kids will have part time jobs when they are teenagers.

I think posts like this are why I don’t get asked to write for parenting magazines and sites. Hmmmmm…..La-di-fucking-da!

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