Passing Down Work Ethic to our Children


Up early for work early on a Sunday morning, it was still dark outside, I stopped into a gas station for coffee. Three high school boys walked in a few moments before I did. They were staring at the multitude of hot coffee choices and discussing which one they should each choose. I stood there and wondered “why are these boys looking at coffee, they must be going to work, and why at 5:30AM on a Sunday???” I was in a hurry, but this sight slowed me down if not just stopped me completely.

Hard working children

I finally pulled myself together, got my coffee, paid, and walked out the front door. Right in front of me was a truck with two adults and a teenage boy all piling out. They were getting gas to prepare for their day of work. Their truck bed was full of equipment. By 5:40 AM on a Sunday morning, I had witnessed four children preparing for their workday. I was completely shocked and I’m not sure why. I grew up in the country where farm families worked from sun up to sun down, no matter your age. My working life didn’t begin until I was fifteen. In short, I had it easy. One of my best friends to this day, practically started the whole “get up at 5AM like the rich people do so you’ll be successful too” craze when she was a little girl. Her family owned an orchard. They worked hard, took their harvest to a farmers market two hours away every weekend her whole life and still do now. She’s one of the hardest working, most humble people I know. She got more work done before school started each day than I did all year.

Self-doubt as a parent

Of course, as a mom, I began thinking about what I am doing wrong with my child?!? Right?!? That’s the most logical brain pattern for any mom…see success in another child, wonder what’s wrong with you because your child isn’t the same. My child will cry, kick, scream for an entire hour if I say she has to clean up her room. If she would just do it when I asked, she’d be done in 30 minutes or less. Nope. It takes an average of 2 hours because of the temper tantrums and excuses. Ridiculousness. So, how is it that these kids and all others just work?

Work ethic as an adult

Let us step back for a moment; I was getting coffee at that insane hour because I own a small business. If I don’t get up and get things done, they will not get done. I was headed to my festival of the weekend. My entire family was three hours away from home in a town of 700 people at a festival because of me. I set up my tent and wares in the dark most mornings. If I can get my truck in, then it gets turned around so that my headlights are my lights for the morning while all is set up. Where did I get my work ethic? How do I pass that down??

Self-reflection as an adult

I think back to my dad. He died when I was 11, of cancer. Because of him, I learned how to run a table saw, a jigsaw, run wiring on a house, how to paint, how to run a tractor, the list goes on and on. In short, he let me be by him. He worked hard building our houses and taking care of them. He talked me through what he did and showed me how to do all those things. He never wanted me to be afraid of things and to be self-sufficient. All that went away after he died except the mowing the grass part. However, I never forgot what he taught me about the importance of knowledge and hard work. My friend reminded me the other day, I changed my tires on my first car, but they didn’t need to be replaced. I did it because it was something I needed to know. There was no YouTube or Google then. There was an owner’s manual and determination.

Importance of our journey

I honestly didn’t intend for this to turn out about my life, so forgive me. But, as the words hit the page, I realized how the kids I saw that morning might have turned out the way they did. We may have a few things in common…determination, a difficult situation, no choice, &/or simply a really great role model. I had all those things.

Our role as parents

Now my goal is to remember what built me and share that spirit with my daughter. She will soak up what interests her and sculpt it into her path. She will need to do her chores. Chores help her learn, build independence, build confidence, and are a way to earn money. Then once they get the money they have to be taught how to give, save, and spend. But that’s for another soapbox moment!

Don’t be too hard on yourselves mamas. Your littles will see your strength and they will resonate the same.