Perks of the Job

Last summer I was asked by a friend if my daughter would like a dog-walking job. At only 11 years old, the job opportunities are slim. So I felt excited about this opportunity for her to learn about responsibility and money management. I hoped that as a bonus my daughter would experience the feeling of empowerment.

When I realized how invested I was in the idea of her taking the job, it occurred to me that she may not see the same value in it. From her perspective, why would she even need a job? This is when I had to face the truth: because I give my daughter everything, she has no reason to hustle.

Scooters, rollerblades, bikes, trampoline … you name it, my kids have it all. Therein lies the problem: My kids want for nothing, which I suspected would also include a summer job.

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I started thinking about my sales pitch and tried to think about what it was that my daughter really wants. You would think that the list would be long based on the complaints we hear on a regular basis around our house: “there’s nothing to do” and “it’s so boring.”

But the list was short. There was only one item on it. It was something that she had been asking for since she learned that even nine-year-olds can have them: a cell phone.

Trading a phone for a job seemed like a terrible idea on many levels. So I realized that I was going to have to pitch the job without any pre-arranged incentives.

To my delight and surprise, when I asked her if she wanted the job, she enthusiastically agreed. Curious to know what her motivation might be I asked her this. Her response was “it will be fun” and “I can buy stuff.” Easier than I thought but questionable as to the longevity of the rewards.

On her first day at work, she was picked up and taken straight to Starbucks.Venti frap-a-something in hand, she was driven around while picking up dogs.

I returned home from my own job to find her thrilled and excited and eager to “work” again the next day. I was grateful that our friend had made our girl’s first day on the job fun, but it certainly didn’t mirror my own experiences of new employment.

The next day, another Venti Starbucks and twenty bucks. And the same the day after that, and the day after that.

I finally called our friend and expressed how generous it was of her to be treating our daughter to a drink every shift, but that she didn’t need to do it each time. At this rate, it was almost costing her money to have an employee. She agreed to at least tone it down to a Tall.

I knew things had gone sideways when I started returning home from work to find that $20 bill and empty Starbucks cup abandoned on the counter. If the money was valuable, why was it lying around? And where was the responsibility and work ethic I was hoping my daughter would adopt? It certainly wasn’t in the unrinsed and unrecycled cup on my counter.

I started to worry about what my daughter was learning about the workforce. So far, from her viewpoint, here were the big takeaways:

1. Your boss can pick you up so that you never have to worry about getting yourself to work on time.

2. Your boss treats you to an expensive beverage of your choosing every shift.

3. You do something that you don’t do willingly in your own life (i.e. walk your own dog)

I was relieved at the end of the summer when school resumed and the “job” fizzled out naturally. My daughter did save about half of the money she “earned” but not for anything specific. I can’t really say what she gained from the experience of her first job. Maybe other than than some fun time spent with some adorable dogs and a very skewed view of the workforce.

My own 30 years in the workforce have never been as relaxed and as rewarding as what my daughter was lucky enough to experience, but maybe it’s better to know what is possible. There certainly is more of an emphasis on work/life balance these days.

I had hoped that her first job would prepare her for the real world. Instead, I suspect she will get a rude awakening when she arrives at her first job and hands the boss her Starbucks order.

Sarah Seitz
Sarah Seitz
Sarah Seitz is a working mother, writer and consumer of coffee and books - in that order. She writes about the messy and real parts of parenting and reveals her underbelly in her words. You can read more of Sarah’s writing at