In an independent age we are living in, we usually talk about how all forms of labour contribute to the welfare of the society.
In many western countries, the dignity of labour is well recognised. Students do not mind in earning money by working as food delivery boy or waiters at a restaurant. Much of the domestic work like cooking food is done by the members of the family. However, in countries like India, many middle-class families have house hold help. There are benefits for sure, but comes with a slight implication when we look at the society as whole.
My son was five, when he very innocently said to me,
“Mummy I want to be a driver of a garbage truck when I grow up”.
I had a hearty laughter. But I realised it was the right time to teach him about dignity of labour. I answered with a very serious tone,
“Well they have to wake up really early and work very hard. Do you think, you can work that hard?”
He thought for a while and said,
“Ok mummy, I will try and wake up early from tomorrow.”
That day, I instilled in him the respect for that garbage collector.
“You will become a watchman when you grow up.” is very common thing that parents usually say to their children when they don’t study. As soon as a child hears this, the foundation of discrimination is laid. Guarding a building is now an inferior job, in his young impressionable mind. As parents can’t we put forward a better argument? Well part of the answer, surely is unending, so we never achieve that satisfying sense of right form of parenting.
We often use a tone with that washing lady when that shiny glass bowl is chipped or with the sun darkened gardener when the garden isn’t clean enough. Well look around, there might be a child listening and this behaviour can become a legacy.
Many of us try and give the left over party food to our household help. I encourage my son to keep the food neatly in respective containers and pack it in neat cloth bags and hand over the pack to the maid. I refrain from using the word left over, I emphasise on the word ‘sharing’. He enjoys picking up his toys and books to give away to my maid’s children. I let him decide what should be given away. It gives him a sense of giving to the less privileged. And while giving, I make sure, he understands that its his moral responsibility and he is not doing a favour.
I have maids in my house who frequently interact with my son and try to pamper him too. He is not allowed to instruct her about anything. The words like ‘please’ and ‘kindly’ puts the same message across in a more respectable way. So instead of a command, it sounds like a request.
I have many friends and family who have a live in maid. The protocol is to greet their household help after greeting the family members with the same smile and humility. Slightly torn shoes are first repaired and then given to the maid.
Who decides which work is better And who deserves respect? Isn’t an honest job enough? Dignity of labor is a thing of the past. It is deteriorating with the increasing size of posh houses and fancy cars. No one should be treated with any less respect just because of the work they do. We can’t change the past, when the caste systems were made and discrimination was part of the society. Times have changed and so should the parenting, for a better tomorrow.