Grandma had a dear friend who lived across the street and she had three kids. Mike, the guy who saved me from drowning in the irrigation ditch, Kathy, who taught me to ride a horse (I’ll have to write a post about her soon), and Kerry. Kerry was the oldest and she and I were good friends. OK, I was probably just an annoying little kid and she was very patient.
She married a guy named Mike (funny, huh?) when I was eight. Not long after, she had a baby girl and they named her Stephanie. I started tending Steph when she was slightly less than one and I was slightly less than 9. We bonded right away. I loved that little girl and she loved me! Kerry was sweet and generous and often looked for an excuse to have me over just to watch the baby.
It was the summer of 1975 and I was 10 1/2 years old. Steph was three, the same age as my little sister. Kerry had gotten a job and they were looking for full-time childcare for Steph during the summer. My parents were worried about me taking on that kind of responsibility at such a young age, but since they just lived around the corner and my family would be close by, we all agreed to give it a try. They offered me $20 a week and that seemed like a fortune although if you calculate it out, it comes to exactly 50 cents an hour.
Even at age 10, I was not a morning person, but I dragged myself out of bed at 7:30 and showed up on their doorstep at five minutes to 8:00. Steph was wide-awake and ready to play. We spent that first day watching TV, playing with her dolls, and reading stories. I made her lunch and we ate Popsicles. We straightened up the house and washed our few dishes. By quarter to four we were waiting patiently for Kerry to show up. After she arrived, I ran straight home; feeling satisfied and pleased that I had survived my first day.
The next morning I arrived again, right on time, but this time it wasn’t my sweet friend, Kerry, waiting for me. It was Mike. He was a bit of a hothead and I tried to avoid him if I could. It became obvious that he was there on purpose. In his hand was a piece of paper and in a not-so-nice voice he demanded that I sit with him at the table. That paper contained a weekly calendar with chores he expected to be done on each of the days, along with watching Steph. He wanted the kitchen floor mopped every day. There was vacuuming and scrubbing and bathrooms. I was to be more like a slave than a babysitter. When I questioned him on that, he yelled at me and told me I was lucky to have this job and if I didn’t want it he was sure he could find somebody else who would be more grateful. Then he left for work.
I pondered my fate as much as any ten-year-old could and thankfully, Kerry came home first. I left their house, but instead of running home, I passed by my house and headed for Grandma’s house. Grandma always had good advice. She was washing dishes when I came in, but she sat with me at the table so we could have a good talk. After I spilled out everything, she looked at me with that silly little smile of hers, the one that meant don’t argue. “Well,” she said. “You can go there every day and bring home $20 a week, or you can sit around the house watching TV and have nothing by the end of the summer.”
That was it. You know what I did. I took the job. She was right, I had money and I blew it all on candy and junky toys and crap and by the end of the summer I had nothing. Sadly, the only thing I really learned from the experience was that at 10 years old I could work really hard and it meant nothing and I was worth almost nothing. I still have issues with this and tend to devalue my own work…wow, maybe I need to get a therapist or at least a healthy dose of blog friend sympathy.
How about you? Do you tell others what you are worth or do you let them tell you?