Jeni Marinucci: Panic Button Years


Is Your Teenager Ready for Workplace Trenches?

Do you want fries with that?

Do You Want Fries With That?

My teenage daughter doesn’t work. Okay, she empties the dishwasher (sometimes) and she’ll blow dry her brother’s hair (he’s high maintenance), but beyond school and homework she doesn’t “work” for any financial gain. She’s never been a fan of babysitting as she’s not a fan of children in general and she’s found that responding “Ugh!” to “How do you feel about toddlers?” doesn’t secure much repeat employment in that realm.

But the girl needs money. I need her to have money. I can’t talk to her for more than 15 minutes without it costing me $400 and that’s before you factor in food or seasonally appropriate footwear. With the holidays approaching, I’d like her to have some pocket money because quite frankly I have earned a gift this year. I’m perfectly content if they’re handmade gifts, so long as she puts some time into their creation and doesn’t merely act as gift-giving sub-contractor and simply coerce her brother into gluing macaroni onto a refrigerator magnet. One year I gave her money and sent her to the mall with a list of who to buy for, and she came home with a dollar store candle (it exploded) and beautiful sweater — for herself.  She assured me that it was on “super sale” and by buying such a marked down piece of clothing she was actually saving me money, and that was a gift in itself, no? The pull of the suburban shopping mall is strong, friends, and a young teen can do little to combat it.

So the hunt for a part-time job is on. But how can you tell if your teenager is ready for the workplace? Is my daughter ready for the paper-hat brigade? I worked as a teenager, but that was before people cared about things like “labour laws” and “self-esteem” and “doing well at school,” so it is with some degree of trepidation that I see my daughter enter this realm. I had my share of bosses yell in my face over chopped incorrectly onions in the garnish bar, so I know the trenches is what I’m saying.  My daughter is a good student and that should be her priority, but a few hours a week working for the man can only be beneficial, right? If a teen’s grades are less than optimal or if they’re struggling with their workload, I think it’s probably best to hesitate before giving the go-ahead for work, or at very least limit work hours to weekends only.

While we may complain about our kids having active social schedules, they are an important aspect of life from 13-20. But balance is key and spending 25 hours a week folding jeans left on a change room floor or pushing a broom on top of school and homework isn’t a good idea either. I’m fine with some downtime being sacrificed but all work and no play makes a teenager a dangerously bored and smelly entity. If work is simply adding another stressor to a full school load then it’s not worth it. Maybe seasonal work and summer only jobs are the best in this situation.

Another thing you need to consider is transportation. Is work on a bus route? Can a teen walk safely to and from work? How late is too late to stay for a shift? I don’t like the idea of my daughter working later than 9pm and hell will freeze over and FOX will make a decent sitcom before she walks home alone at that time of night. This is going to require some planning on my part, because we live in a pretty sprawled area so my daughter having a job may actually cost me $50 a week in additional gas costs.

Yet outside work is worth it in many cases, as they help kids learn to navigate professional relationships. I want my daughter to understand that I am not the only irrational arbitrary rule setter in her life, and that high school doesn’t hold exclusive rights to the jerk population – because she’ll possibly be dealing with those in the workplace forever. What better place to get used to them than somewhere that poutine is featured heavily on the menu? Provided her brutal honesty and low bullshit tolerance get her past the interview process, it will be interesting to watch her become accountable to a boss, and I’m anxious to see her develop coping mechanisms for red-tape that go beyond her signature eye-roll because chances are her co-workers will not be as easily frightened into submission as her nine year-old brother.  And so begins another adventure parenting a teenager. Hopefully it also means a monthly monetary contribution towards her cell phone bill.