Employment History

...No other technique for the conduct of life binds the individual so firmly to reality as an emphasis on work, which at least gives him a secure place in one area of reality, the human community...

Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its Discontents

Elaboration regarding my duties and circumstances follows this list:

1. Family dishwasher (from age 7 up - 1973)
2. Babysitter (age 12 up)
3. Cashier (and ice cream scooper) (age 13-15 summers)
4. Housekeeping service for cabins (13-15 summers)
5. Mover (both parents - very frequent) (age 6-23)
6. Horse feeding/grooming/exercising and mucking stalls (age 13-16)
7. Lawn Mowing (age 14-16)
8. Receptionist/secretary for my father (summer I was 16)
9. 'Housewife' at 16 (16-17)
10. More babysitting (17-18)
11. Telemarketer for a cemetery (17-18 - regarding pre-arrangement of funerals, burial and cremation - part-time while I attended school)
12. More 'housewife' duties at 18
13. One month at a fast food restaurant (20)
14. Eleven days as a waitress (21 - 1987)
15. Odds & Ends: Housepainting & Steamcleaning carpets, Envelope stuffer

At age 7 or so, it became my job to wash the dinner dishes. I had to stand on something in order to reach the sink. At this time, my mother had gone to the hospital because of ovarian cysts, a problem that would recur years later. I have heard that being on the pill is a solution to this problem, but since my mother was Catholic, it could be that she resisted it. When she returned from the hospital, I am pretty sure that I continued to wash dishes, or that it was not long until I became the regular dishwasher.

As for household chores, we were responsible for making our beds and keeping our rooms and playroom tidy. We were asked to help with various jobs, for example, my mother froze and canned many fruits and vegetables. We went to help pick, and later clean them, snapping or cutting off appropriate parts.

We received a regular allowance of I think around 25 cents per week, some of which we were required to place in the collection plate on Sunday. I think the amount changed over time, but was never extravagant. I always meant to save mine, but would tend to buy a chocolate bar or candies when bored while waiting around at my brothers' hockey practices or games. I would sometimes wish to buy a hot chocolate, but it was too expensive.

I first babysat at around age 12. At that time I was very anxious about the responsibility. I am not sure how much money I made babysitting. Usually the way to get a job was that people in the area knew there was a girl of the right age to babysit, and would make inquiries. It could also be that my mother would try to get jobs for me. When I lived with my father from age 13 on, there were only a few places close enough to make sense for me to babysit, and I would still have to get a ride there and back.

At age 13, before I moved to my father's, I worked as a cashier at the gift store/souvenir shop at my mother's small fishing resort. The cash register did not add things up itself - the total (and change) had to be worked out by me. One of my jobs there was to scoop ice cream. I also helped my mother to clean the 5 cabins on the property. In addition to washing the dinner dishes, I had a variety of other household chores, which included things like sweeping the floors daily, and some chores which rotated amongst siblings. I also helped my mother to iron sheets for the cabins - there was a big rollerpress thing for doing this. I also helped to pull weeds/garden - in the backyard there was a massive vegetable garden. We also picked vegetables and fruits (often berries), and there was again preparation for canning and freezing, making jam, etc.

My brothers mowed the lawn (it was a somewhat large lawn, which included a small trailer park), were fishing guides and cleaned fish. I was never a fishing guide, and didn't learn how to clean fish, but I did learn how to drive a boat (outboard motor).

When my siblings, their friends and I went swimming, either at The Falls, in the river near the marina or out in the bay somewhere, I was the one in charge of watching over everyone. At age 10 I had passed a Red Cross swimming/lifesaving course aimed at 15-16 year olds (I was one of 5 in the class to pass the course, although I was the youngest and it was a fairly large class - around 25 kids I think).

I am not sure, but the summer I was 13, I think my mother paid us all for our work at the resort. I think she gave me a total of $100 or so, and I remember thinking it was an enormous amount of money, and I questioned myself as to whether I deserved it. I think it was understood that because we were family, and it was a family business, and it would be some years until a profit was turned, it was important that we all try as hard as we could, and not expect to receive anything. I think it's possible that because of the nature of my brothers' work, they may have received more, or may at times have received tips from the people they took out as guides.

I am pretty sure that I did not spend that money. I had a bank account which my mother had arranged, and it might have stayed there for a long time - that it was to go toward my education, maybe. I think I had an idea in my mind that some money was for certain things and was not to be spent, and that other money (like buying chocolate with my allowance) was different. With my part-time job in Grade 13, (working as a telemarketer in the office of a cemetery) I was probably very much influenced by this thinking. I could have bought more things for myself, including clothes, but beyond travel expenses to and from work, I probably saved almost everything I made to go toward school. Babysitting at that time was different. I would tend to think of babysitting money for more indulgent purchases, or odds and ends, busfare to school, makeup, going out with friends, or travelling to Bramalea to see my on-again-off again boyfriend.

When I moved in with my father, he did sort of give me an allowance, but my memory is a bit foggy. I am not sure it was regular, and sometimes it might have been extravagant - he might every once in a while give me $20 to go to the movies, while paying me only $5 to cut a lawn that took 5 hours to cut. But this would change around, such that another time I might get $20 to mow the lawn, but no allowance for a while. In the beginning, I hardly ever went out anywhere, and I think I just assumed that I was getting what was 'fair' - that my father being the parent would take care of what I needed when it became necessary. (What I mean is that for a long time, I probably received no allowance. I was on my best behaviour, and very self- conscious about being trouble or an expense that my father and his girlfriend would regret.) I was required to wash the dinner dishes, to give the horses water and hay when I returned home from school, and later when my father returned, to go with him to give them oats, but this routine was not constant, the timing changed over the years. For a while I remember giving them oats myself, and sometimes little mice would pop out of the grain bins when I opened them, which would startle me. I always sort of prayed that I would not be required to fish a dead mouse out of a water bucket, or that the more unpredictable horses would not crush me against a wall when I entered their stalls. When we needed more feed or bedding, I went with my father to collect it, and helped him to load and unload.

There were other responsibilities, but these are foggy to me, and there was no consistency.

When my father's girlfriend moved out, I think he might have paid me for a while to wash and iron his work shirts, but I am not sure this was regular, and I might have insisted upon doing it for free.

At the time my mother died during the summer I was 16, I was working as my father's receptionist/secretary at a new (large, international) company that he had been asked to get up and running. I did not have a lot of duties: mainly I had to answer the phones, take messages, and give aptitude tests to applicants. I also had to mark the tests, and offer my opinions about each applicant. There was a lot of waiting around, but I did have to be there for 10-12 hours per day. I got a ride to and from work with my father. Everyday, he bought me a sandwich from the lunch cart. I was paid $125 per week, and felt guilty about it, since there was so much waiting around and I did not really think I had worked all that much. However, considering the hours I had to be available, I doubt I was making the current minimum wage.

When it came time for me to go back to school, I had to show my replacement around. She seemed like an incredibly intelligent and efficient person, who obviously had a lot more experience with secretarial work than me, and yet I was somewhat taken aback by my father's way of speaking to her - as if he considered her a moron or lowlife. I was embarrassed of him, or I'm not sure if that's quite accurate, it's more that I might have felt both puzzled and somewhat angry, as if I wanted to pick a fight with him. I think the issue was that he did have sexist attitudes, and that because he was the boss he was allowed to talk to people however he wanted. She did not seem to become offended - she just continued to do her job as efficiently as possible.

I think that during many of the long hours I worked for my father he was in his office, probably much of the time either doing nothing himself, or talking on the phone to friends and acquaintances which had nothing to do with work.

Our mother had died at the end of July, and my brothers had moved in pretty much immediately. I am not sure now what my siblings did during the day while my father and I were at work for the month of August. Having just moved, they would not have had friends or contacts. They did all seem to manage to successfully fit in when the school year began.

During that year, while working on Grade 12 through correspondence courses, I did the cooking and cleaning. On weekends and occasionally just normal weekdays, our father would leave us money for pizza. Occasionally he would buy something like steak, which he would cook, and I would prepare baked potatoes and salad. I usually prepared one meal for my siblings, and a meatless version for myself. Every day there was a lot of straightening up to do once everyone left the house. I also had a lot of vacuuming to do because we had 5 pets. I washed all the sheets, towels, and everybody's clothes. I learned how to get grass stains out of sport uniforms. I kept the bathroom cleaned. I washed all the dishes. I made the shopping lists. When we moved from this place less than a year later, I did most of the packing myself, and cleaned the house on my own.

I also planned birthdays and special occasions. I developed a pattern of cleaning both in preparation for and after the event. I did not want anyone's good time to be spoiled by having to do dishes or clean up immediately after eating. I would do them myself, later, alone - often late at night, needing to empty and refill the sink a few times in order to get it all done. I made (cake mix) cakes, decorated with many colours and silly designs or pictures. Our mother had always had a problem with birthday cakes - she would use a cake mix, but when she took them out of the pan they would always seem to crumble, and she would try to use a glue-like icing to hold them together - I took over for her at a certain point as I had a lot more luck with the mixes. I would also usually bake or prepare another dessert - often a cheesecake. I often made lasagna for birthdays, but sometimes we may have had other things, like pizza. With lasagna there would be a massive salad and fresh bread.

In not wanting to eat regular meals, one of my issues might be related to what a drag it is to have to get up right after and wash dishes - since I have been doing this every night since I was 7 years old.

There was a year off taking care of the housework duties myself when we lived in a Brady Bunch situation (during this year my father's new girlfriend had proposed housework teams of two - each team would look after a different aspect of indoor/outdoor work for the week, and duties would revolve from week to week), but then I resumed the main duties myself when this relationship broke up.

From age 16 on, my father didn't think it was appropriate to give me money. When I started school in the fall, it was necessary to sell some of my possessions so that I could buy textbooks and have busfare. I did not have new clothes. My boyfriend's mother gave me a few things of hers which did not fit anymore. I did right away begin babysitting - my stepsister and I put up an ad. I ended up taking most of the jobs as she was too busy.

When my textbooks were stolen, I almost dropped out of school. I did ask my father for the money, and he did give it to me, considering the circumstances. I tried extremely hard to get a 'real' job aside from babysitting, but was turned down a lot because the area in which I lived was mainly busy during the summer months. It took me a while to finally get a job - as a telemarketer for a cemetery. I was embarrassed by this job at the time, and used a fake name when calling people.

The man who had hired me later made a pass at me in a supply closet. He later also offered to put me up in my own apartment if I would be his mistress. He made this comment in front of others, so I suppose it may not have been serious.

I managed to save over $3000 for university. I still needed to get two more credits in order to be eligible for university. I had two options: I could go to the same school for another year, having a rather easy course load, while saving more money for school, or I could go to a semester type school and get my last credits within a few months. My father's relationship broke up and we moved again. It was fairly stressful, and for the first time in our lives we did not live in a house, but in an apartment, and it was rather cramped. We also did not have a car, and our father had no licence.

I sort of fell back into the role I had adopted at age 16. I began to take responsibility for cooking and cleaning. I did manage to get my last two credits through correspondence, but I was too cut off from the world to know what to do next.

I did not have a paying job again until I was 20. I sought this out because of guilt regarding a telephone bill that was the result of my ex-boyfriend's telephone fraud. He had been calling from a pay phone, and pretended not to know me when questioned.

The job was at a fish n' chip shop. The Korean couple who ran it were hoping to find someone responsible enough to run it if they ever took time off. When the wife was out or not looking, the husband would make passes, for example, frequently trying to force my hand to his crotch. I quit after a month.

At age 21, I applied for a few different jobs. At first, I thought that I would undergo training to become a ballroom dance teacher. I was accepted for training, which would be all day for approximately 5 weeks, I think. I would receive no money during this time. I ended up taking a job which would allow me to leave home immediately, as a waitress at a large summer resort in Honey Harbour.

I lasted only 11 days at that job.

Since that time, there were a few occasions when I had to stuff envelopes at home for something related to my father's work - I wouldn't have minded doing more of that, but that kind of work was not easy to come by. I was paid for that work, but in all there were only a few jobs.

When I was 24, my father had a girlfriend who held birthday and special occasions at her place. I usually helped to prepare and then clean up afterward, but at a certain point I began to rebel. Was I expected to do these things because I was female? Because I was unemployed? I did not see my father's girlfriend as a good role model. She did not stand up for her kids in the face of my father's abuse or disrespect, and she seemed to cling to traditions as if her identity would disappear without them - she obviously felt resentment, but insisted upon putting in tons of work in cooking exactly the same meals all the time. I perhaps questioned my own roles in the past as a result. I decided to change. I also tried to talk to the others about making changes to family get-togethers, but no one wanted to. I eventually stopped going altogether.

While living with my family, I became resigned to the need to contribute something. Usually, that related to domestic work, and occasionally included things like housepainting and steamcleaning of carpets. I did not receive money for this work. On Friday nights, my father would sometimes give me a 2l container of ice cream - but it was understood it was out of kindness or compassion, and not because I had earned it.

Moving through the years was another 'job'. I got a lot of experience with packing, cleaning and moving. My siblings and I were expected to help with both my father's and mother's various moves.

It is difficult to try to think of how many times we helped with moves over the years. By the time I was 11 or 12 years old (all my siblings were younger), my father and his girlfriend moved into a farmhouse - and other than us kids, there was no one else helping. His girlfriend had a bad back and could not lift heavy objects. We helped our father to move not only furniture, but things like washer and dryer, fridge and stove.

In later life, I was still helping family, as well as others (e.g., boyfriends) I encountered, to move. In the majority of cases, I did it for free, and in a few cases, I was not even thanked.

A bit of a pattern begins to emerge: I did things for 'free' because I always felt that I owed something.

I think it's likely that my father did not actually have to put in long hours of actual work. He had an ability to organize and manage that took a relatively small amount of time, but not everyone could manage to do such things - he had an unusual talent. The rest of the time, he probably phoned people, wasted time, and engaged in various habits related to coffee, smoking, food, and drinking. I understand now that the model of someone who works constantly from 9 to 5 excepting breaks is a myth, for the most part. I think people are probably more productive if the schedule is less rigid. What I don't like is the automatic justification, validation or respect a person receives when they have a job - they can get away with letting people believe that they work constantly, day after day, year after year. It is like everyone comes to convince themselves that the ideal is the truth, and this helps them to look down on or feel contempt for the unemployed. (It would have been fine for me to accept that work entails psychological responsibility and pressure that can't be easily translated into hours of recognizable work - if my father hadn't been content to let me assume that I myself was not really working in comparison to him. In order to keep the myth alive, he sacrificed my self-esteem. He had an effect on my own evaluations of my efforts, or of my own worth.)

Those who are higher up don't want those lower down to know how wasteful they themselves are. It is better to have the lower down directing their hatred onto the unemployed, so that the focus is never shifted back to those who have the most. Keep them all preoccupied.

By the time I was 23-34, I didn't honestly believe I would ever have a career. I felt that I wanted to go, to leave life. I still hoped to be loved. However, it was not about building a life together, it was about getting to have fun, maybe go on a trip, and then die, because it seemed to me that my most suitable mate would be someone who was not able to cope with life either, but wanted to make the most of the end, since the time up until then had been so hard.

I was too far behind to ever catch up, but aside from that, the attitude of wanting an end affected how I developed from there, and how I interpreted everything. My first long-term relationship was not 'real', it did not represent what I really wanted to do, but I didn't know how to get out of it. My other weaknesses became too difficult to override, as living with someone was more comfortable than living alone, and also, he constantly told me that he loved me, that I was beautiful, and such things - and was constantly aware of my needs and wishes and preferences - I had never received this much attention, and while on one hand I despised myself, on the other it was hard to give up. I realize that many people would say 'ah, you made it this far, you at last had the necessary support to move forward, why didn't you?' I couldn't believe in the world and the jobs necessary to keep it going, and while I did have some stability, I didn't have enough to commit to a long-range plan of study or preparation, and I didn't see myself as being capable of being stable enough to go out into the world on a daily basis. I did take a college course during this time through correspondence, and I did earn a diploma.

But when my disability payment was revoked, I think I did fall into a desperate state. I was no longer contributing. I put in a major effort to try to leave, such that I could kill myself. I wasn't sure how to go about it. On the surface, I was socializing that year, but underneath, I was desperate, and each night I went out, I would feel 'ready', I would be ready to take any opportunity, I would think this might be my last night. I thought that my wild dancing style would attract someone to me who would have guns or heroin, or who would work on a plan together. I suppose this is not a very smart plan. I also thought that in the area of town I tended to be in late at night, maybe something would eventually just happen, I would get shot accidentally or some other thing.

I have no intention at this stage of ever seeking employment. I don't want to be dependent, I don't want long-term relationships in which I will be dependent, but I don't want to seek employment, either, which partly explains the need for this 'psychoanalysis'.















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