A while ago at preschool my daughter was learning to tie bows. That day was a birthday for one of the other children and the class was gathering for a celebration. When the teacher asked if my daughter would like to join in, she said no.
“If I’m going to get this right,” she said, “I’ve got to practice.”
I love that kid.
It’s not hard to figure out where she learned this. Just go read my husband’s excellent blog post on choosing your work. It got me thinking about practice and how the concept of “work” has gotten a bad reputation.
My daughter goes to a Montessori preschool. Every day the children are expected to choose their own work. And yes, they call it work. Whether it’s fitting together puzzles or playing bells or polishing silver, it’s purposeful activity — i.e., work.
I’m so glad my daughter is learning early to value work. The prevailing attitude in our culture seems to be that it’s a necessary evil. You go to your job and put in your time so you can collect a paycheque, pay the bills and get on with life. Life — the stuff that happens outside of work.
In our house, work is inextricably linked with home. There is no “life” outside of work. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. My husband is an indie game developer and a consultant. The bulk of his work happens at home. I work part-time outside the home and I write at home whenever I can: while my daughter’s in school, in the evenings, on weekends.
Our work earns us money, of course, but it also brings us personal satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. When I tell people I work every Saturday, I get grimaces in return. (And yeah, some Saturdays I’d rather be at the beach. But I try to keep a balance between the beach days and the writing ones.) I suppose if I said I was writing a novel I’d get a different reaction.
Except writing is work. It’s hard. It’s also important to me. Calling it work gives it more weight. It signals to me and to others that what I’m doing is serious.
Just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s unpleasant. Learning to knit or play ukelele is work. Growing an herb garden is work. Training for a marathon is work.
Anything worth doing requires work.
My daughter is still practicing her bows. They’re tricky, but she’s almost got them down. And, for the record, she did concede to a birthday cookie that day (she’s not a complete ascetic).
Now if only my family (me included) could extend our healthy attitude towards work to include house-cleaning.