Those who came before us worked harder than us

Have you ever heard the stories about how people who are from the generations before us had to, and were willing to, work much harder than us?

I’ve heard a lot of people say that those from previous generations worked really hard and ‘the youth of today’ aren’t willing to do the same. Some even say that the ‘younger ones’ are unable to work in the same way. Now this reference, to the youth and the younger ones, is subjective and determined by the age of the speaker. So I’ve heard those over 70 years of age saying it about those who are over 50, but I’ve also heard people who are over 40 years old, say a similar thing about people who are in their 20s.

What do you think?
Are we less willing or able to work as hard as our elders?

My parents

I think my parents worked really hard. Please don’t think I’m bragging. I think they worked too hard, but then again, maybe they didn’t have a choice. After all, I was a child and wouldn’t have understood the choices they made or why they made them.

Here’s their story in brief…

  • They both had steady jobs but wanted to raise their game so they bought a shop.
  • Dad travelled between Kenton (where we lived) and Chiswick (where the shop was) on a daily basis. This took at least 45 minutes each way. He had to get to the shop before 6 a.m. to manage the newspaper delivery, then he’d run the shop and he would lock up and leave for home at about 8/9 p.m. each night.
  • After about 3 weeks of travelling back and forth, my dad got robbed and beaten up during closing time.
  • We packed whatever we could and moved to Chiswick straight away, so that he wouldn’t be so vulnerable.
  • Mum helped my dad run the shop, before and after, her 9 – 5 job.
  • She travelled from Chiswick to Harlesden on a daily basis to do her ‘day job.’ My mum was an office clerk in Heinz. After she returned from work she would help dad in the shop, cook, look after me and more.
  • Mum and dad’s shop was sandwiched between a green grocer and an off license. It shouldn’t have mattered because our trade was very different to theirs. However, between the 2 of them, they took it in turns to stock what we sold, which hurt the business badly! Mum and dad came up with different strategies to compete with them, but this took time, effort, energy and more time.

Can you imagine being in this situation and working like this every day, for 364 days each year?

What has that got to do with our elders working harder than us?

Well…how many people can you name who would start work at 6 a.m. and finish at about 11 p.m.? Oh, and a job which wasn’t ‘easy on the body’, but actually quite taxing.

This job involved being on your feet all day, talking to customers, refilling shelves, cleaning, going to the wholesaler every week, managing paper-rounds etc? This lasted 7 days a week and doesn’t take into account the fact that, for a number of years, Mum worked elsewhere during the day as well.

I don’t know many who would or could, do this.

Why are we so different?

I’m not sure if we’re lazy or just don’t want the same things.
Perhaps we earn ‘enough’ money for us to manage without putting such a high amount of effort in.
For many different reasons, the majority of people I know, aren’t willing or perhaps able, to put in that kind of effort and work for so many hours every day.

What about me?

Here’s my story in a few bullet points…

  • I completed my education and began working as a learning assistant at a school for children with special needs.
  • I joined another school for children and young adults with Autism.
  • I enjoyed this work very much but I decided I wanted to teach.
  • I decided to start a PGCE after which I worked as a teacher on a full time basis for a number of years.
  • After some reflection I decided to work on a part time basis and started teaching 4 days of the week.

Are my choices abnormal?

My choices made me stick out. I didn’t go part-time because of motherhood, I hadn’t won the lottery and I appeared super healthy. This made many people question why I’d reduced my hours at such a young age.

Some people found it inspiring, others seemed to find it offensive, some judged me to be lazy, others seemed baffled and there were those who ‘got it’ and congratulated me.

Going against the crowd doesn’t mean you’ve made a wrong choice.

What has working part-time done for me?

Going part time has enhanced my life in so many ways!

  • I wasn’t tired as much
  • I could pace out the hidden aspects of teaching i.e. marking, planning, preparing and assessing
  • I had a bit of time to do other things e.g. read, go for walks, rest, socialise etc.
  • I felt content with less

For me, if working less, meant feeling happier; then earning less didn’t matter.

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Anonymous · March 11, 2010 at 3:57 pm

What an excellent, original and fascinating blog post – thank you.

I get so fed up of stereotypical life stories and reactions to life events from an “asian” perspective, none of which I ever seem to relate to. I’m not saying I related to most of your experiences and attitudes, but I can understand your sense of priorities, duties and conflicts in life.

It would be wonderful if more young asians had the courage to tell their REAL stories and express their feelings.


    Heena Modi · March 11, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    Thanks ‘anon’
    I appreciate your comments : )

Ria · May 20, 2010 at 5:24 pm

Talking from a personal perspective as a mum, what a special blog! I am considering my life choices after the recent birth of my daughter which has completely altered my life and repriorotised my life for good! I think the saying, your things to do list never goes away is true! Rather than stay away from my daughter to raise all the money in the world, only to ignore her needs and have her turn into a youngster that neither has respect for me, nor feels valued by my actions, I would much rather give her the real gift of time so I can help her be the person I want her to be so she can make her own living when she is older, not be handed a car/house etc on a plate! I am only too aware of family friends who have worked long hours and compromised valuable family time to put their kids through private school, invest in flats for them to move into and am sure will buy them their first car etc all on a plate! Can they buy their kids the gift of time and attention? A rhetorical question.. good blog Heena.. well done!

    Heena Modi · May 20, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    Thanks for your comments Rina.
    Lots of food for thought there : )

kamal sharma · August 14, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Beautifully inspiring. Your story resonates well with mine. My grandfather toiled hard (did manual labor) for 14 years of his life to free up a piece of land that was mortgaged by his ancestors for couple of sacks of wheat grain. He build his life ground up and inspired everyone around.

    Heena Modi · August 18, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story Kamal 🙂

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