Today is Labor Day in the U.S. It’s the day we set aside to show our support for all the people who labor to make this country great, from the people who collect our trash (who don’t have to work today) to the people who sell us our cars (who do have to work today). The United States of America is founded on hard work and the principle of individuals receiving their due for their labor.
I get that. I appreciate all the people who spend their time laboring for their means. As one of these people, I know how important it is to get recognition for the work that we do. On the other hand, I remember what it was like when I was the stay-at-home parent. I was a mom. Aside from sporadic efforts to write a novel, a mom was all I was in most peoples’ eyes and people seemed to go out of their way to make me feel inadequate because that was all I did.
Recently, my husband was asked, “Do you work?” He replied, “I’m a stay-at-home dad to three kids with disabilities, so yeah, I work. I just don’t get paid for it.”
I think about people like my husband. I think about the people who would love to work, but who don’t have the opportunity, not because we’ve trashed our economy, but because they were never valued within that economy. I think about the recent divorcees who have kids to support and who have “no skills” because they’ve been stay-at-home parents for most of their adult lives. I think about the people who never got the chance to develop even the most basic work skills. I think about the people who slide through life, doing odd jobs, migrating from one place to another, homeless and seemingly helpless.
I think about how labor in this country has become such an “us vs. them” issue. I think of labor unions and glass ceilings and income gaps. I think about all we accomplish on a day-to-day basis and all we fail to accomplish after decades of government programs and special interest initiatives. I think about the state of this country and the state of this world.
I think about the book I have written, which tells my story, and the books I plan to write, which will share my ideas about how to remake all the things I’ve seen. I think about the myriad forms of diversity and I think about neurodiversity in particular. I think about how society weights people to determine who will get opportunities to pursue their dreams and how the weights are invariably against people who are “too different,” and I think about how people who are “too different” are often the sources of our most profound innovations.
I see a world in need of a new respect for labor—not the labor we celebrate today, but of the labors of love so many people engage in in so many different ways. I want to celebrate the hope that this world can be a better place for all of us. I want to celebrate the people who work so hard to make it happen.