I have been out of college now for 12 years, something that I still find hard to believe because so many of my memories from that time are so clear. I occasionally receive updates from my alma mater, and I recently received word that they had partnered with a locally based laundry service. Students are now able to place their bags of dirty clothes in lockers throughout campus, enter the locker’s number into an app, and pick up their clean and folded clothes 48 hours later. This in an of itself made me chuckle and think, really? A laundry service right on campus? I continued reading the article and learned that this was a service parents had requested because their son or daughter had never learned how to do laundry. They approached the campus and said, “What do we do? Is there any service you have or can provide that people will do their laundry for them?” At this point, I’m moving from being amused to disturbed. Rather than taking ten minutes to teach your grown adult, who will be leaving your house and living on their own how to do a task my eight-year-old can successfully do nearly start to finish, a better solution would be to hire someone to do it for them?
My college was known for attracting students from affluent families, and my also-working-on-and-off-campus roommate and I still talk about the girl on our floor whose mother would come every Sunday, without fail, to wash her dishes from the week and clean her 12’x16’ room. Even as nineteen year olds, we felt more sorry for her than anything. Because truly, if your mom is still doing your dishes (regularly!) when you don’t even live with her anymore, when are you going to ever truly be a “real grown up?”
So, we of course got a good laugh from this article because we know there will be so many people who will eat this up, not as a convenient “it was a really crazy week and I didn’t have time to bring my suit to the cleaners” option but as a “I never have to do laundry! Ever!” option. Lest you think that I must really love doing laundry to be so against someone paying someone else to do their laundry, that is definitely not the case! I do two (sometimes three) loads a day for our family of seven, and there have been many times I have wished that someone would just come take care of it. We even went through a season where our jack-of-all-trades babysitter/mother’s helper would frequently fold a few loads during her time at our house.
But I think the bigger tragedy in all of this is that we as a society are doing an awful job of teaching our children the value of work. Real, honest-to-goodness, work, no matter how dull or boring. Laundry is about as mundane a task as any, but there is still something satisfying about finishing your laundry and accomplishing something. (Okay, so I don’t really ever finish my laundry anymore, but still!) In addition to that, many of these same students who have never done as necessary a task as laundry will become first-year employees who feel entitled to six-figure wages and raises for showing up.
It is worth noting that my point is not to throw all students who use this service under the laundry cart, as I do remember how busy college was, and there were times when I found myself laundering my entire wardrobe at midnight because I literally did not have clean clothes to wear the next day. This service would have been a delightful indulgence during finals or other extraordinarily busy times. But to have this implemented because grown adults have never learned how to do it and their parents requested it seems…well, absurd.
I know some of you are saying, “Really? She’s still going on about laundry? It’s just dirty clothes!” But even more than having the knowledge to accomplish this necessary (and simple!) task of life, these students are missing out on a chance to learn the value of (really not so) hard work. As anthropologist Margaret Mead said, “I learned the value of hard work by working hard.” Pope Paul VI is even more blunt: “All life demands struggle. Those who have everything given to them become lazy, selfish, and insensitive to the real values of life. The very striving and hard work that we so constantly try to avoid is the major building block in the persons we are today.” It’s a symptom of a bigger problem in so many young people today.
I may print out this article and put it in a place where I can see it frequently just to remind myself that the daily battles to get my kids to do very simple chores is worth it. It’s worth fighting the whining and not-fairs because, by the grace of God (and seemingly a small miracle some days), these kids will grow into self-sufficient, capable adults who will change the world. Or at least impress their wives with their mad laundry skills.
photo credit: Bright clothes in laundry basket, on color background via photopin (license)
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