A labor of love PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 03 February 2012 16:46
Excellent working conditions, good colleagues and bosses create ideal environment

Tema GouseTema Gouse

I recently ATTENDED  the annual corporation meeting of my former employer. I have done this for 52 consecutive years, never missing one meeting.   I initially attended as a privileged employee, and for the past 26 years since I retired, I have been privileged to attend as a member of the corporation. It is an annual event that I eagerly anticipate.

If you have done the arithmetic, you will realize that my period of employment was very lengthy. When I retired, the question I was asked most frequently was,  “Do you miss your job?”

In fact, there were many aspects of working that I did miss. I missed the daily contact I had had with fellow employees, many of whom had become my close friends. I even missed performing the work for which I was paid. It may seem astonishing, but I missed the discipline of full-time paid work – discipline that dictated the time of rousing, making myself acceptable looking and being more organized about my obligations to my family and household.

These annual meetings bring me up-to-date on our facility and its progress. The real joy, however, is being able to see former colleagues and to reconnect with them. And the feast that follows the business meeting is certainly worthy of the effort of getting there on a cold and rainy night.

But the main purpose of this treatise is to talk about the privilege of having been employed doing work that required years of study and learning. Many times I have said that I had never once experienced a day of work when I woke up and wished I did not have to go to work. Life was often frenetic, but I felt that my satisfaction on the job enhanced, rather than diminished, my role as wife and mother.

Many people who are gainfully employed do not share my enthusiasm for employment and its many demands. Most people work to supply themselves or loved ones with life’s necessities and, perhaps, pay for the delights we all crave. American families see many luxuries as necessities.

I did not return to working in my profession until my younger child was in school and did not arrive home from school until 3:30 p.m.  My supervisor was an aging, never-married woman who thought that a child with chicken pox was more in need of my care than anything that was occurring on the job. I also had the privilege of working less than a mile from home, which meant that I could clean the breakfast dishes before leaving the house in the morning and get home after work in time to make dinner.

My profession – social work – is aimed at helping others with psychological and sociological problems. Certainly, succeeding at this to some extent enhanced my appreciation of my job. However demanding a work situation is, if it succeeds in its mission, it can be more rewarding than exhausting.

As readers of this column’s headline know, there can be love in labor – or so the writer claims. Past readers of my columns know that I was a social worker, and since the community here is small, most know that I had the privilege of working for the state’s most respected psychiatric hospital. Had you met the aforementioned supervisor or the nursing director who taught her nurses to value each patient – and who became another aunt to my children – you would understand why I regarded my employment as a privilege.

My department was made up of a conglomeration of men and women, many of whom were in their first professional positions and who were as varied as our patients. When my dear supervisor retired, I battled some powers and secured her position for another woman, who is still a dear friend to me.

I could ramble on and on endlessly but I am realistic. I am aware that not everyone is blessed with “the right job.” There were many days when I arrived home frustrated and exhausted. There were many co-workers (and superiors) whom I disliked – and who disliked me! Not many people are fortunate enough to have work that values ongoing learning and skill acquisition. And few employers tolerate criticism and advice from underlings.

As I recall the issues I have been writing about, I realize how fortunate I am to be able to look back on my career accomplishments as a labor of love. Much of my good fortune depended on what I was prepared to give in order to be respected and appreciated.

To those who have not had my good fortune, I advise you to think carefully about how your attitude and work ethic might make your employment more lovable and less laborious.

Tema Gouse, a Cranston resident, is a retired social worker. Contact her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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