Government employees get a bad rap. If you ask the average American, some would say government employees are lazy, bureaucratic, under performing, and over paid. Having heard this for many years, you may even believe it. Or, when you’re out meeting new people you tell people you ‘just work for the government’. As if that says everything about who you are professionally.
In this Ted Talk, Trista talks about how she saw herself as “Just a mom.” She reminds us that when we talk down about our own roles that we are using our own hammer to chip away at our own value.
She describes a time when her son said he wanted to be just like her – and to nothing. Reflecting back, she describes her defensiveness of her value as a stay at-home-mom. She describes her hesitation to speak at TEDx because she was ‘just a mom’. Upon more reflection she believes she aimed to protect herself from the rejection of others who have fancy titles and sexy jobs. That her inner demons cause her to describe herself as ‘just a mom’.
I think back to the government shutdown in 2013. Many federal employees bristled at the description of ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential’ employees in determining who worked during the shut down. They didn’t feel valued.
But here’s what got me about the shutdown. Massive numbers of Americans said they were glad the government shut down. That government employees didn’t do anything anyway. People in my own Facebook feed that knew I worked for the government and knew how hard I worked, were there supporting the shut down.
Ultimately, what got many Americans to change their tune about the importance of government employees was when the national parks shut down in Washington DC. The national parks closed the monuments that so many families and school children visit each summer. I couldn’t believe that we could be done without, so long as it didn’t disrupt vacation plans.
Then, as now, we must remember that the public perception of the government worker is based on a few. Trista realized that her son perceiving she did nothing as a work-at-home mom was a sign that she was doing her job well. Similarly, government workers must remember that their hard work every day makes our country run in ways Americans don’t even realize. That they do more than ‘just work for the government.’ They work for the American people.