Sean Moncrieff: I chose to hustle for a living. My children have little choice

I landed in a precarious job through the superpower of ignorance. Now it’s the norm

‘My father sat me down and told me that working in the media wouldn’t be like All the President’s Men’

‘My father sat me down and told me that working in the media wouldn’t be like All the President’s Men’

 

We’re doing a few things to the kitchen. Changing a few cupboards. But it’s not finished yet, which makes me nervous. Nothing matches. The new cupboards are laughing at the old stuff. It’ll look terrible if we have to sell the house.

Not that we plan to. But, you know.

I’ve been lucky enough to consistently work for the vast majority of my adult life. But there have been quite a few bumps, and you never know when the next one is coming. No one is indispensable. To paraphrase screaming racist Enoch Powell, most broadcasting careers end in failure. Most people go before they want to. Most don’t want to go at all.

So, I have a freelance mentality, because most of my professional life has been that way. Contracts that last years or weeks or a few days. You start and you already see the end.

When I was a young lad, my parents found it astounding that I would opt for such a precarious life; especially as I had, at their insistence, applied for a job in the bank and got it. Like druids, they had chanted out the sacred qualities of this gift. Permanent. Pensionable. Cheap mortgage: all meaningless word-gloop to me. My father sat me down and told me that working in the media wouldn’t be like All the President’s Men. I’d no idea what that meant either.

This should be the inspirational bit where I tell you that I persisted because I had a dream and had resolved to believe in myself, whatever that means. But the truth is that I was armed with the superpower of ignorance.

I was young and stupid. And being young and stupid, I was convinced that I knew better than anyone else. I had virtually no idea what being a journalist involved; that there might be boring bits to it. That I might be broke a lot of the time; that the overwhelming majority of people on my journalism course wouldn’t end up in journalism. It wasn’t like All the President’s men.

Parental anxiety

It was only when I was older, when I had kids of my own, that I fully understood where my parents’ anxiety had stemmed from. Career bumps are little more than personal disappointments until you have mouths to feed: then it becomes more urgent, the potential failure more all-encompassing. The blast radius can take in all your family.

Like most parents who resolved to do things differently to their parents, I ended up doing things exactly like them. It took my kids to teach me that the Leaving Cert-College-Permanent Job life model no longer applies in many cases, perhaps even most of them. As things stand now, only one of my children is in college studying for what could be viewed as a “traditional” job; and even in that case she may well ended up being self-employed.

When I was their age, being a freelance was unusual. Now it’s the norm. Son No 1 and Daughters 1 and 3 make some or all of their income through methods that didn’t exist when I was their age.

Oh yes, it’s an exciting new world of entrepreneurial jargon-speak; and I am impressed by and proud of how they are making their way. But this process will be continual. There will be no “getting them settled”. They will have to continually hustle; and when you have to hustle for an income, any joy you might find in it becomes secondary. Anxiety becomes a constant presence. When you have to hustle, the chances of saving to buy a home or setting up a pension scheme become more remote.

I fear that they are a generation becoming impoverished before our eyes. And while the new ways of working and the gig economy were facilitated by the digital revolution, they weren’t invented by it. They were invented by neoliberal economics. Everything is different, but not really: wages go down so other people can get rich.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.