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Reddit user's teen son calls manual labor 'gross menial work': Here's what the 'appalled' mom did next

A concerned mom shared a troubling parenting issue on social media recently — attracting a lot of response.

“I’m divorced, but I have primary custody of my three kids, 16, 12, and 8,” wrote Reddit user “dublygo” on the AITA (“Am I the A—-e”) subreddit on March 31, 2023.

“Last week I took them all to the zoo, and it was mostly a good experience,” she continued, noting that her two younger kids especially liked the adventure.

Her oldest child, however, “isn’t very fond of animals.”

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The foursome passed a zookeeper who was “working hard” at cleaning the giraffe exhibit, she revealed.

Then, to her surprise, “my 16-year-old son pointed and said to his brother, ‘That’s why you do good in school, I guess, or you end up scooping poop for a job!’” she shared.

During a family's visit to a zoo, a teen (not pictured) disparaged hard manual work — so his mom came up with a novel solution. 

During a family’s visit to a zoo, a teen (not pictured) disparaged hard manual work — so his mom came up with a novel solution.  (iStock)

Her son made the comment loudly, she continued, and “the keeper and nearby guests surely heard.”

She quickly led her group away and they left the zoo, she said.

She then asked her son “where he learned to talk like that,” she continued on Reddit — and also said to him, “Don’t many of them [the zookeepers] have master’s degrees and higher?” 

“I was pretty appalled by how he’s learned to look down on manual labor.”

Her son replied that he considered it “gross menial work for people who don’t want to work with their intellect,” and also said that “anyone could do it,” she said. 

(The mom said she assumed her son meant cleaning animal enclosures at the zoo.)

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“I was pretty appalled by how he’s learned to look down on manual labor, but particularly zookeeping,” she wrote in her post. 

She added that as she understands it, the job of keeping zoo areas clean is “not even easy.” 

She said, “Sure, it’s manual labor, but I don’t think I could do what those zookeepers do every day — I gag from our cat’s litter box alone!”

A male southern white rhino calf stands with his mother after playing in a mud wallow at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. A teenager recently put down hard manual labor such as cleaning a zoo enclosure, according to his mom — and she came up with a novel way to teach him more about it. 

A male southern white rhino calf stands with his mother after playing in a mud wallow at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. A teenager recently put down hard manual labor such as cleaning a zoo enclosure, according to his mom — and she came up with a novel way to teach him more about it.  (Ken Bohn/San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance via AP)

The mom had an idea to change her son’s attitude. 

She said in her post that the best way “to teach him more respect and appreciation was to sign him up to volunteer at the zoo, so that’s what I did.”

She continued, “I found a ‘zookeeper for a week’ program at a zoo not far from here, and enrolled him.”

When she told her son about it, he was “very upset” and asked her why she would do that, saying it “sounds awful.”

“The father’s attitudes may be influencing the son’s perception of how life works.”

“I told him I thought he’d said it was ‘easy,’ so surely just one week wouldn’t hurt, but he said, “Yeah, cleaning up messes is ‘easy’ in that anyone can do it, but that doesn’t mean I want to!”

The teen’s father thinks the mom’s punishment is “too harsh,” she said — and noted that some of the dad’s “sentiments may be influencing these attitudes.”

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She decided to stick with her decision, she also said.

Fox News Digital reached out to the mom on Reddit for further comment.

Mike Rowe, host of “How America Works” on Fox Business as well as host of the popular TV series “Dirty Jobs” and “The Way I Heard It” podcast, weighed in on the issue.

Mike Rowe of "How America Works" on Fox Business as well as "Dirty Jobs" and other programs takes part in a roundtable discussion on manufacturing in September 2012. Rowe weighed in on the parenting issue at hand, saying the mom's decision "probably won't inspire a new way of thinking." Rowe also runs the mikeroweWORKS Foundation, which promotes skilled labor. 

Mike Rowe of “How America Works” on Fox Business as well as “Dirty Jobs” and other programs takes part in a roundtable discussion on manufacturing in September 2012. Rowe weighed in on the parenting issue at hand, saying the mom’s decision “probably won’t inspire a new way of thinking.” Rowe also runs the mikeroweWORKS Foundation, which promotes skilled labor.  (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/GettyImages)

“I can certainly understand the embarrassment of realizing your 16-year-old son is an elitist,” Rowe told Fox News Digital.

“But I doubt Mom’s solution did anything to create a teachable moment,” he continued. 

“In essence, she used the job that the kid was disparaging as a form of punishment.”

Said Rowe as well, “That probably won’t inspire a new way of thinking. She would have been wiser, I think, to force the kid to watch every episode of ‘Dirty Jobs.’ Twice.”

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Rowe created the mikeroweWORKS Foundation, which promotes skilled labor in America. He’s personally worked with plumbers, electricians, steamfitters, pipefitters, bricklayers, farmers, fishers “and a bunch of other skilled workers who help keep our polite society humming along,” as its website notes. 

Dr. Jayme Albin, a clinical psychologist in New York City, also gave her view on the parenting issue.

“Teaching your child to value hard work and education and that it leads to better opportunities is a great parental lesson, but should not come at the expense of having compassion and empathy for others,” she told Fox News Digital.

“The jobs we might see as undesirable are the ones that keep a lot of systems running.”

“It seems as if the father’s attitudes may be influencing the son’s perception of how life works,” she added.

Albin noted that she supports the mother’s “intervention,” showing the son that “sometimes high-end positions can require dirty, hard work.”

A mother and baby giraffe are shown together at the Dallas Zoo. Making the son do hard work will help him realize "how hard a lot of these jobs are actually are, and the amount of effort people put into what they do," said one commenter on Reddit about the mom's plan to help open her son's eyes.

A mother and baby giraffe are shown together at the Dallas Zoo. Making the son do hard work will help him realize “how hard a lot of these jobs are actually are, and the amount of effort people put into what they do,” said one commenter on Reddit about the mom’s plan to help open her son’s eyes. (Dallas Zoo)

Albin noted that this program the mom has enrolled her son in may also help the teen to consider “that not everyone has the strength and persistence to achieve their goals.”

People on Reddit also weighed in on the mom’s dilemma and were supportive of her decision, giving her positive “upvotes” on her post.

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“Making him do the work will make him realize how hard a lot of these jobs are actually are, and the amount of effort people put into what they do,” said one commenter. 

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“The jobs we might see as undesirable are the ones that keep a lot of systems running. To make that comment loudly in front of the zookeeper is just harsh,” the commenter added.

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Said another person, “To be honest, I would love to do this job, just to be able to be around these gorgeous animals on a daily basis.”

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