Renovating houses during a hot, summer day may not be an ideal job, but for an Iowa State alumna — that job instilled a sense of capability.
Cheryl Stritzel McCarthy was born and raised in Ames with a family of nine and is now an independent journalist, having been published in the The Wall Street Journal and the Des Moines Register, among other publications.
In “Many Hands Make Light Work: A Memoir," McCarthy shares how her childhood experiences — such as renovating houses — turned into lessons that installed a sense of capability.
McCarthy said helping out with the second business — as her father was also an agronomy professor at Iowa State — helped her gain a sense of contributing to her family in an economic way. McCarthy would help by painting rooms of the houses or babysitting for the neighboring families as well as other activities.
“So, the only way that business would survive and thrive is if everybody worked at it, and that means all of us kids — even from very young ages — anytime we weren’t in schools, we were working on those houses,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said little methods such as installing a drinking fountain, which helped the younger children get drinks on their own, would help her parents tremendously. She said her parents’ mindset was to make her and her siblings feel that they are capable of achieving their goals.
“They really expected children to contribute real economic value to the household and they knew we could do it,” McCarthy said. “Because they believed in us, we believed in us, and that is how they raised really capable children who grew up to be capable and confident adults. They did less for us and expect more of us.”
Changing the attitude of the labor also helped McCarthy continue to help her family business. She said she had to take situations and turn it into something she valued. She said she changed her mindset into being grateful for gaining real life experience and found joy in the little moments of working.
"Even when you have too much work to do and not enough time or too many kids and not enough money, you find joy in life," McCarthy said. "I think looking back at this family in this era, in this town, we have something to gain from that."
Finding the bright side of her situation was not always the case, though. McCarthy said she had to work to change her mindset in situations that could be disruptive.
"My husband and I have moved throughout our lives following his career frequently — a couple of times overseas," McCarthy said. "There are different ways to look at that. You can let it be disruptive and upsetting and derailing, or you can look at is as fantastic opportunities and life-enriching and fun."
“Many Hands Make Light Work: A Memoir” will include the lessons and values she learned throughout her life as well as memories she would like to share. The memoir will be available to buy available at any bookstore as well as Amazon and Google Play on Aug. 9.