Sunday, June 3, 2012

How Life Prepared Me to Be "Mom"

(stock photo)
For the last couple of months, there have been rumblings that my family may have to move (again) this summer due to Hubby's job.  Although we have not yet heard anything definitive on the subject, I decided a few weeks ago to start shining up my resume.  Yes, I have been working as a substitute teacher for the last nine months, and that should help the whole finding-a-new-job process, but it never hurts to be prepared.  I do, after all, have a seven year gap in my resume labelled "motherhood", which doesn't always go over very well when interviewing.

As I began thinking about my resume and all the jobs I have had in the past, I came to a funny realization.  My underpaid, circuitous, lengthy career path has been the ultimate preparation motherhood.  It has all led up to THIS.  I wouldn't be the mom I am without my crazy job history.  I most certainly would not have the necessary skill set to raise my kids without the ridiculous jobs I have held in the past.  Even the stupidest jobs have taught me life skills that have been invaluable as a parent.   As the parent of kids with special needs, it was especially nice to have learned some of these skills in advance of the onset of motherhood.

How my "career" choices have prepared me to be a mother: (And before you ask, yes, I have done each and every one of these jobs.  Unfortunately.)

1.  cashier-- My very first job was as a cashier at a convenience store.  I was sixteen years old and worked the "crack of dawn weekend shift".  Being a cashier gave me the ability to apologize for things that aren't my fault.  Sometimes it is just easier to say sorry (as if it is your fault), than to explain to someone why you are the wrong person to whine to.  Cashier ex.  I'm so sorry we no longer sell your favorite brand of cigarettes.  Guess you'll have to choose your next favorite brand of death, sir.  Mom ex.  I'm sorry there's not a sixth book in the Percy Jackson series, honey.  What was that Rick Riordan thinking?  He should have asked you first.

2. industrial lightbulb changer-- My second job (still in high school) was changing lightbulbs in a textile plant. I know, thrilling, huh?  This job gave me the ability to do mind-numbingly boring tasks over and over.  This is undoubtedly one of the most useful skills to have as a parent, and it is critical to your survival.  Otherwise, how could you possibly live through cleaning up the same toys 20 times every day, or wiping the same behind, or the same nose, while watching the same video over and over and over.

3. accounts receivable bookkeeper-- I did such an amazing job changing light bulbs at that textile mill that they asked me to stay and help with accounts receivable (AR) for awhile. (You're not the only one having trouble seeing the correlation between AR and lightbulbs.)  For those that are unfamiliar with AR and what it entails, most of the job is essentially begging folks to pay for services already rendered.  The rest of the job is correcting bookkeeping mistakes made while recording the receipt of payments.  This job gave me confidence and the ability to persevere.  Keep trying and eventually you will succeed and land on a tactic that works to get the job done.  

4. tutor-- My first job in college was as a tutor.  Tutoring helped me develop the ability to simplify the complicated into something understandable.  Distilling the truth is a very valuable tool no matter what your job description is.

5. substitute teacher-- I did my first substitute teaching jobs while on break from college.  Here I honed my ability to fake it til you make it.  Pretend you know what you are doing and things usually work out in your favor.  Act unsure and you'll get eaten alive.

6. supplemental instructor (SI)-- This job was a glorified tutoring job I had in college where I would re-teach chemistry classes for professors.  I would have anywhere from 12 to 200 students per session, depending on how close we were to having an exam.  This job helped me develop the ability to work with blinders on so that I can do my job.  For the SI job, that meant I got over having stage fright while explaining chemistry concepts in front of hundreds of my peers.  As a mother, it translates into not getting embarrassed when one of my lovelies has a public meltdown.  All eyes on me?  Really.  Who cares.

7. bartender-- My most lucrative job was also some of the best training for motherhood I ever had.  In order to be a good bartender, the most important skill to have is the ability to multitask.  On a busy night behind the bar, it was very likely that I would be filling multiple drinks orders, mopping up spills, getting food from the kitchen, defrosting the keg cooler, washing beer mugs, providing couples counseling, listening to someone complain about work, and listening to someone "encourage" me to "hurry the hell up, why don't ya"-- all at the same time.  And now that I mention it, that could also be any given night as a mom, as well.

In order to be a well-paid bartender, I also had to develop the ability to talk to anyone about anything while having a completely different train of thought inside my head.  For example, in the bar that sounded like "Your daughter is already going off to college?!  Wow, where does time go?" coming out of my mouth.  Inside my head was more like: how long can you nurse one beer Uh-oh, looks like I'm going to have to 86 the jerk at Table 3-- again.  Sheesh!  If the office hooker at the bar takes one more shot of tequila, she is either going to get a raise or get fired."  Mouth:  "Well you tell her I said congratulations on getting into Princeton.  Can I get you something else, darling?"  As a mother, this skill is more like "Really, honey, another Pokemon is living in your sock drawer?!  That is incredible!"  In my head:  Oh dear lord.  I still need to mow the grass, do the laundry, buy groceries, and pick up some more wine.  When will she be done talking?!  This is a skill I cannot live without.

8. teacher-- Fresh out of college, I was a teacher.  More than anything, teaching helped me develop the ability to plan ahead and plan for the unforeseen well.  There is absolutely no such thing as "too prepared".  Trust me-- things can always go wrong.  (Remember our trip to Hershey?)  I also learned the valuable skill all teachers possess, which is the ability to celebrate even the smallest successes.  Some days, a small success is all you're going get, and you damn-well better acknowledge it or you may get even less the next day.  (You know, small things like being on time to work, or finally getting little Johnny to understand that crayons are only snack food at his house, not at school.)

9. salesperson-- Sales enhanced in me the ability to re-brand and put a positive spin on things.  ex. "You aren't cleaning your room, Birdie.  You're going on an Easter egg hunt!"  Or, "I know you don't like blueberries, Princess.  I would never give you blueberries.  Those are huckleberries."  It's all in a name, yo.

10. assistant bookstore manager-- Ah, customer service.  Who doesn't love to help the public spend their money?  (I can assure you that, I do not-- not anymore.)  This wonderful stint of employment gave me numerous opportunities to hone my ability to not scream at idiots keep my mouth shut when so many things I could say would make me feel so much better.  It also let me learn the ability to detect a lie, which is a skill you need more when dealing with the public than you do when dealing with your kids.

11. loan collection agent-- Okay, first of all-- stop laughing!  No, I'm serious.  Stop laughing.  I do understand that my 5'3", 120 lb. frame isn't terribly formidable, but I wasn't terribly bright back then, and I was terribly cocky.  I figured, how bad can calling people up on the phone, or knocking on their front door asking for back payments on shady loans really be?  It is legal, right?  That has to make it okay.  Sure.  You keep believing that.  This job helped me quickly develop the ability to not show fear, even when I am screaming on the inside.  For example, I rang the bell at the home of a "little old lady" to "remind her" that she owed my employer $75.  She opened the door and "politely" told me that she "don't owe us nuthin'.  You tell that a$$hole I said so, ya hear?!"  She said this while pointing her sawed-off shotgun at my nose.  My response?  "Yes, ma'am.  I'll let that a$$hole know.  May I go now?"

12. assistant hotel food and beverage manager-- A lot of this job was very much like being a mom, I just didn't realize it until I was a mom.  I spent a lot of my time listening to my employees whine and squabble and my customers whine and complain.  My greatest acquisition from this job was the ability to look someone in the eye and tell them what they want to hear, even if you don't mean it, so that they will shut the *bleep* up.  In other words-- lie.   This is better known as diplomacy in the hotel industry.

13. bank teller-- My final job before motherhood, while I was enormously pregnant, was at a bank.  I was so big and fat and gross and hungry all the time that I was just plain miserable (except at lunch time, of course).  My ability to smile when I don't feel worth a damn or would rather be cursing at the folks around me is still useful.  Every. Single. Day.

My resume is longer than most mortgage contracts.  Ugh.  STOP LAUGHING!!!!  I mentioned it was lengthy.

Hey, I wonder-- since I used all these skills every day as a mom-- could I list my seven year hiatus in motherhood as a "career enrichment program"?  Hmmm...

Here's hoping that re-branding will work as well at a job interview as it works at dinnertime.


  1. Great post! long yes but one many of us can relate to ... I was a waitress which I think has similar skills to that barman position your so eloquently spoke of ... you really make me laugh! You must be such a cool mom. Take care xx

  2. I loved your happy go lucky style of narration. Your family is so lucky to have you. Your humor is infectious.

    I bet most mothers sharing the job profiles you mentioned would be grinning reminiscing their days and the ones wanting to go back after a 'Mommy Break' would agree when you say 'Could I list my seven year hiatus in motherhood as a "career enrichment program"?

  3. I loved this blog. It effected me so much so that I though about my life and all the jobs I've had and how the effected my life. But I never thought about them this way. This blog really gives you a different perspective .