Dirty Jobs: Confessions of a Work-at-Home Mom
Before I’d turned 22, I had:
- Mopped melted, goopy bagel topping out of a giant, man-sized oven;
- Took as many as 100 pizza orders an hour in a frigid gray-on-gray call center (maybe it was actually an igloo?);
- Shelved government documents in some of the dustiest, darkest corners in the parts of a college library known more for its make-out corners than for its stacks of maps and magazines;
- Called various office supply stores to haggle bulk prices on typewriter tape and boxes of red Bic pens;
- Dusted office plants by orders of my superior, who had deemed the prices on typewriter tape and boxes of red Bic pens for which I’d haggled unsatisfactory;
- Scheduled tee times and politely smiled at the naughty limericks of old men at a local golf course;
- Flashed my laundry-day panties on a busy downtown corner; my arms were too full of legal filings to be used to hold down my skirt against a gust of wind;
- Saw a few guys make a run for it when they went to pay an overdue ticket, only to discover a warrant had been issued for their arrest;
- Gift-wrapped food processors and cashmere sweaters in a dimly-lit corner of a major department store in the thick of the holiday shopping season.
We’ve all had our share of what the immortal Wayne from the movie Wayne’s World liked to call Joe jobs – the sort of positions that were good for not much more than contributing yet another name tag or hair net to a cork board wall of shame. They’re the sort of jobs that in high school and college meant manual labor instead of parties, helping old women try on shoes instead of that big concert or, worst of all, food service at a busy drive-thru instead of a big date.
What’s particularly bitter about some of these job descriptions is that lately, it seems, they can come back to haunt us. Many American adults, especially those approaching retirement or who have already made the leap into the golden years, have found that, thanks to the economy and perhaps our culture of rabid consumption, their financial lives lack luster. Soon it becomes apparent that an extra income is a must. Except, highly desirable positions aren’t as readily available in today’s job market, especially when it comes to part-time gigs. But guess what is available? The spare cash register and a fussy conveyor belt at your nearest big-box retail store.
I want to put this out there: Sometimes, the job of working mom feels kind of like a Joe job. The working mother spends her mornings and evenings as a short-order cook, a janitor, a laundromat, a chauffeur and bath water flood manager. During her breaks at work she’s an on-call nurse, an emergency delivery service, personal finance guru and purchasing agent. If she works from home, she’s also a professional juggler and riot defuser – you know, for when the phone, the stove, the iron, the doorbell and the kids all need her attention in the same instant.
And then, after collapsing into bed, she has to do it all over again the very next morning. That 6 a.m. clock-in time comes around early, let me tell you – especially when punching out at midnight or later the night before.
The number on a paycheck in exchange for such a job? Often, $0. In cash, anyway.
While something tells me we can all agree that parenting is the king of both Joe jobs and wonderful, amazing, blissful jobs alike, I’d rather talk about all the crazy jobs we had in high school and college.
Did you have to work? Did your parents make you, or could you barely wait to earn your own spending money? What was your first job? Which job did you love or hate the most? What was the craziest thing that ever happened to you while working one of these jobs?