Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Working Girl

 Last night, when my body seemed to wake after each 90 minute sleep cycle, I found myself thinking about my past jobs and I thought it might make an interesting blog post.  I would LOVE to read about all the different positions you've held, so let me know if you write a blog post or leave me your list in the comments.  I'm not sure the best way to organize my jobs, but maybe by age would be the easiest.  Here goes:

Age 12 - 23: Maggie's Ice Cream (summers)

My parents owned multiple homemade ice cream shops on Cape Cod, and all six of us kids had to work there.  Up until age 12 we helped out by wiping tables, filling napkins and spoons, washing buckets, making waffle cones or whatever was age appropriate in return for an ice cream cone as payment.  At twelve we started making real money and started serving customers.  By 16 we were managers and could open and close the store each day, reconcile the register, create the schedule for the workers, order inventory, and keep the store running smoothly for my parents who made the *world's best* ice cream.  That job was a lot of work but so much fun and we had so many friends and Irish college students that worked with us and became like family.

Age 15 - 18: Babysitter (weekends)

During the school year, and once I could drive, I babysat on Friday nights for a family that had one sweet little girl and then eventually had a second girl before I went off to college.  I would come over to their house around 6:30 and the mom would be putting the girl to bed, so all I had to do was sit there and do my homework.  I would also clean any dishes they had left in the sink, which made me babysitter extraordinaire to them.  They would come home late and slightly tipsy and hand me a wad of cash and it was basically the easiest job ever.  Oh I also babysat for a few other families here and there, one being *name dropping moment* Bob Villa's daughter.  He picked me up at my house, and told me that we needed to fix our brick walkway, which was embarrassing because my dad was also a builder!

Age 16: Christmas Tree Shop Cashier

During the holiday rush, and in between volleyball and track seasons, I worked at the Christmas Tree Shop as a cashier and kinda hated it.  I was shocked to get "let go" once the holiday season was over, as I didn't know that it was a seasonal position when I was hired.

Age 18: Breakfast Waitress (summer)

Because I was going off to college and wanted to make the most money possible, I picked up a position as a waitress in a restaurant at the Cape Codder Resort.  They had a breakfast buffet that 90% of people ordered, which meant all I had to do was bring them their drinks and check in on them.  It was not very busy and a perfect second job.  I would work there from 6 am to noon, go home and run a few miles, then shower and nap and head to the ice cream store to work from 5 - 11:30 pm.

Age 19 + 20: Cooke's Seafood Restaurant (summers)

For the rest of my summers in between my college years, I worked at the ice cream shop and also at Cooke's.  This delicious seafood restaurant on the Cape is an "order at the counter, then go take a seat" kind of place.  I worked as a server at first until they realized I was good on the register, and then that became my job.  I learned two very important lessons from this job that I won't forget.  The first one is that when you take bills out of a banded sum of money, you have to break the band, and not just pull a few bills out, because the person counting the money will be off.   The second lesson was that when someone orders eleven lobster dinners to go, you have to make sure you charge them for eleven lobster dinners and not two because you thought they were tally marks.  Whoops.  I realized the mistake as the man came in to pick up the lobster dinners and received boxes and boxes of food after I had only charged him for two dinners.  I quickly told the manager what happened, and he charged the guy for the remaining nine dinners.  Phew.

Age 18 - 21: Custodial Position in College Dorm

While at Franciscan University, I worked a SWOP (Student Work Opportunity Program) job that took $500 off my tuition bill each semester.  I had to clean the 4th floor of Tommy Moore, the dorm I lived in.  It took me about 4 hours each Saturday morning to vacuum the hallways, clean the shared bathroom and common room and take out the trash.  Not the world's most glamorous job, but I could get the work done quickly and early in the morning and it was better than shoveling snow and raking leaves like my husband's SWOP job.

Age 22: Accounting Internships

In January of my senior year in college, I got a paid internship to work in the accounting department at a medical office for twelve doctors.  I was good at the job, and was recruited by the real estate firm located in the same office building to work for them as well.  I would work 20 hours a week for the medical office and 20 hours a week for the real estate office, all while finishing my senior year and starting my MBA program that April.  All of my classes were at night (5 nights a week for 12 months straight) and of course I got engaged in April as well.  I literally don't know how I worked full-time and got my master's in one year while planning a wedding that would happen days after we graduated.  But I survived and I think all of my years of having multiple jobs helped prepare me for it.  I also think living through that year helped prepare me for my busy life now, because it feels relatively easy compared to that!

Age 23: Auditor at CPA Firm

My first "real" accounting job out of grad school.  I remember making $35,000 a year and feeling rich.  Ha!  I was newly pregnant with my first baby when I started this job, and puked a lot in the bathroom, and even fell asleep twice at my desk.  That first trimester is always so rough and I wish companies would give a pregnancy leave in addition to a maternity leave.  As soon as I gave birth to JP, I quit to stay home with him and figure out the next step.

Age 24 - 27: Multiple Random Side Jobs

Let's see, I was having babies during this time, three babies to be exact, and wanted to stay home with them but also faced with the reality of being married to a Catholic school teacher, so I had to make money somehow.  I tutored students in Algebra, had bookkeeping clients, worked one tax season at H&R Block, and babysat a little boy for a few years.

Age 27 - 31: Bookkeeper and Tax Preparer at CPA Firm

I worked part-time for an accounting firm, and on the days I was home I would babysit my nieces and a friend's son in return for them babysitting my kids while I worked.  I definitely liked the balance of working and being home of those years, even though I was drowning in children a little bit :)  I really enjoyed this work, bookkeeping for many companies and preparing individual tax returns.  The firm was really nice and I would have stayed there for a lot longer, but I needed to work full-time by the end and they only had a part-time position to offer me.  Also during these years I did the bookkeeping for my kids' Catholic elementary school, from home, in exchange for tuition.

Age 31: Accounts Receivable at Private Boarding School

When my fourth child went to preschool, and there were no more babies at home, I was finally able to work full-time.  I took a job with a long commute at a private boarding school and totally hated it.  I got pregnant shortly after starting there, so the physical nausea certainly didn't help, but the students that I interacted with were so snobby as they came to collect their weekly allowances that their rich families had left for us to disburse.  I also had to track down tuition from the very few people who weren't paying, and threaten them with collections, etc.  The best part of that job was the hour lunch break (we had to work 8-5) where I could use the facilities of the school, so I swam or worked out in the fitness center each day for 40 minutes, then showered quick and went back to work.  Oh!  We also could get food for free from the cafe, that was nice for a preggo momma too :)

Age 32 - 42: Business Manager at Catholic High School

While I was working at the snooty private school, the Business Manager at the high school where my husband taught announced her retirement.  I immediately knew I wanted her job.  I already knew so many faculty and staff there through my husband, and the tuition abatement plan at the time was that our kids could have free tuition after 20 years of employment.  By the time our eldest would be a freshman in high school, Phil and I would have exactly twenty years of employment between us to qualify for the free tuition.  It was kismet God's Will.  I interviewed while six months pregnant, got the job, and the amazing Business Manager agreed to stay on until I was ready to work after having the baby.  I started when Alexander was 10 weeks old and we found a loving nanny who considered him another grandson to help raise.  I'm not going to lie, handing off my teeny baby to someone else to care for 40 hours a week was extremely difficult, but I had to work full-time to provide for all of these kids we were blessed with.  We were so lucky to have wonderful nannies for each of the remaining children until they turned three and could go to preschool at the Catholic school with their big siblings.

Age 42 - present: Accountant at a Public School District

My current gig.  I left the Catholic high school because the diocese began placing a lot more responsibility and work on each school, and I was never fairly compensated or given more resources to help me with my position.  It became an impossible job for one person to do, and was very stressful.  I got shingles towards the end of my time there and knew something had to change.  There were also other issues occuring at the school that led me to need to leave.  It was heartbreaking to leave after ten years, as I thought I would work there until I retired, and see all of my children go through the hallways.  But alas, I found this position right after I decided I was going to leave, interviewed by phone while sitting in a camper at Catholic Family Land, and was offered the job.  The position is so much less stress, even though I do the accounting work for six schools.  Including myself, there are four people in my department who do all of the jobs I was used to doing by myself.  My boss is amazing, kind and flexible, I have a pension and get a long paid lunch break where I can take walks around the beautiful harbor.  

I'm not sure about the future, but I'm thinking I'm getting to the age where I may not be hired so easily for much longer, so this may just become my job until retirement.  But, only God knows, and it's been a pretty wild and crazy employment ride so far!


  1. AnonymousJuly 19, 2022

    So fun to read employment stories! I will never forget my first job working as a cashier when I was a teen, and I accidentally scanned an item twice for a customer. She had to go to the Customer Service line the aisle over to get it reimbursed. I explained to her that I was very sorry but I couldn't fix it, only Customer Service could. She said to me "So because of YOUR mistake, I have to go wait in that line. Because YOU were my cashier, my day has changed. YOU were my cashier and YOU made a mistake but I have to pay the price for it by waiting in that line!" I had to take my break early because she rattled me so much! Sheesh!

    And ha, I remember my first salary being in the $30k range too, and thinking to myself after I signed the contract: "oh my gosh! what am I going to do with all this money???" hahahaha! Ignorance was bliss in that moment :)

    1. Wow that was so rude of that lady! Retail anything is such hard work! Doing that has helped me to be extra kind when i shop. (Which is mot much in the days of online everything)

    2. I would have been so rattled too, and definitely would have cried! What a jerk!

  2. Wow, this was fun to read. And I'm exhausted for you. You are a worker bee. I juggled a million babysitting jobs until college, and it paid so incredibly well. I held a few jobs after college, but always newly created positions that never turned out to be what the company envisioned or described to me. So, here I am, back at babysitting. Sometimes I guess it is best to stick to what you know.

    1. The thought of having a home daycare exhausts me!! Kudos to you!

  3. I started working at 15 as a maid in a motel, then McDonalds' for 2.5 years, then temp jobs (I never did well with the temp agency as I couldn't type! I got stuck with warehouse jobs). I did warehouse and stocking for summers, and I did TA a little in undergrad. Then I went to grad school and TA'ed for 3 years, graduated and taught HS for a year. Then back to teaching at a college, from 26 yrs old onward. I mostly have taught part time with a few terms off here and there when my current employer didn't need me.

    1. If you don't mind me asking, how did you transition from teaching high school to teaching college? Did you have to go back and get your phd?

    2. I got my teaching degree in undergrad, but went to grad school for 3 years instead of teaching right away. I got my Masters, and decided I'd rather teach than do research. Teaching high school for a year was enlightening, but I when I had the chance to work at my university teaching remedial courses, I went back to teach there. When my husband finished his PhD and we moved for his job, I luckily found a job teaching part time at a small college nearby. I've been there for 26 yrs now. I was really lucky - part-time work worked out really well for my family. I never had a formal maternity leave - sometimes when I had a baby it was summer, or it was one of terms when they didn't need me. I also brought some babies to work with me until they were old enough for daycare. (My department is awesome!)

  4. Interesting work history Miss Name Dropper! :)
    My mother was the personnel manager at the Air Force Base where my dad was stationed when I was in hs. She got me a job at the base cafeteria when I turned 16 doing a little of everything, bussing tables, at the register and behind the counter preparing food. Then a small retail shop on the base which sold everything from food to sports equipment.
    I started one year of college after hs then joined the Army, got married and had a baby. I left to stay home with her (honorable discharge). I had to work when she was 8 months and it killed me. I worked in a nursing home for almost a year then my husband at the time (we met in the Army) got on at the post office and I was able to stay home with her until she started school. I worked part time at K-Mart so I could have the same hours as the school.
    Later I worked at ACEP, American College of Emergency Physicians for a couple years then got on at Evans-Black Carpets for several years until Armstrong International which owned them moved the company out of state.
    From there I got on at Southwestern Laboratories, a construction materials testing company. Seven years there and they sold to a holding company which was disastrous. SW Labs principals left and started another company and they quickly asked me to join them (HBC Engineering). I did a little of everything, set up new construction projects in the database, a little accounting, a little IT. Then another company Terracon, a national company, bought HBC. Worked at HBC/Terracon for 12 years. Met my second husband Melvin at Terracon. He and another project manager joined Alpha Testing in 2004 then they convinced me to join them two years later. I've been there ever since. Since SW Labs these have all been companies in the construction materials testing industry. I love this company and my job but it was hard after Melvin passed in 2020 because we both worked together. Alpha always reminds me of him but it's good. Working from home during the pandemic was a good thing while I was grieving.
    Now I'm back in the office and I will be here until I retire. I have loved most of the jobs I ever had and I'm so grateful to God for the opportunities that came my way and still do.

    1. You have such a great attitude Aileen! When I worked at the same high school as my husband, it was a lot of fun, so I can understand how much you must miss him at work :(

  5. AnonymousJuly 19, 2022

    Colleen, this doesn’t even scratch the surface of how much work you do. Besides working various jobs throughout our marriage, you also keep our household running, pay our bills, sign our kids up for various sports and activities, plan our meals, make our budget, buy all gifts for every holiday and birthday and so much more. While doing all of this, you manage to make all of our kids feel individually loved. I appreciate all the financial support for our family. You’re an amazing wife and mother!!!

  6. This was fun to read and i agree with ernie. I am tired for you.
    Age 10, helped my friend deliver the local paper in our neighborhood. I think she paid us $3 each time.
    Age 11, began babysitting for two sweet girls who were age 3 and 4. I think i was paid $2.15 and hour which was min wage for minors at the time.
    Age 13 to 19, babysat a ton, often During the week as i was homeschooling by then and could finish my work by 1pm. I also was a nanny in europe right after college.
    Age 19 to21, enteted data and answered phones in the college admissions office. Also delivered the student mail.
    Age 21 to 31, taught middle schoolers in many settings, small schools, homeschool co-ops, tutoring, and finally 4.5 years in a lovely large catholic school. I put alot of miles on my car in those years, driving from one job to the next. In that time, i also house-sat, cleaned houses, painted houses inside and out, taught English to Chinese youth, taught ACT prep classes, worked at a historical living history museum, and probably some other side jobs.
    Age 32 got married and began learning my husband's family business of growing flowers in a greenhouse. Also had 4 babies and began homeschooling. Now i do some side work for the family business but i am blessed that we are able to live on my husband's income and i get the creative challenge of making every dollar strech.

    1. Your husband's family business is so interesting - but I think I would be terrible at it! And I like how you put that, " I get the creative challenge of making every dollar stretch." Good perspective!

  7. Well I enjoyed reading this very much! My story isn't interesting comparatively! I am glad you're still liking the new job and that it's flexible enough for you.

    1. I'm sure your story is interesting! This job gives lots of time off, which is very nice :)

  8. This was enjoyable to read! I had lots of waitressing jobs through university, but I will tell you the worst job I ever had: a beer sample girl. It was LITERALLY THE WORST. It was a summer job but I ended up quitting before the summer was over because the company, which got contracts from different beer/ cooler companies, had a contract with Busch. I was going to be required to wear nothing whatsoever but a Busch bathing suit, in a freezing cold liquor store, one that had been frequented by my parents' friends from church. They asked me to do it and refused to let me do anything else, so I quit.

    1. Wow!! Good for you sticking up for yourself. There are things more valuable than money, and you chose wisely!


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