At 18 years old, I became a young single mother. With just a high school diploma and no experience, I settled for the quickest and easiest job I could get … a full-time waitress. After five years of waiting tables and watching most of my peers graduate college, get degrees, and land “real jobs,” I started to feel like I was stuck being a waitress for the rest of my life. I searched for a job outside of the restaurant industry for a year and had little to no luck. It seemed like no “real jobs” with decent pay wanted to hire someone who only had serving experience on their resume.
Eventually, I was able to land a job as a customer service representative in the insurance industry. I quit my waitressing job and vowed to NEVER go back. Well, you know what they say – NEVER say NEVER.
When I first started at the insurance company I was ecstatic. I finally had regular hours (no more weekends or holiday work), benefits, and a desk with my own computer and my own work phone – something I had always dreamed of. Those things seem so small to others, but to me, it was a big deal. I finally got the “real job” I had always dreamed of. For 8 months, I stayed with the insurance company before being offered a position as a loan officer for a mortgage company – which just so happened to be in the building next door. I made the switch and couldn’t be happier, so I thought.
A couple months into my new job, I found out I was pregnant with my son. The mortgage company I was working with did not offer paid maternity leave, so naturally, I began to worry about what money would look like after I had my son. Fortunately, I was able to save about 3 months worth of finances. Although I planned to return back to work after maternity leave, once I gave birth my whole perspective changed. I knew there was no way I could go back to the corporate world and leave him in a daycare for 8 or more hours a day. I wanted to be with him as much as possible and watch him grow up, something I missed out on with my daughter because I worked so much.
Thankfully, I landed a part-time job working at home for a small business owner through someone I knew (networking is KEY). I worked about 15-20 hours a week at the convenience of my own laptop. Although I loved this job, I still had A LOT of bills and now two children to provide for. I constantly found myself still needing to supplement my income.
So i became a waitress… again.
It took a lot of pride out of me to go back to waiting tables. Not that I look down on anyone who chooses this career path – believe me, I did it for years and I would never judge a waitress as it is actually a very humbling experience and I think that everyone should try it at least once in their lifetime. For me, it was more personal. I had worked SO hard and SO long to get out of the restaurant business and going back made me feel like I was taking two steps backward. But when I sat down, swallowed my pride, and weighed the pros versus the cons – becoming a waitress again was the best option for my family at that time.
1. Great Money
I ended up getting a waitressing job at a fine-dining restaurant, 10 minutes down the road from my house. The higher tab, the higher the tip. I was able to increase my income by $500-$600 per week.
2. Fewer Hours
I only worked three shifts a week and they were all in the evening. This still allowed me to spend time with my kids during the day and work my other part-time job.
3. Cheaper daycare expenses
This was huge for me. If you’re a parent with a child in daycare, it is probably one of your biggest monthly expenses. I know some people who pay more money for daycare than they do for their rent/mortgage! I hired a babysitter to come to my house the nights I worked. She charged a lot less than a daycare and my children were in the comfort of their own home which was very important to me.
4. No PTO
This could be a pro and a con, but for my situation, it was definitely a pro. If one of the kids got sick or I just wanted a night off, I didn’t have to worry about if I had built up enough PTO hours or had personal/sick days left at work. I simply contacted another waitress and asked if they could cover my shift. I can’t tell you how convenient this was, especially being a mother.
5. Work life balance
Work does not come home with me. I remember when I was working at both the insurance company and the mortgage company how stressed I would be about meetings, deadlines, and communicating with my customers. Often, I would find myself working, even on my days off. I was always thinking about work even when I was at home. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s how important it is to leave work at work. When you’re a waitress you don’t have crazy deadlines to meet, customers to keep up with, and you don’t have to worry about if you did everything during one shift to prepare you for the next. Once I clocked out – the work was over which allowed me to focus on my family when I was home with them.
A year ago, if someone would have asked me if I would ever wait tables again, I would have said HELL NO. When I first quit restaurants, I would go out to eat and sometimes feel bad for our server as I reminisced on my own waitressing days. I thought every waitress hated their job because I felt like I hated it. But the truth is, I never hated serving. One of the biggest reasons why I left the restaurant industry was because I felt like I had to keep up with what everyone else was doing by getting a “real job.” I soon realized that what everyone else was doing, was not ideal for my situation. Do I want to be a waitress forever? No. But do I want to work a 9 to 5 forever? Not at all.
At that moment in my life, being a waitress is what worked for my family and I learned to stop being embarrassed by it. I also learned that there is no such thing as a real job because all jobs are real jobs. You have to be proud of whatever it is that you’re doing to provide for yourself and your family. Whether you’re a stay at home mom, stay at home working mom or a working mom – they are all equally important. The key is to never be ashamed of what you choose to do to support your family because at the end of the day they are taken care of and that’s all that matters.
UPDATE – August 2019
As of right now, I am no longer waitressing. I now work from home as a Recruiter. How crazy is it, that after all that, I now have a job that helps people find jobs! I am so thankful and truly love everything about the work I do. With that being said, I also learned that you should never feel like you’re stuck in a certain career field because you lack a college education, you don’t have the experience, or because it just seems too hard to make the switch. I am living proof that switching your career field is 100% POSSIBLE. Check out my post, where I share my 6 tips to help you successfully make the switch HERE. If I did it anyone can!
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