For about six months at the beginning of this year, I had a “regular” nine-to-five. We clocked in, did our work and, when it was quitting time, simply left. In fact, if you were even 5 minutes late in shutting your lights off, chances are you were getting pushed out the door so it could be locked behind you. It was glorious—you worked hard during your forty hours and then you were DONE, free to have a life outside of work in the evenings and on weekends.
Why do I celebrate this schedule that may seem so normal to others? If you’ve ever worked in the food industry, you’d know why. Work that happens in the food industry is often 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There are morning shifts, night shifts, breakfast shifts, lunch shifts, dinner shifts, swing shifts, and overnight shifts. Depending on what you are selling and whom you are serving, production and service may never end.
At any rate, it may seem like it never ends. Shift work is hardly ever over when your shift is “supposed” to be over. If there is a dinner rush, you better believe you’re there until it ends. If you’re lucky enough to have sold out of everything you made yesterday, you’re staying today to remake everything, no matter how long that takes. Most days, it’s hard to just, leave.
So, fast forward those 6 months to the job I have now. Same company, different position, same old routine I was used to from other jobs—early morning production shifts that never seem to end. Plus, as a pastry chef with management responsibilities, there are days when I Never. Get. Out. Of. There. Hello, overtime! Goodbye, life!
The problem is, these days, I do have responsibilities outside of my normal work routine. On Tuesday evenings, I take care of my niece so my sister can go to her own job (another job with non-traditional hours and responsibility that extends beyond the “usual” work day). Like any good babysitter, I need to be at my sister’s house on time so that, subsequently, she isn’t late. The other day, though, I was finding it impossible to get out of the bakery doors fast enough. Stuff had to get done. My employees needed me for one thing or another. There were endless fires to put out/emergencies popping up/major drama to deal with. Honestly, people, don’t you know I have this face waiting for me?
My scheduling troubles on that day got me thinking. About work/life balance, about juggling the varied responsibilities of being a working momma, about the balancing act that comes with caring for another along with caring for yourself. I had always assumed I’d continue working when I became a mother, that I’d just figure it all out when the time came. Particularly since I want to one day own a business, of course I’d be a working mom. I’d have to work, to help my business grow along with my little ones. I’d find a way to do it all.
Is that how it happens? You simply make it…work? I know this isn’t an impossible task; other moms, dads and caregivers do this sort of thing all the time, without losing their jobs or their sanity. I had thought dealing with this dilemma was still quite a few months (and hopefully, only months) away—we’re not even pregnant yet. Yet, here I am, caught in the balancing act and trying to figure it out. Tell me, mommas, especially those of you who may be doing shift work—any nurses or doctors out there? other foodies like myself?—how do you find a way to leave your job, with it’s vague outline of a workday, behind so that you can get home to your family?