The Working Mother

Throughout our parenting years, my wife has never really worked a 9-5 job. She tried it for a few months when Sarah was just a baby, but daycare was not only expensive, but just didn't feel right to her (or me.) As a result, over the last 17 years she has held a number of part time and self-employed jobs in order to contribute to the household bottom line and to keep the creditors at bay.

I'll be the first to admit that when she mentioned she wanted to quit her 9-5 job because she hated the daycare thing, I was terrified. Losing an income, or in this case, dramatically decreasing it -scared the heck out of me. When we did the math on what daycare was costing however, as well as the thought that making her available to the kids during those critical first years held value too, it was an easier decision than I thought.

And so over the years she has tried many things. The one steady job has been waitressing at a local Italian restaurant. It's not great money, but the work is steady and the money somewhat predictable from week to week. She's quit a time or two but gone back and they always welcome her. She's good at her job, dependable, and the customers like her. She's a low maintenance employee. It's not her favorite work, but she grinds it out.

She's also tried various self employment ventures. For many years she was a Pampered Chef representative and, much like her waitressing job she took it seriously and was very successful at it. She not only sold her share of cookware, but was able to recruit and mentor new reps under her, thereby increasing her income through their income. She was good enough at it that she won incentive trips for us almost every year. One year the whole family got to go to Walt Disney World almost all expenses paid. Another year, the two of us got to go to San Francisco because of her sales. These were unaccounted for perks that you tend to forget add to the family bottom line. 

Another steady self-employment venture has been her Personal Chef job. She cooks for a few clients anywhere from once a week to once a month and then freezes the meals for them to reheat during the week. She has always had a love (and gift) for cooking and baking and this seemed like the perfect outlet for it. When she mentioned she wanted to start up Donna's Delectables as a personal chef business, I was supportive of the idea. There was relatively little start up costs, some food licensing things, a website and some other small things, so it seemed like a no brainer. She has been at that for I would guess 8 or 9 years now and still enjoys it. Again, not a 9-5er, but helping the family (ours and others) put food on the table.

Her latest enterprise is as an Events Coordinator for Purple Door Ice Cream of Milwaukee. She sets appointments for clients of theirs to do tastings, weddings, promotions and other events. It's food, so it's right up her alley again and she seems to love working for the couple that started the business. It's part time, only 10-20 hours a week, but could become more as they grow.

The reason I give this rundown of her work over the years is because it's become clear to me that as difficult and unnerving as some of those early decisions were, I'm glad we decided to let her follow her gut and pursue what she loves. On those days I struggle with the fact that I work a consistent 40 hour 8-4:30 job, I have to remind myself that she is juggling three jobs, Personal Chef, waitressing, and Purple Door. Each of those requires planning, coordination and time. Furthermore it's a lot of shifting gears. Working with the public one minute, working for a single client the next and all the computer and paperwork when she can fit it in. She is as busy or busier than me, just different hours, that's all.

Part of what woke me up to the fact that we're doing okay with this arrangement is our kids. Both of them are doing well in school, have a good group of friends, and have a moral compass that never ceases to amaze me. Would that have happened if Donna worked outside the home when they were little? Maybe. And I'm not dissing those that make that decision. To each his own. My own mother worked a 40 hour week because she had to. Everyone has a different situation, but we're all doing what we think is best, right? We're all trying to make it work. 

But there's also a part of me that will defend anyone who questions what she does all day if she's not working a "full time job". She's like a teacher in that, when she's not working she's still working. Clipping coupons to save a few bucks, getting groceries, housework and keeping on top of all the kids' school stuff to mention a few. I think people like her don't get enough credit sometimes and I'm as guilty as the next guy at forgetting to recognize it. I love her for the family she's helped me raise, and I am blessed to be able to help her achieve her dreams and goals. 

I love you Donna.

Blogging off...


lndwhr said…
Love you too! Thanks for writing about me! :) Nothing better than doing life with you.

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