Is This Job Worth It?

Last Updated on December 26, 2016

I accepted this part time, minimum wage job with a pretty positive attitude. It was supposed to be an easy and fun way to earn some money, but still have time to apply for better, more career-driven jobs and work on this blog and freelancing gigs .

But it’s none of these things.

It feels like this job is consuming my life. Like I’m giving and giving, and getting almost nothing in return. Which leads me to wonder, is this job is even worth it?


It Isn’t Easy

On paper, the job sounds simple enough: supervise and play with the kids, then clean up after them. And that is basically what I do – but there is nothing easy about it.

This job is extremely physically demanding and exhausting.

I knew that working with the public – and more specifically working with kids – would subject me to a lot more viruses and sickness then staying at home or working in an office would. But I wasn’t really prepared for just how badly my immune system would take it.

I’ve only called in sick a few times, but that has equaled more than $300 (or approximately a week’s worth) in lost wages. However, since calling in sick is a huge hassle at this job and not going into work means I don’t get paid, I haven’t taken the time off I need to recover.

After catching a never-ending cold in mid-December, I was surviving off of over-the-counter medications for nearly 2 months before I realized couldn’t keep it up. Not only was I starting to feel worse (probably due to the side effects of medicating myself for so long), but I also couldn’t afford it. Between the medicine, the cough drops, the vitamins, the ginger ale and orange juice, the boxes of tissues, and everything else, I have easily spent yet another $300 in the last 3 months just to try to feel normal.

But it’s not just the cold that’s hard to deal with. There’s the sore muscles from carrying or lifting babies, twisted knees from constantly crouching and getting up from the floor, tension headaches from the awful florescent everything (lighting, wall colours and floor tiles), the child-inflicted scratches and bruises, and the general sense of rage I sometimes get from management and certain co-workers.

Which brings me to my next point…


It Isn’t Fun

This job was a lot of fun at first, but something has changed. It’s become a negative and draining place to work. And with more than half the staff quitting (including 2 mid-level-managers), I don’t think it’s just me or my imagination.

I was told that under-staffing was an issue before I was hired, which makes me wonder if that has been snowballing and causing even more staff to leave. The job itself hasn’t changed, so those of us that are left have more responsibilities for the same pay, work more hours with less help, struggle to find coverage when we’re sick or want time off, and our schedules are constantly changing.

At one point my schedule was being changed almost daily. My shifts were being moved all over the place, and often outside of my availability. I had almost no work/life balance whatsoever and I too, was ready to quit. Instead, I stood up for myself (which management wasn’t too thrilled with), and things slowly improved for me – but I’m not holding my breath. People are still quitting but no one new is being hired.

There aren’t many jobs out there where you literally get paid to play – I wish this could be one of them, again.


I Don’t Earn Much

Let me put it like this: I made more money scooping ice cream out of a shack in the corner of a parking lot 9 years ago than I’m making now. Seriously.

Obviously I knew that accepting this job meant taking a huge pay-cut from my job at the college. Like, a 65% pay-cut. But imagining what it’s like to live off of $11 an hour and actually living off it are two very different things. Suddenly, a $40 haircut is a luxury I can’t afford.

With a “survival job” I work less hours, for less pay, but the cost of working is still the same.

For example, my first pay-check was spent before the money even hit my bank account. There was the $50 I had to spend to get a valid Police Background Check, the $150 (and 2 days) spent getting my CPR and First Aid re-certified, the $40 that was deducted to pay for my uniform/work-shirt (we don’t even get one lousy T-shirt for free?) and then $50 for a couple pairs of sweatpants to complete said uniform. Sure these are all good things to have (well, maybe not the work shirt), but I have much bigger priorities and financial obligations right now.

And trying to navigate 2 people who both work shift-work with only 1 car has meant we sometimes have to rely on cabs. So far, that’s cost us about $600. Sure that’s a lot cheaper than buying a second vehicle, but this wouldn’t be an issue if I could find a 9-5 or work-from-home job instead. We do what we can to keep this extra cost down (by getting a ride with a coworker or being dropped off early/picked up late), but there are still days where it cost me more to get to work then I make at work. Those days are usually the hardest.


I Don’t Have Time

Due to those staffing and scheduling issues, I’ve ended up working more than my scheduled hours more often than not. Sometimes it’s by choice (to make a little extra money, to help out a coworker, or because I still haven’t learned to say no), and sometimes it’s just because someone is running late, but it’s usually management’s fault. With all the changes, mistakes are bound to happen – such as not finding a replacement when someone books time off or calls in sick, or simply not scheduling anyone to begin with. In those situations, I’m pretty much stuck – I can’t leave a room of kids unattended just because my shift is over.

Although, it doesn’t really matter if I work for 3 hours or for 8 hours – I’m exhausted by the time I’m done. I attempt to be productive when I get home, but my brain is shot and putting two sentences together is a daunting task. So, I don’t blog. I don’t read blogs. I don’t work on my resume. I don’t apply for jobs. In short, I don’t do the things I should be doing in order to advance my career, earn a decent wage, and get out of debt.


So Is This Job Worth It?

In the last 4 months, I’ve netted just over $4,000 working this job. The extra expenses I had (such as the Background Check, CPR/First Aid, medication, and cab fare) cost approximately $1,200. So monetarily speaking, I’m $2,800 ahead from where I would be if I had stayed unemployed. (Obviously there would be other variables, but for simplicity sake let’s just ignore that.) It’s not great, but it’s something.

But is the stress, my health, and general level of happiness worth that little?

It’s clear that something’s gotta change – and unfortunately, I doubt it’s going to be my employment situation anytime soon. Instead, I need to change. I need to learn to say no when I’m asked to work extra shifts that I don’t want. I need to stop putting so much energy into this dead-end (and hopefully temporary) job. I need to stop using this job as an excuse for why I’m “stuck”.

I need to start focusing more on me.


What is your time worth?

At what point does a part time or survival job stop being worth it?

Amanda Kay

Amanda Kay, an Employment Specialist and founder of My Life, I Guess, strives to keep the "person" in personal finance by writing about money, mistakes, and making a living. She focuses on what it’s like being in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and surviving unemployment while also offering advice and support for others in similar situations - including a FREE library of career & job search resources.

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20 thoughts on “Is This Job Worth It?”

  1. It certianly sounds like you should move on and look for something else. Most of the problems you describe come from poor management. Someone (or someones) in charge that actually understood that these things are happening and the long term effect that they can have on their business (turnover, productivity issues, happiness both from employees but also from clients) would not allow these problems to carry on forever. It sounds like you already know this, but it will likely not get any better anytime soon.

    • Yeah, I’m pretty sure that the GM is the problem, as the person that is second-in-command seems to be so much more aware of what’s actually happening, but I guess he can only do so much? I know in my gut that it’s time to move on, but without any source of income without it, I gotta stick it out until I do 🙂

  2. The minute you mentioned working with kids I thought-that’s NOT an easy job. Even though I bet they are super sweet. I love children and I love working with people-but, there is a reason why I burnt out as badly as I did. Working with the public brings its own special set challenges: Low pay, their parents, and susceptibility to illness. I used to work at a university at an English Language Program with ADULTS!! Many of whom had small children, guess who was always sick?? ME! Guess who has only been sick once since December me! I noticed a huge difference in my health after I left. Ultimately, you will decide how long you can continue with this job. I worked my job for 10 years…but I was making a lot more money and I still had to eventually quit. Am sending good vibes.

    • Thanks, Michelle. I’ve worked with kids before, but never this young. I guess that makes a big difference! And yes, those kids are freaking adorable 🙂

  3. I’m sorry to hear that your job hasn’t been working out well for you, but realizing when it’s time to go is the first step. I spent 3 years at a part-time job where I was underpaid, undervalued and stressed all the time. Realizing what your time is worth and sticking to your guns can be difficult at times, but it’s so worth it for your peace of mind, not to mention money earned vs. money spent.

    • Thanks, Chonce! I don’t even want to think about money earned vs. time spent with this job. I’m sure I’m only really making like, $3 an hour when all is said and done.

  4. Oh wow. First of all, I’m so sorry that your job is like this! Like other commenters said, it completely sounds like a management issue that isn’t going to be resolved until someone new assumes leadership. Second, I relate to how you’re feeling so much. It’s the worst. When I got my first job out of college (minimum wage but in the form of a salary), I took a part time second job in retail to keep up with all my bills. By the time I got done working at the mall, I was so tired that I didn’t give a damn about blowing $20 on takeout instead of making a meal for $3 at home. It was a vicious cycle that didn’t end until I got a new full-time job that paid more. All I can say is keep your chin up. This won’t last forever, and you sound like you have the right attitude to make it through in the meantime!

  5. I’ve had many jobs and no matter how much I like them, they all end up draining at some point. It’s in the employer’s best interest to get as much as they can out of you, and over time the responsibilities pile up.

    Taking care of kids is by no means an easy job, even when it is fun. My kids know how to wear me out quickly.

    As for whether the job is worth it, I’d first have to consider if there is any prospect for advancing in to a job you like more (which quite likely means paying more as well). If you are spending a significant portion of your pay on transportation to the job, I’d definitely have to consider if there is something closer (walking distance?) that pays a similar pay. Sometimes a change of scenery is all it takes to fix a hum-drum work life.

    Best of luck!

    • Thanks for the advice!
      There is NO prospect of advancing with this job. The best I can hope for is networking with the parents which so far has mostly been mom’s on maternity leave, so it’s not working – yet. But that’s an interesting point… sort of switching out this PT job for a new one. Maybe I’d like the new one better or at least the shifts would make the transportation costs work out better.

  6. Wow – it sounds like you’re really physically exhausted and mentally. Not to mention the ups and downs of applying to the few jobs that are available in your city.

    This is what I would consider doing:
    – Take some B12 pills – this will help with energy! Most females lack B12 and it can really help improve energy levels and focus.
    – Consider a 1 year post-graduate program something like the 1 year Business program. You can get some student loan money to assist and maybe find a part time job (if able to) to work on weekends. You will then qualify as student for certain jobs and you can tap into all the resources the institution has like getting professors to write cover letters, be mentors, use the job help centre, do some volunteer jobs to make connections.

    I personally was in the same boat as you, working a waitressing job and I couldn’t take it any more. I applied to a 1 year program that allowed me to “buy some time” but I also went in with the perspective that it was my ‘make it or break it’ opportunity and I hustled and made connections, earned respect of professors and volunteered here and there and without that 1 year (technically 9 months), I wouldn’t be where I am today. I am still paying back the $8k it cost me to go there (tuition and living expenses), but it was still worth it.

    Good luck, we’re rooting for you!!

    • Thanks Carly! I really should take my vitamins more – even just to help prevent more sickness.
      Going back to school is not something I want to do, but you’ve given me something to think about! My resume is very arts-focused, so maybe adding a bit of another area (like business) would help me get into the jobs I’m now looking for.

      • I can totally understand not wanting to go back to school, but I feel like we’re kindred spirits since I was in such a similar position haha (except I was living in MB at the time). I did a 9-month graduate certificate program in marketing and it was AMAZING! In those 9 months, I went from making $19k a year to $40k a year (minus the approximate $8k in student loans I took out to complete the course). I think you would do amazingly well in digital marketing or business since you’re very savvy with your blog skills.

        • You bring up a lot of good points that I hadn’t considered. A one year program could definitely be worth the investment, provided I pick the right program, of course 🙂

  7. This sounds like such an awful situation and for some reason it reminds me of not only my current job at times but also my previous one. My hope is that you find a job soon that makes you a bit more money, but for time time being make sure you take care of yourself. It seems like your job is a lot of on the go, try buying or making your own protein shakes. This really has helped me keep my energy up throughout the day while attending to all my duties. And from someone who is doing the working full time and looking for another job thing, set aside two or three blocks of time you know when you’ll be more energized to apply to other jobs. It’s so hard especially if the day isn’t going as planned, but it will provide that small positive twist to get you out of bed the next day.

    • Thanks Amanda!
      I think a big reason why I am so frustrated with this place is because I was promised a “routine” from the start, but only recently got it. Of course, after only 2-3 weeks of that routine, it was taken away from me again. But I used to have 3 days a week off, so it was easy to set aside that time to focus and do what I needed to do. It’s much harder now, but I know that it’s something I need to do.
      I’ve recently started bringing smoothies into work each morning instead of my morning coffee. It’s helped a lot, but I really should be adding some protein into it like you said to make it ever better 🙂

  8. You can’t afford to quit, no matter how much you want to. If you do, you’re relying on your partner’s income to support you, which isn’t fair to him. Every dollar that goes towards helping you through unemployment, is one less that he has for his own financial future, namely saving for retirement. As unhappy as you are at your job, it’s not fair to your fiancé to bear the brunt of you quitting. What would you do if you didn’t have a partner? Would you quit this job and face homelessness… ? If the answer is you would keep working because you had to, then that’s exactly what you have to do now.

    Likewise, you can’t neglect your debt indefinitely. You have to start paying it down, and you have to do so aggressively. It’s too big of a burden to lug into your 40’s.

    I think your susceptibility to colds and feelings of lethargy and exhaustion have far, far more to do with your diet and sleeping patters than they do with anything else. Switch to more nutritious foods and get yourself on a routine that accommodates your work schedule, and don’t deviate from it.

    You should set a goal to apply to at least 3 jobs per day, either in the morning before you go to work or after you get home. On days off, that number can be as high as 10. A lot finding a job is just a numbers game, and you’ll have to grind out the resumes and cover letters to a lot of dead ends before something pops up. When I was looking for an internship last summer, I only got 1 interview for every 6 resumes I sent out — and that’s in Calgary, where employment is generally abundant. I applied for 30 jobs before I found one. It’s demoralizing and frustrating and exhausting, but that’s just what job hunting is.

    You can’t afford to quit, no matter how much you want to. I think you probably will anyway, but you’ll just be in a worse situation 3 months from now if you do.

    • You’re right – I can’t afford to quit. Although doing so would not mean that I’d be relying solely on R’s income, I understand the point you’re trying to make. I can’t quit until I “replace” and preferably increase my income. (And side note: he has a pension at work that is automatically deducted so I couldn’t touch that money if I tried.)

      I’ve thought a lot about what I would do if I were single, and I honestly don’t think I would have made it this far. There’s a real possibility that I’d be living in my parent’s basement…

      The illness could very well be from poor diet and sleep – but working shift work doesn’t always allow for a routine. Sometimes I’m up at 4am, sometimes I’m still at work at 9pm. I have made some positive changes to my diet, and have noticed that while I don’t feel great, I do feel better.

      As mentioned on Twitter, my small community doesn’t have the numbers that Calgary does, so applying for 15+ jobs a week isn’t realistic, but again, I see your point – basically I need to apply to EVERYTHING that I can, no excuses.

      Thanks again!

  9. It is sounding very much like this job is not worth it!! Wow. All that you have to put up with for so little money. Paying more to get to work than you are going to earn that day. Uggh!! That has got to suck. You do need what little money you are getting but man, the hassles that you deal with to get it are rough. I hope you can find even a different survival job if it’s not the actual career job just to get out of that mess. Hang in there!!

  10. Amanda, your description of your day makes me tired just reading it! I know you have received a lot of advice on what to do instead of working at the day care. I know it is not always possible to get something else to replace, but there are lots of great, creative ideas on how to earn money on the side or from home. Often you just have to think outside the box and look for unconventional ways to bring in some extra income. Good luck!


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