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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?
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