June 2004

Take this job and love it

By Suzanne Strazza

After staying at home with my children for almost seven years, it recently became time for me to venture into the world of the gainfully employed.

After completely losing my self, my identity, my confidence and my mind, while being an at-home mom, it was time for me to make some changes. I needed to get back out there and remember who I really am, talented and interesting, and to have my very own life outside of my children, my husband and housework. Plus, words like “bankruptcy” and “Chapter 11” were beginning to float around the house a bit too often.

So, first of all, I needed an updated resume. When I sat down to revise the old one, I realized that after seven years of working my tail off, I had nothing to add. Would “1997 to Present: At-Home-Slave” entice prospective employers?

Probably not. But if I left it blank, then they might think that I’d been having a nervous breakdown all that time. Which I was, but I didn’t want anyone to realize that.

Well, after two years of sending out my oh-so-unimpressive resume with nary a response, I finally got an interview. Unfortunately, by this time, my self-confidence had plummeted from minimal to zilch. I figured if all of these people had disliked me so much without even meeting me, how much would I offend someone face to face? I didn’t think that I could go through with it.

But I did. On the day that I was to meet with my prospective new employer, I changed my clothes nine times. Looking nice was a challenge not often met. The last time that I had attempted to, I broke my ankle falling out of my high heels. So, I was a bit out of practice.

Trying to find something professionally dressy, but not overly so, seasonally appropriate, not too outdated (in other words, no Peter Pan collars with bow ties), and no food stains down the front was next to impossible. Then, to top it all off, whatever I picked out had to actually fit! After taking three outfits to my son’s school to ask all of the other mothers for their opinions, I finally settled on a dress that wouldn’t quite zip up the back, but I figured if I wore a nice sweater over it, no one would be the wiser. (It harkened back to my suit days when I only ironed the front of my blouses.)

Off I headed to the interview, so nervous I wanted to vomit. I started to remind myself that I was talented and creative but I knew that was a crock. Before motherhood, I’d been a mountaineering instructor. My talents include knowing how to carry a heavy pack, cook up a mean freeze-dried rice and beans, and rock-climb 5.something. What good were those qualifications going to do me in a real workplace? But, I was there and they had seen me drive up, so I was trapped. I knew I would go through the process, then return home, utterly defeated, to continue scrubbing toilets.

Well, to make a long story short, I actually got the job. I guess all those years of pretending there really is a tooth fairy made me a pretty good actress. I somehow convinced them I could do the job. Either that or I was the only person who applied.

I wasn’t to start for another two weeks, so I had all that time to develop Performance Anxiety. When Day One arrived, I had stressed myself out pretty badly. I had bought I-got-a-job-so-I-need-new-shoes shoes, so that relieved a bit of the tension. I also had new pants, new skirt, dress, sweater, shirts, and briefcase. I couldn’t back out now – I had the wardrobe.

I felt like a kid on the first day of school. Would I be cool? Would I be liked? Or would I be the total dork, wearing all the wrong things?

When I was in ninth grade, I was the new chick at an all-girls prep school. Well, since it was a “prep school,” I got prepped out: Pink Lacoste (alligator) shirt, yellow sweater with green monogrammed initials and a blue, yellow and green gingham skirt with my penny loafers. I didn’t have a prayer. I paid for that outfit for the next eight years of my life; I had to move west to escape the shame. I’ll sure they’re still talking about it in New Jersey.

Now, I was reliving that day and sure I would screw it all up again. After all the money I’d spent on new clothes, I didn’t have a thing to wear and of course I was fat and having a bad hair day and had a zit between my eyebrows. I knew I should call in sick.

I tell you, though, there is some sound reasoning behind China’s tradition of uniforms in the workplace.

Well, I did go, and several weeks later, I am still going. I’m still waiting for my employer to tell me I’m a complete loser and that they’ve made a huge mistake. I know they’re wishing that at least one other person had applied for the job so they could have offered it to them.

The good news is that I am making money, although I am spending more on gas, lunch food, child care and clothes. I figure I’m bringing in about $3 a week after taxes and expenses. But that $3 has completely restored my self confidence, self-worth and my lost mind.

I am thrilled with my new life.

Suzanne Strazza writes from Mancos.