Labor Day Reflections on the Toughest Job


September 3, 2014 by Melanie L.

Twenty-one years ago, my boss, the assistant manager at CVS/Pharmacy store #813, expected me to come to work everyday with a work-issued box cutter in my apron pocket.  Most times, though, I disappointed her.  I always misplaced it.  Frustrated, my boss finally scribbled “goober” on the sheath, “because you are,” she exasperated, “don’t lose this one.”

I haven’t.  It’s a small thing but it fills me with a sense of pride that I finally stopped losing my box-cutters.  I keep it buried in my office desk drawer beneath the box of paper clips, a stack of sticky notes and a tray of pens.


Between that first job and my current one, I’ve held so many jobs that my mom once joked I could write a book.  I’ve been a telemarket-researcher, a popcorn concessionist, a trash can scrubber, a designer clothes salesperson, a camp counselor, youth group leader, religious school teacher, receptionist, professor’s assistant, law clerk, lawyer, college adjunct, and civil court arbitrator. As diverse as these jobs were, they were all jobs that I could see coming a mile away.

There is, however, one role I never expected to fill. That is the role of single mom. As early as I can remember, I knew I wanted to be a mother.  And I cherish it. My bosses are gorgeous, smart, and all-around awesome – if I do say so myself.  The benefits are heavenly. The perks are equal parts hilarious, cathartic, educational and heart-warming.  Best of all, the job security is unrivaled.

I just never thought I’d be doing it alone.  Most days, mercifully, I hardly notice.  Other days I feel like I did when I showed up to CVS without my box cutter multiplied by a thousand: woefully under-prepared and scared sh!tless.  This past Labor Day weekend was one such occasion.

My daughter, 3, came home from preschool with a scary-high fever and, I suspect, a touch of febrile delirium.  The next day I had a single-mom dilemma.  Staying home all day with my sick child meant caging my healthy wild child.  Going to the playground with my healthy child, on the other hand, meant subjecting my ill child to the elements.  I couldn’t very well split myself in two.

I opted for a compromise.  I bundled my daughter and her blankie in the stroller, reclined the seat, and spent the afternoon indoors at the Academy of Natural Sciences.  I get that my day was not necessarily unique to single mommyhood.  Nonetheless, I felt guilty that day.  Unable to do right by both kids, I did right by none.  I was a bumbling goober.

And that was a good day on the job.  It is an utter nightmare when my kids leave to go to their father’s house.  With the addition of the holiday on Monday, I had to endure three nights away from my children.  It’s not that their father can’t handle it.  He can.  It’s that this was the longest I have ever been separated from my children, and it killed me.  I dread being away from my children when they’re healthy.  I was heartbroken to have to part with a sick child.

Unlike that job at CVS, as a single-mom, I’m never off the clock, and I’m always looking for that damn box cutter.  Unfortunately, there’s no one to hand me another.  Despite all the difficulties that come with the job, or maybe because of them, I’ve never felt prouder.  I got this.

19 thoughts on “Labor Day Reflections on the Toughest Job

  1. alanjryland says:

    ‘You go girl’ is the perfect response here, haha!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t have kids yet but I think it is the most wonderful and terrifying (but in a good way-because you want to do it well) job of all.


  3. We’re a two parent household with one kid and I still feel like a goober some days. Parenting is hard no matter what. Sounds like you’re doing the best you can, which is all any of us can do, which means none of us are goobers.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Jen says:

    Sounds like you are doing a fantastic job! We are a two parent household and he works so I’m alone quite a bit. Those scenarios are so hard deal with, like you said, you want to do right by both. But sometimes… it equals a learning experience for one or the other. And chances are they won’t remember that day anyway. Especially the one who was ill.

    You are doing great!!!

    And I also am the queen of random jobs, too! lol


  5. That is a GREAT compromise! I definitely would have caged the well child and been irritated all day at the bouncing off the walls stuff. I have a difficult time remembering that you can do things like this when stuff goes all haywire.

    We do what we can, when we can, right? And it sounds like you did amazing. ❤


  6. Silverleaf says:

    You sound like a thoughtful, caring, wonderful parent. Coming from someone who underestimates and second-guesses her parenting skills all the time, I understand how you feel. And I remember the brief moment that my ex-husband cared enough to take our son every other week. Full weeks! It killed me. But, on the flip side, my son didn’t feel let down by a dad who wasn’t able to show up. So, I guess count yourself lucky in some ways. And take the time you have to yourself to do something you can’t do when the kids are there. Force yourself. It will help you get through the time and it will help you recharge for when you’re on. You’re doing great!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. inNateJames says:

    If only they’d invent and release a single mommy cloning device. . .


  8. katybrandes says:

    What a great way to compare the box cutter and parenting. We all feel like goobers as parents sometimes, so you’re definitely not alone. I let my son eat cake for dessert and then sugary yogurt as a snack later. No wonder he doesn’t want to fall asleep.
    Good on ya, Momma!


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Behind the Blog

Melanie L.

Melanie L.

Wanna-be writer, amateur oil painter, practicing law and motherhood with varied success.

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