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11 Things About Having Kids With Jobs

Our three oldest kids are employed. How did this happen? Two have paying jobs, one has a rare and sought-after volunteer position at a major cultural attraction in Denver. These developments have changed a lot of aspects of family life around here. Most importantly, it’s changed them, too.

1. They have more money and it reveals a lot about their personalities.

One of my working kids is a saver. One is a big spender. I worry about both. I’d love for my saver to have some fun with his cache of money while he’s young and doesn’t have to pay an orthodontist anything. When asked if he has a goal he’s saving for, he replies “not really.”

The other kid is a sucker for impulse purchases. They’re small, but they add up quickly.

2. You get a behind-the-scenes looks at how their workplaces run.

What happens to leftover popcorn at the movie theater? Does the restaurant really make everything from scratch? What’s the funniest question you’ve been asked? What was the worst mess in a theater you had to clean? Do people sneak between theaters often, and does management know?

3. It’s difficult (but doable) to stay out of work-related issues.

One kid had an issue with a paycheck that never showed. Another had issues with scheduling. I had to actively fight the desire to insert myself between my kids and their employers when I felt they were being treated poorly or unfairly. I’ve doled out advice, but ultimately it is solely up to the kids to advocate for themselves in their workplaces. Unless kids are in danger or something illegal is occurring, parents need to land their helicopters.

I’m glad they’re learning these lessons as teens. They’ll be better equipped to handle uncomfortable work situations in the future. Guess what? The worrisome situations were resolved–without me!

4. They have uniforms.

Nametags and hairnets ahoy! Black pants all around! I’ve never been more focused on black pants in my life. Thank goodness for thrift shops. The uniforms are adorably dorky, especially the volunteer child’s uniform. I giggle every time I think about him wearing such a character-building configuration of polyester blend.

5. They learn how to balance school, work, and downtime.

The only musts at our house are school and downtime. If their jobs interfere too much with either, we will wave so long to the black pant brigade and try again when they’re able.

6. They bring their work home with them.

When your kid works at a bakery cafe, expect boxes of pie, cookies, cake, loaves of bread, sandwiches to randomly show up after shifts. Someone’s gotta eat those things. Popcorn is another. My kid who works at a movie theater will never, ever, ever eat popcorn again. He can have all he wants for free, which dazzled him at first but now the mere mention of the word makes his stomach want to launch itself to the moon.

This is the type of work my kid brings home. It's pretty terrible, no?

This is the type of work my kid brings home. It’s pretty terrible, no?

7. You realize how much you trust them.

They’re gone for hours at a time following the directions of other adults, serving the public, mopping floors, dealing with weird machinery, smiling broadly at the sometimes-odd (and rude) whims of customers. They manage to simply get their jobs done without mom, without a teacher, many times self-directed and it’s a strange relief to see they can actually survive out there in the big world of work.

8. When they were hired, you were ridiculously proud.

This is directly related to #7. Someone saw your kid has potential and put them on a payroll. It’s gratifying to watch their motivation and watch them overcome the nerves that come with applications, interviews, and starting something new. It’s also a huge moment when they receive their first real paycheck. The excitement quickly dampens when they realize how much is taken out by dear Uncle Sam, but it’s an unanticipated milestone moment.

9. The family calendar becomes much more complicated.

With three teenagers with three jobs (plus two different schools) it’s a rare and beautiful thing when we are all together. I jump all over having the eleven of us here at once. It’s not that I took it for granted before. It’s that I’m increasingly aware that our dynamics are going through a major shift and certain moments become more precious.

10. It’s sad to realize they’ll probably have to work on major holidays.

My kid who works at the bakery cafe will most likely have Thanksgiving and Christmas off, but not the movie theater kid. There’s a movie coming out right before Christmas that has something to do with droids and such making “pew pew pew” sounds because of a concept called The Force. I’m afraid I won’t see him until sometime into 2016. When you go to the movie on Christmas Day, think of some sad mom sitting at home missing one of her little ducks. Feel the guilt like a Darth Vader choke.

11. Discounts and perks.

Ooooohhhh! One of the first things people mentioned when the movie theater kid got his job was all the free movies we’d get to see! We haven’t seen one. Getting to see a free movie is a complicated series of requesting tickets for certain times at a certain theater. He must be present, too. I was thinking he’d just flash a badge and it would be movies! movies! movies! around here. It’s nice to know it’s there, though.


It’s been a positive experience watching kids march off to part-time work. They get a taste of freedom, a peek at adulthood, and the reward of a paycheck. I am proud of them and what they’re learning and accomplishing.

4 comments to 11 Things About Having Kids With Jobs

  • Mom

    What an education they are getting working outside the home. Invaluable, to say the least. Kudos to them and you parents. I know it requires a lot of you, too.

  • “Feel the guilt like a Darth Vader choke.”


    But I do relate, on a small scale. Natalie is only 14, but she just got her first job last week – working in the bakery at the apple orchard down the road from our house. It’s a perfect first job: she can bike to work, it’s very seasonal, she mostly only works on weekends. And it did make me insanely proud. She was all, “Mom. I’m actually getting tired of you talking about this.” But it’s a big step, and we know it!

    And yes, we’ve already gone in and used that employee discount. $2 off an apple pie? I’ll take it.

    • Gretchen

      That’s perfect! And doesn’t everything taste amazing when you know it comes from where your kid works? Seriously. Congrats to Natalie!

  • I hear you loud and clear… now this I did not predict, why was I thinking it would get easier. As Our kids head towards the end of high school they are literally running us off our feet with work… extra murals they had to take care of themselves and were always a mile or two from home. One worker was okay, two difficult and three is madness. The work, following their passion to get the work they that will help them along their career paths – well far side of the city it is. Weekend mornings are no longer for lingering over stories in bed… up before dawn and hustling out the door. And over here they only start thinking about a driver’s license when they are eighteen. So it is about to be a long hot summer over here… and I am going to have to figure out ways to plot and plan long lingering days next to the pool for our little people, while the big folk dash around in ironed shirts – and black jeans and work shoes. Wearing shoes in the summer for the first time ever!!!

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