Being a parent is a tough gig. But one profession in particular can prepare you for it: the restaurant industry. Here are 10 similarities between parenting and working in a bar or restaurant:
10. Everyone Thinks it’s an Easy Gig
Ever hear someone criticize a server or bartender with something along the lines of: that job is so easy, a monkey could do it, amirite?
Of course, most of these critics have never worked in food services before even though they’re convinced they could.
As a parent, you’re also going to get unsolicited advice and criticism from people who really have no business doing so.
Oh please, childless couples and really old folks who raised kids in a bygone era when things were a lot different (and who probably only remember their successes and not their failures), please tell me more!
9. It’s a Relentless Grind
Restaurant work is relentless. Every single day, early starts, late closes, and little time off. The industry wears many down and puts a huge strain on relationships. It’s hard to keep up a friendship, let alone a marriage, when it’s all grind all the time.
Same thing with parenting. Your child is going to be up first thing in the morning and it’s go, go, go all day, every day. Parents and restaurant workers have this in common: constant exhaustion.
8. Everything Happens at Once
Funny thing about people: They all tend eat at the same time of day. Working in a restaurant, you have to go from zero to 160 in three seconds flat, and you have to maintain that through meal service and often beyond.
Back home with the family, you’ll be in the middle of cooking dinner when you’ll receive an important phone call, your kid will start screaming about a toy he can’t find, your doorbell will ring, your cat will throw up, and your still-tantruming child will start grabbing dishes from the table and throwing them around the room.
7. You’re Used to Constant Complaints
Know that saying, “You can’t make everyone happy all the time?” It’s a mantra in the restaurant industry. Complaints are constant. Constant. People complain even when you’ve done nothing wrong.
A meal can be cooked perfectly, and delivered speedily, and the patron will say it isn’t what she thought she was ordering. Working in the restaurant industry means regularly dealing with complaints and fixing problems, whether real or made up.
Speaking of made-up complaints, welcome to parenthood! You think restaurants goers are picky eaters? Here is an actual complaint from my own child: “I can’t eat these carrots because they are too orange.”
6. Your Bosses are Insane
A special kind of person owns and/or manages a bar or restaurant. Someone who, if experienced, has left behind all normalcy to dedicated life to the industry. Or, more likely, someone inexperienced who is in way over their head and flailing away, dragging down everyone around them.
As either of their employees, you will most likely deal with their incompetence, immaturity, abuse drugs and/or alcohol on shift, and maybe even sexual harassment.
Think that as a parent, you’ll be in charge of your kids? Mmm, no. They will be the boss of you, and you will be held hostage to their whims and demands more often than not.
5. You Don’t Get Breaks
Some restaurants and bars let their employees enjoy an hour lunch. They make sure they get at least two 15-minute breaks during their reasonably allotted shift. And those places quickly go out of business.
Restaurant success means you hardly stop moving. People flood in, and you barely keep up with demands from all sides. Even when things are quiet, you’re prepping: setting the place up, cleaning it, and getting every single element ready before the crush.
Dana Carvey once called his kids “need machines.” It was funny because it was true. If your kid is a picky eater than feeding them is a long, painstaking process. If they’re not, then you can never stop shoveling food into them.
They will mightily resist naps, and those are your only time to get a break. By “break,” I mean time to put your house back together, grab a shower, and see if you can get the next meal ready. You’re not the one who gets to nap, even though you’re the one who actually wants to.
What’s a “Clopen”? In the food service profession, a Clopen means a closing shift immediately followed by an opening shift. You shut the restaurant down at night then open in the morning. If you work at a place that stays open late and is also popular for breakfast, clopens are brutal. Sleep, at best, is short nap.
If you put your kids to bed early, they get up early. If you put your kids to bed late, they still get up early. They also get up throughout the night and get you up, too. If you have a newborn, you’re probably reading this through bleary eyes at 4 in the morning because your baby needs to be fed every three hours.
3. Cleaning Up Messes
People are messy. They drop things, they spill things, they have accidents that you have to clean up.
You haven’t lived until someone breaks a glass into the ice bin and you have to stop everything, melt all the ice to clean out the glass while orders pile up and up and up and you can’t do anything about it.
And this is not even mentioning the horrors and unspeakable things that can happen in your public bathroom, especially if you work in a bar.
And they’ll have nothing on your kids. They will litter your floor with Legos and bring you to your knees. They will dump clothes out of drawers. They will get sick and throw up all over you. They will pee on your parents. They will never stop making messes. At least restaurant workers are slightly more prepared for this.
2. You Want to Drink After Every Shift
Nobody parties harder than food industry people after their shift ends. That beer has never tasted better as when you finally get a chance to sit down after serving other people for the last 14 hours.
When your kids are finally in bed, when you’ve got the dishes clean, you’ve finally sat down on the couch for the first time in 14 hours, that glass of wine can be soooooo good.
Obviously, in both situations, drinking in moderation is best.
1. Only Those Who’ve Done it Really Get It
The restaurant industry life is not a typical life. You work when others relax. You relax when others sleep. You sleep when others work. Sometimes you will feel like a ghost, outside of the rest of the world, and that only your co-workers see you.
Parenting is all consuming. Your life is no longer yours. You sometimes feel disconnected from the rest of the world. Your career gets put on hold, and you pass up opportunities for jobs and for fun because your kids need to come first. You wonder sometimes if anyone knows what you’re going through.
And then you set up a play date, and talk to another parent, and you connect. Because you’re experiencing the same things.
The point of all of this is that parenting is difficult, but it’s also immensely rewarding. But it’s hard when people seem to never notice the good things, like when your kid is being super adorable. Instead it’s far more likely they’ll only notice the very bad things, like when your kid is having a nuclear meltdown.
When you work in a restaurant or bar, you get a lot of attention when something goes wrong. But for the most part, if you’re a good server or bartender, people don’t notice you at all, and this leads to the misconception that you have an easy job.
Yet the restaurant industry teaches you a lot. How to multi-task and delegate. How to appreciate good co-workers. It can build your confidence and mold you into a leader. And, especially, how to appreciate etiquette and good manners and how to keep your cool while swimming through an ocean of casually rude and constantly complaining people.
Yes, working in the restaurant and bar industry is not an easy gig, but it can be a rewarding one. And it can prepare you for the the toughest and most rewarding gig of your life: parenting.