Glamorous is the Salvador Dali of paintings to describe the life of a modern day flight attendant. Far from the realms of non-fiction that consumed my daily life four years ago. Imagine trying to plan and pack for four cities worth of weather, many of which you will enjoy from the rooftop view of your hotel window for six hours until your four am wake up call. In scenes of black and white I would imagine the stewardess of yesteryear, serving up martini’s and mimosa’s to distinguished men and their lovely Jackie O-like wives. In the meanwhile, sitting in my jump seat with fifty listless passengers and two screaming lap children staring at me in our fourth hour on the Newark tarmac waiting to be deiced-iced (again).
It is not to say the job didn’t have it’s perks. After three and a half years though, I was going through relationship issues, fearing company furlough due to September eleventh, and not making the money I felt was justified with what I was putting up with. I took a leave of absence for a month and a half. My heart was never back in it again.
I was 22, had half of a college education, no job, and a $900 past due gas bill staring at me in the face. I was at waitress for awhile. That is always an excellent answer for a non college-graduate. However, it was not enough for me. I wanted a job with more substance. A neighbor at the time suggested I work with children. “My kids love you!” she persuaded enthusiastically.
In reality, her children loved my husband’s Playstation 2. I did know in my heart, though, that I did have plenty of experience with children- with a one year old brother and eleven year old sister. And I didn’t hate kids. . .
Luckily, I lived in Ohio at the time, which wasn’t quite as strict with their requirements as my current state of employment, Pennsylvania. I ended up making a good impression on the director at Westlake Montessori School in Westlake, Ohio, and was working in the Toddler I room a week and a finger-printing later. This consisted of two groups of 18-26 month old babies. The school had a very structured curriculum, which I would learn later, I should have been thankful for. However, the first day, as I glanced at seven toddlers, all staring at me wide eyed and terrified, I realized that I felt the same way as they. But I had been presented the challenge that my mind yearned.
In just a month working in a large preschool ,(40 employees;450 enrolled) you learn a lot. I was on a half-hour rotation schedule which included, art, manipulative play, language arts and practical life. I also did a half an hour lesson and art with them everyday. I was able to change seven diapers in under ten minutes. I was a privy to the sleeping habits of seven children, all of whom did it differently. It was like motherhood, only, between 5 and 7 p.m. you automatically lost your luster as soon as the door opened. I also learned that in a facility of this size, women are like teenagers. Everyone was part of a clique or a loner, your friends are usually your worst enemies, and it always seemed like the conversation came to an abrupt halt as soon as you walked around the corner.
I work at a center in Pennsylvania now. Here, the pay is lower, the rules stricter, and the children from lower income families. There are only 55 enrolled, and 8 employees. It is more emotionally and physically challenging, but it has its perks, as well. When I do a lesson with these children, I know I am the first person that has taught these things. I know that I personally taught a little boy to tie his shoe (he would tie his older brothers shoe for him). I know that through weeks of going over the same oversize dollar bills, that three little boys know who George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Alexander Hamilton, and Andrew Jackson are, and what bills their faces grace. There is a little girl who learned how to braid on my hair. I have a student with Downs Syndrome that learned from me to differentiate an Umbrella bird, Vulture, Nightingale, and an Ostrich. Because of me.
Working in a smaller center also changed the employee relationship dynamic. When there are forty of you, you don’t need that personal connection. You have no reason to get to know the cook or the director, or the Toddler II teacher. But when those employees become nearly half of who you are as a business, you absorb the stresses together. You pat each others backs. You become friends.
I still complain about my job. I will always complain regardless of where I work or what I do. I have emotions, and expressing them is what makes me human. I can say without hesitation, however, that working with children is by far the worst paying and most fulfilling position I have ever had and I doubt my opinion will ever change. It took me just a few days at the daycare centre to realize this fact that this job is just not my cup of tea.