Posted by: Hannah | 08/27/2014

working 9 to 5

It’s no secret that I’ve been burned out on the dayhome gig for months now.

Pixie makes things challenging more often than she doesn’t. Harry and Ron resent my total unavailability during business hours – even when they’re sick, they are quarantined away from the dayhome kids with all the TV they can watch & checked on regularly, but Mom doesn’t get to sit nearby and smooth the hair away from their fevered brows, or anything. George is learning all kinds of behaviours I don’t approve of, like hitting, screaming, and throwing toys. 

Half of our house is full of toys & books that we keep for the dayhome. The garage is packed full of bicycles, tricycles, wheely toys and strollers. If I want to take a personal day, like for Blissdom next month, I have to give a month’s notice and wave bye-bye to a day’s income. 

I’ve been struggling with it. And wondering why I do this to myself. And thinking of stopping now, not when George starts school in 2017.

So – I’ve been keeping on eye on the job postings in Halifax. I applied for a few back in the spring, and never even got a PFO letter. I had pretty much given up when a job came to my attention for an executive assistant in a small consultancy-based office; or, to put it another way, exactly the same job I had in my pre-kid life. I applied, on a whim, on a day when each & every child in this house was setting my teeth on edge and when I had only three days left until vacation.

Imagine my shock when I got a call the next day asking me to come in for an interview. On the first day of my vacation. When I was scheduled to be leaving for Cape Breton bright and early with the family.

But. I managed it. I got my sister and Miss Clairol to come help me deal with my horribly-uneven sunstreaked / old grey mare situation. I rummaged out my business casual clothes from Blissdom last year and (happy surprise!) realized they were all too big. I printed off my resumé and the job description they sent me and reviewed them.

Driving in to downtown, I remembered why I hate working downtown. Traffic! and not that much, because summer, but still – TRAFFIC. And parking! Holy god it costs HOW MUCH to park downtown for an hour? And I had three panhandlers ask me for change on my half-block walk to the office. And a flying rat seagull nearly shat on my head.

I found the office without too much difficulty. Really lovely space inside one of Halifax’s historic buildings. Lots of natural light. Plants everywhere. Smiling lady at the preternaturally-tidy desk. I took an offered glass of ice water and sat across from her in what was clearly the boss’ office for the interview.

What followed was the strangest interview I’ve ever been on. If this interview were a horror movie, she would be the Grizzled Old Man Who Warns Our Heroes to Stay Away from the Creepy Abandoned House. She spent five minutes asking about me and my experience, and the remaining forty minutes giving me “what would you do if…” scenarios that all pointed to one important fact: apparently, her boss is a raging control freak, and she was trying to warn me so I could escape before it was too late.

So what did I learn about my new potential boss?

  • He’s a control freak TO THE MAX. He doesn’t like to see papers on desks. Not even someone else’s desk. You can’t listen to your own music choice at your own desk, but nor can there be silence – you must have light jazz playing at all times throughout the entire office, every day. (“Can I turn it off or down if I’m doing something that requires a lot of concentration, like reconciling the books?” NO.) He refuses to allow invoices to be created in Simply Accounting, preferring instead to create them himself in MS Word – at which point his assistant has to input all the data into Simply anyway.
  • He is a glad-handing man who is the public face of the company but he actually makes his assistant do the lion’s share of the work. Case in point: he was not in the office or present at the interview, but since it’s a two-person office wouldn’t it make sense for him to meet the candidates? 
  • He’s set in his ways. See: not using Simply Accounting to produce invoices. Or his bookcases, which looked fake because all the books & binders were colour-coordinated and so even with the shelf edges it made me itchy.
  • He’s not kind. “He’s the one who writes the cheques,” she said to me at one point, “so what he says goes.” Um, yes, probably. But what an odd statement to make during the interview.
  • He doesn’t inspire loyalty. “How long will you be staying to train your replacement?” I asked. “Oh, I’m not staying to train anyone!” she replied. “I’m owed a week’s vacation and the new person will start then.”
  • Every moment working with him seems longer than the one before. “How long have you been in this position?” I said. “Three years and nine months,” she replied, without hesitation.

By the time I left, I had pretty well made up my mind that I couldn’t work there, even if I did get offered the job. (Spoiler alert: I didn’t.) I mean… light jazz????

Anyway, I then had two whole weeks of vacation to think about it. To remember that working outside the home presents its own set of challenges. To imagine organizing child care for all three kids. To picture myself at the beck and call of a boss again, after years of running my own business and (largely) calling the shots. 

To miss all the little moments that I get to participate in with my kids while they’re young and still not embarrassed to be seen in public with me.

The whole experience refocused my purpose and my energy. I sat down and really thought about what I needed to make my life now work better for me. I took some steps to make that happen. I made my peace with the notion that this is my life, and that just because some days are rotten doesn’t need to make me think the whole thing is beyond redemption.

So. That’s been my adventure in job searching. My first day back from vacation, Pixie’s parents gave me notice (it had been hinted at, since they don’t actually need me anymore thanks do a downsizing action that left her mom 20 weeks pregnant and out of a job). By mid-afternoon I’d posted ‘space available’ notices everywhere I could think of, and started beating the bushes of contacts I’d made over the summer. By bedtime I had an interview scheduled and it looks like I’ve got a replacement all lined up. If everything goes as planned I won’t lose a single day’s income. 

From a professional standpoint, it’s been very gratifying. So, Crazy Man Who Loves Light Jazz, thank you. I may never have actually made your acquaintance, but you’ve helped me more than you will ever know.



  1. Perspective is everything. The weekend helped me refocus mine. Glad this horrid boss that will never be, helped you.
    Also, you need to update your characters tab. 🙂 Good bye Pixie.

    • As soon as my new little character arrives I will indeed update the tab. I’ll need some help naming him, too.

      This weekend was wonderful, wasn’t it?

  2. Flying rat.
    That about sums up seagulls.
    I am glad that the interview helped you re-focus.
    And I just LOVED this post. The writing was so lovely. 🙂

    • Thank you so much! I’m having a hard time writing anything this summer so it was kind of nice to hit my rhythm. And yes, seagulls. Seagulls that actually live BY THE SEA are lovely, wild birds. Seagulls that have moved into parking lots and garbage cans are nasty, filthy buggers.

  3. Loving this. A change of perspective can make such a difference.

    • It’s like hitting the reset button.

  4. Oh, lord, just reading it makes me cringe. I’m glad you’re not so desperate that you’d take that job and even more glad that it helped you re-focus. Hopefully the kid change will make things a whole lot better. And, if not, please find a job anywhere but at that crazy office.


  5. I totally admire your ability to run a dayhome – it seems to me like such an impossible thing to approach with patience and kindness each day, and yet you do such an amazing job. Just the way you write about your dayhome kids – even when complaining – shows how well you know them, how much you care about them, how in-tune you are with what they need. It is AMAZING.

    So I’m happy to hear you’ve found some mojo, and please do know that even on your hardest, worst day, I’m still in awe :).

    • Goodness, I am blushing. And I needed to hear this today, because everyone was grouchy & out of sorts. I just kept muttering “light jazz” at intervals.

      Thank you.

  6. Selfishly, I’m glad that the guy was a jerk. I would have missed your dayhome stories.

    • Aww, thanks!

  7. While there are clearly a number of red flags there, as a person who has worked for nearly a decade for a boss that I will kindly describe as difficult, I can say that hands down the mandate to play some kind of music (light jazz????) would be a deal killer for me. I’ve never been able to work with music playing so that would end me. Also, light jazz….

    • Right?? I like having music playing sometimes, but only under very specific circumstances and then only very specific types / styles of music. It’s so moment-to-moment for me that having to listen to someone’s else pick ALL DAY LONG FOREVER would probably send me screaming into the street after about a week.

  8. Oh, I’m so glad Horrible Boss gave you a positive perspective on your current job. And he did that in absentia, even. Can you imagine if he’d actually been there?? Eesh.

    Don’t you feel a teeny bit curious about who *would* take that job? It’d make me want to drift in to the office in a month or so, pretending to be looking for some other business, just to get a glance of her.

  9. I’m baking a cake for the goodbye Pixie party, though I will miss her! Working for a living is so overrated. I’m working on winning the lottery!

  10. So glad you didn’t get offered the job with Christian Gray.

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