I have worked in the hospitality industry since I was sixteen and, for the most part, loved it. I made lifelong friends, had some good times (great times actually(, and to this day I make a cracking old fashioned. Now I’m a mum of two and only work back of house, I do miss it at times, but my days of tending bar are behind me. However it occurred to me this week while I was concocting the boys a mocktail as treat, that some of the skills I picked up during my many years behind the bar are useful in my role as a mum. Here they are.
- Unsociable hours
Weekends, evenings, bank holidays – normal working hours don’t apply when you work in hospitality. Just like when you have kids. One big difference is that you do actually get some time off at the bar whereas you never really clock off as a parent. Its like an infinite bank holiday weekend shift; fun at parts but also knackering, and absolute mayhem. Being a parent means that you’re always on call, and working outside the 9 to 5 standard is good training for that. The kids don’t sleep in at weekends and they’re not fussed about waking you up at 2am if they need a cuddle.
2. Cleaning up vomit
I’m relatively unfazed by my kid’s vomit and its due, in part, to years and years of working in hospitality (including our students union and a Walkabout, so you can imagine the amount of clean ups I’ve dealt with). The key difference is that I love my children – I didn’t love the random fresher that had too many jagerbombs. Did I know at the time that fishing some young lady’s regurgitated chips out of the sink would be excellent mum training? No. It was 2am I was pissed off. But it does mean that when the kids are sick I’m very underwhelmed; “you call this sick? I don’t even smell tequila. Don’t worry about it, kid.”
3. Drunk people and children have a lot of similar traits
They’re sleepy. They’re unreasonable. They’re emotional. They are often hard work but also pretty funny, and can be quite sweet. They also can kick off unexpectedly. Am I talking about drunk people or small children? Both. Its both. Spending years managing drunk people is excellent parent training; you have to keep them safe (despite their tendency to hurt themselves), you learn how best to deal with tantrums (“yes I know you want more gin but I’ve already said no and I mean it, ok sweetie?”), you train yourself to stay calm and patient in the face of their antics, and you get really good at pretending to understand or care about their nonsensical ramblings. The key difference is that I can pick my children up off the floor a lot easier than a 40-year old marketing executive on his Christmas party.
4. Tricks of the Trade
I have learnt a few little tricks from years tending bar that come in handy with parenting. For instance, handing someone a shot of apple juice when they’ve clearly had too much for a real shot is not miles away from giving my kids sugar-free vitamins as their morning “treat”. Telling an annoying customer we’re closing really soon so they piss off is just like me pushing bedtime up an hour early so I can go out to dinner on time. Bartenders are great at multi-tasking and using both hands to do things, all very useful skills when you have small children. A good bartender is warm and welcoming but doesn’t take any shit, and knows instinctively when you’re pushing your luck. Without a doubt this is decent training for becoming a parent.
A lot of being a parent is cleaning up messes and this is something we spend a lot of time doing in the hospitality industry as well. So in a way every time I wiped a table down or mopped a floor it was all good training for cleaning up after my own messy pups. I didn’t enjoy those jobs then, and I don’t now. But its inevitable. At least whilst the boys are often very sticky its usually not because of sambuca, which is a bastard to clean up.
6. Being tired
Anyone who has done a long shift in the bar or a close down followed by an open the very next morning will be well accustomed to being tired. Not to mention post-work drinks. So when I had my first baby I thought I knew what being tired was like and thought I could handle it. But nothing can truly prepare you for the exhaustion of a newborn. There’s something unique about that level of fatigue; when the baby is cluster feeding and you can’t even get an hours sleep without having to attach a tiny person to your body. I thought I knew what being tired was but I was wrong, so very, very wrong. I guess this is one area you can never really prepare for.
You wouldn’t expect pouring pints and takings orders would be a good foundation for raising kids but ultimately any job that involves hard work and dealing with people will, in some small way, be useful if you ever find yourself caring for tiny humans. And being a mum is, despite the distinct lack of team tequila shots, the best job I’ve ever had.