Before my boys were born, I was the Assistant to the Executive Vice President of Client Services for an investment firm. I really liked my job. I had a great boss and excellent coworkers. I loved wearing nice clothes and taking an hour for lunch. I even enjoyed my commute—I blew through a novel or two a week on the train. Back in those days I actually knew where my hairdryer was and how to use it. These days if I’m wearing pantyhose and makeup, chances are someone is getting married or buried.
Despite the changes in wardrobe and the remarkable lack of time to myself, I’ve come to the conclusion that being an Executive Assistant is not that different than being a Stay-At-Home-Mom. The major responsibilities of both jobs involve making sure people get to where they are supposed to be, on time, with the stuff they’re supposed to have. It turns out I am just as good at getting two little boys to Cub Scouts, in uniform, with their handbooks as I am getting a sales rep to a 10am meeting in Kansas City with twelve copies of his presentation. While it’s true I never had to tell an executive to tie his shoes or zip his fly (at least not the executive I worked for), I also couldn’t threaten to take away his Blackberry if he forgot his presentation.
Both jobs also entail answering questions—lots of questions. Often the same questions over and over again. When I was an Executive Assistant I would repeatedly answer: “How do you use Outlook Calendar?” , “How much more would it cost to fly business class to Amsterdam?”, and “Have you seen my expense report?”. As a Stay-at-Home-Mom I get: “Can I bring my Sea Monkeys to school?”, “Where are my shin guards?”, and “Can I have a snack?” With both children and adults, it’s best to try to act calm and pretend it’s the first time you’ve ever been asked.
Of course, as a Stay-at-Home-Mom (and part-time retail salesperson), my paycheck is smaller. But my expenses are fewer. I make nearly all of the meals my family eats (Chinese take-out how I’ve missed you!) and I don’t need to buy nice clothes, shoes or makeup—jeans and sneakers are my uniform nowadays. But, no matter how professional or efficient I might have been as an administrative assistant, I was never compensated as well as I am now. Oh sure, I made more money but I get a lot more dandelion bouquets, spaghetti stained toothless grins and cookie smeared hugs. So it’s a good thing I’ve given up those designer suits—the dry cleaning bills would be brutal.