A little over a year ago, I started working for a large corporate coffee chain. I went into the job with a strong envisionment of a quick-paced yet quirky work environment. I’d have regulars and we’d have long, engaging conversations about life, politics, books, the arts. My co-workers would inspire me and I’d have a group of work friends again. I knew this coffee shop is a busy place, but I had no idea just how busy it is.

I quickly learned this ideal I aimed for was not going to happen. At least not as frequently as I wanted.

Taking the job was supposed to socially reward me. I missed flying so bad it was like a missing limb and I knew being a flight attendant again wasn’t going to happen for a while due to my young kids. Since I love this large corporate coffee chain as a customer and always admired them as a corporation, I figured working there was a good idea.

One of the things I loved most about my life as a flight attendant was the people I met. My co-workers were a diverse, fascinating mix of folks from all backgrounds, ages, religions. The passengers were even more of a mixed bag. I’ve had conversations with the most interesting people at 35k feet – talked to people going through heartbreak, celebrating huge business deals, coming back from selling a book, going to bury a loved one – the sheer “humanness” of the traveling public is something I always loved.

The grizzled, tired flight attendants who were burnt out would marvel (or scoff, more likely, there was major eye rolling, but this is my romantic fantasy so hear me out) at my ability to talk to just about anyone about just about anything.

So, anyway, I thought that working for a coffee shop would have a similar feel to it. Except, rather than meeting someone super cool and only having a cross country flight to talk to them, I could see them every day. Really build a relationship, you know?

Oh, silly, naive me.

Working for this large coffee corporation, at least for me, is always better in theory. Like, I like talking about it when I’m not there. I love the perks of the place as an employee, especially off the clock. The discount, the freebies, the fact it’s a very progressive place to work at, when I’m away from the place I love it.

But actually being there, at 6 am, with a line out the door, slinging drinks out at 45-50 cups each half hour, in those moments, I seriously question why I’m leaving my kids and working that hard. My regulars are there every morning, but I have just enough time to breath out a quick “morning” before I have to help the next guy in line.

The coworkers are just as frazzled as me. The ones who have worked there for decades are usually far more incompetent than the new high school aged hires. Give me a 16-year-old to bark drink orders at any day. The problem, too, is we are just too darn busy to actually get to know each other at all. These relationships I pictured, they just don’t happen the way I wanted, I needed. I only worked 10-15 hours a week but I felt constantly drained at the end of every shift.

When I left for maternity leave I figured I’d hang my apron up for good. But the company, being the great company that it is, sort of refused to let me quit. They kept extending my leave to the point that by the time H was three months old, I sorta thought going back to work seemed like a good idea. I’d go into my store and watch the kids steaming milk and think about how I missed it.

Plus, earning money, my own money, even if it’s just a small amount, is something I think I’ll always need to do.

So last week I went back for my first shift. It’s been a good five months since I’ve worked there regularly and I shocked myself by knowing the name and drink orders of most of the “regulars”. They all were very happy to see me, as since I’m not native to Long Island, NY I’m actually bubbly and sweet and upbeat, unlike most of the locals … plus my co-workers were all welcoming and excited as well.

But, two hours into my five-hour shift, I was already thinking, “I wonder if I can leave early”. I just have to laugh at that. First day back and I already went back into my old habits.

I’m going to try working more evening shifts this time. The night shift is slower, so at the very least I can hopefully have one or two good conversations with someone. Putting in 10 hours a week is something I can stomach for the time being, if only to make me appreciate my time at home with the kids more.

So, once again, I’m living that glamourous #baristalife and my status of “just a stay at home mom” isn’t completely accurate any longer.

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