I Was an Unpaid Intern to My Three Children for 18 Years

I Lived it:

Don’t get me wrong, I love my children. They are beautiful creatures crafted by angels and I am beyond blessed to have them in my life. They are my life.


No, but, really, I love them. They’re great people to work for. I’m truly lucky.


When I heard about an internship fresh out of college that involved pushing tiny humans incapable of supporting their heads from my own body after eight excruciatingly painful hours of labor, with the only promise of payment in the form of “invaluable experience” and “rewarding lessons,” I was incredibly grateful for the opportunity. Despite the fine print of 20+ years of financial and emotional dependence, I knew this was exactly what I needed to jumpstart my professional life.


That being said, after over 18 years of unpaid work without a single hour off and little hope of leveraging this into a paid position, though, I will say that I feel like the system has taken advantage of me.


What’s better? An okay job with a salary, or three adults that share my genes and will possibly take care of me when I grow old – you know, a job with “meaning”? Honestly, I’m not so sure anymore.


For years I performed a variety of menial tasks as a dutiful intern with little questions asked. Breastfeeding, toilet training, bedtime stories (with voices)—I was all over it. After my two-year-old son’s play date shoved a full bowl of chocolate-chip pancake batter down my cleavage one morning, though, I realized for the first time that the connections I was making through this internship might not lead to an actual job.


Instead of giving up like my slacker assistant and husband, I held out the hope that perhaps the skills I was constantly developing in negotiation, punishment, bribery, sacrifice and compromise could lead to an alternate career. Yet, every time a potential employer reviews my resume (even with the winning reference letter my daughter wrote in crayon on the back of my MBA degree) it’s as if this internship was a useless waste of my time. I didn’t even get college credit.



I can only hope that through my experience, others can learn. Sure, some people with more talent or luck might have a different fate, but I don’t want anyone else hoping to have a career in marketing or hospitality to meet a similar dead end.


Since I’ve come to this realization, I’ve found a golden opportunity to apply everything I’ve learned in a new position, where I will be raising my fourth child. I’m just twenty weeks in but, it looks promising…