When Michelle Villemaire, Palisadian mother of two, sat at Patrick’s Roadhouse in Santa Monica, writing her blog HomeMadeMimi, she found herself daydreaming. As she watched the servers in the hustle and bustle of their shift, she wondered, “Would the skills I learned as a mother make me a better waitress?”
Villemaire decided to find out. The owner of Patrick’s Roadhouse, Anthony Fischler, agreed to let her take a shift. On Sunday, June 1, Villemaire worked a 9-3 pm shift as a waitress trainee.
Villemaire was a trained waitress. Her previous positions included Boston University’s Stage Deli and Los Angeles’ Sky Bar, but she had not gone back to the job in over a decade.
Villemaire’s tasks included filling water glasses, bringing out food and drinks, bussing tables, seating people and being friendly.
According to Fischler, Villemaire chose a particularly busy Sunday. Fischler said he was pretty surprised at how well she did. “Trial by fire,” he said.
Carol Fishman Cohen, co-author of the book, Back on the Career Track: A Guide for Stay-at-Home Moms Who Want to Return to Work, and the author of the article, “40-Year-Old Intern” said, “It’s not uncommon for people returning to the workforce to do this type of thing as a transition back to a career.” Fischler said at the end of her shift, he considered giving her a job. Her experiment could have landed her a new position.
Villemaire’s motivation was to find out if parenting had increased her skill level. Fischler wasn’t convinced it made a difference, “Being a mother really has nothing to do with it. It’s all up to the individual.” He said his opinion comes from having hired many mothers over the years. Fischler said, “Villemaire just did a great job.”
After an almost 6 hour shift, Villemaire’s family met her at the restaurant - her husband, Jonathan Abrahams and her daughters, Pearl, age 6, and Vivi, age 3. Villemaire said she was able to sit down, rest her weary feet and eat with them.
Fischler joked with Villemaire, “I’m going to fire you,” and Villemaire piped back, “No, you won’t, because I’m going to quit.”
Villemaire felt like she succeeded. She enjoyed the camaraderie in the workplace and despite Fischler’s assessment, she felt her Mommy skills made a difference. She saw herself as more efficient, more committed, and better at organizing, than she had been in the past. Yet, she found it more challenging not to be a supervisor and noticed she was less patient.
Cohen, who co-founded iRelaunch, www.iRelaunch.com, hosts an event that helps parents transcend the isolation they feel and reconnect with others in their efforts to resume their careers after time away from the workforce.
Villemaire said ultimately her goal is to be a role model for her children. She wants them to see her working, and to see that she has interests outside of the home that are connected to the community and the world around us.
*Written by Jennika Ingram. A version of this article was formerly published in the Palisadian-Post.