How Flipping Burgers Made Me a Better Parent


When I was fifteen years old my parental units gave me a choice; either get a job to help pay for your car insurance and gas, or walk.   As you can probably imagine it really wasn’t that difficult of a choice.  They were kind enough to  buy me my first car (don’t be jealous, it was a 1981 Ford LTD and we often joked that it came with its very own docking permit) so I guess it was only fair that I be responsible for the things I needed in order to drive it.  Of course in 1990 gas was under one dollar a gallon and insurance on old Ethel was minimal, but a beast like that was gonna burn the gas and I needed the cash to fill her up.  I was left no choice.  I got a job.  I didn’t just get any job though.  I got THE job. Burger flipper supreme.

At the time it was just a job.  The building was so small that you could fart at one end and smell it at the other, simultaneously.   It was old-school.  Fresh meat, fresh potatoes, no cash register to tell you how much change to give.  It was a way for me to make a enough cash to buy a tank of gas a week, which at the time was twenty bucks for the boat (that was so much money back then, I would love to be able to fill up my car for twenty bucks now), buy a few clothes, and of course support my very busy social life <cough, cough>.    I still laugh at how I thought I was rolling in the dough on four bucks and a few cents an hour.   Looking back on it now, I have realized that it taught me so many other things besides how to blow a paycheck in one weekend.  While I never thought that flipping burgers and peeling potatoes would give me anything that I could use as a mother, I think have figured out how my high school job helped prepare me for motherhood.  How in the hell can I equate cooking hamburgers and raising kids? I don’t really know, but this is the way my brain is working right now so let’s just roll with it.

Onions.  They make you cry.  Imagine  being given a twenty pound bag of them and having to peel, cut in half, and chop the entire bag.  Repeat at least twice a week.  Sound like fun?  Not really.  Like peeling onions, there are times when motherhood makes me cry.  Maybe it is from peeling back the layers on a difficult situation.  Maybe it is the residual stink left on your hands afterwards.  All I know is that tears are involved.  Some days there will be more tears depending on the strength of the onion.  Some days the layers come off easily, some days you have to fight to get to the important stuff.  Some days you stick your head in the freezer using the cold to stop the tears, some days you stick your head in the fridge looking for a cold bottle of Riesling to help ease your pains.

Big bags of meat.  Sounds gross,  but we would have to take these five-pound bags of hamburger,  ball it and smash them in order to form the burgers.  Yep, fresh meat makes for better burgers this is true.  Our little people are given to us unshaped.  I suppose if you wanted to be technical you could say they come in a bag and some weigh about five pounds.  Which if your kids were that small, my now cavernous hoo-ha and I are jealous.  Anywho  let’s not go there, back to bags of meat.  Just like a lump of beef, our kids need to be formed into something amazing.   It is up to us to form those patties, cook em up until they are just right, and serve them up to the public in an appealing package for consumption.  If you don’t do it right, they can be unappealing and sickening to the stomach.

You can’t have a nice juicy hamburger without a side of french fries.  Farmer Bob would say onion rings, but believe me when I say that onion rings are never a good option.  It grosses me out enough to watch them be eaten, smelling them hours later is tortuous.  French fries.  That is where it is at.  Not just any fries though, they have to be fresh.  One would never thing that sitting in front of two, one hundred-pound sacks of taters armed with a peeler and a trash can could teach you anything,  but you sit your ass on a bucket with those two hundred pounds of starchy deliciousness and two hours to peel them all and you quickly learn how to handle monotony, frustration, and the removal of fingernails.  While motherhood is very exciting and always changing in many ways, we have those days in which we are in a rut and never know if we are going to get out.  We find ourselves bruised and dirty, but with a little bit of patience, the removal of some of the outer layers of skin, and soon you find yourself at the bottom of that bag ready to chop up your problems and serve them up fried with a side of ketchup.

Once you polish off that burger and fries, you must have a milkshake just to add those few extra pounds right to your ass.  I mean you have to have a milkshake in order to have that sweet taste in your mouth afterwards.  When I say milkshake, I mean a real shake with real ice cream and real milk blended up on a shake machine until it is so thick your spoon stands straight up.  I do NOT mean some pre-made mix that comes out of a machine like poo out of a baby’s butt.  Just like family life, you gather up all the ingredients and you blend it all together.  Some days it comes together nicely and you are left with a cup of thick deliciousness that everyone wants to be a part of.  Other days nothing gels and you are left with an unrecognizable mess of runny goop that all you want to do is throw it across the room while screaming obscenities at your co-workers, or husband. When it all comes together it is amazing, but when it doesn’t it is like a super-sized serving of shit soup.  You take the good ones and try to remember exactly how you did that so that next time you can replicate it.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Once you are done with your meal, you can’t forget about the clean up.  Here’s something you may not know, hamburgers and french fries are greasy.  Shocking I know, but true.   It could have been due to my extreme clumsiness  but for the sake of my self-esteem let me just tell you that greasy floors are slicker than snot on a doorknob.  When you are busy flipping them burgers, or having a dance party on floors like that, your chances of ending up flat on your ass are great.  Just like that time you accidentally cursed at your ten-year old, or threw away your eight-year old’s favorite drawing, as parents we all have times when we slip, fall, and endure a shot to our pride.  The thing to do is to lay there for a while in the grease and laugh at yourself.  Then you must get back up, wipe yourself off, clean that shit up and get back to life.  Life goes on, even if you are covered in slime.  Or poo. Or even a little vomit.  Put a little bit of time and elbow grease into it and before you know it you are back to dancing on your own two feet on a much steadier surface.

While at the time that job was just all about the money in my pocket, that job taught me more than I could possibly have realized at fifteen/sixteen/seventeen years old.  I stayed at that job until I didn’t come home in the summers  from college.  I made friends that I still have to this day, and lessons that will help me survive this parenting gig one single hamburger and pile of fries at a time.



One last thing, do me a favor if you would please.  Go to this website right here, read the story and watch the video.  Then next time you are at Wal-Mart or Target and you see those slippers sitting there, buy a couple of pairs.  Take them home and put them in a box and send them to Lilly.  She is an amazing girl and I would love to help her reach her goal.  It won’t take much of your time, but it sure will bring a smile to so many.  I thank you and I know Lilly will too.




  1. I worked at my college cafeteria, and the friends I made THERE are the ones who really stuck with me. Though I’m not feeling profound enough to draw an analogy about mass dishwashers and mashed potatoes by the gallon, I CAN say that learning to work through monotony and focus on the interactions has served me well as a parent. Great piece!

  2. This is so right on in so many ways. It’s nice to hear of all that fresh food made back then, I wish they still did it this way. Now everything is prepackaged and frozen.
    Could you really fart and smell it across the room simultaneously? That’s impressive. My first job was in a one hour photo mart. All I learned from that was my 4’9″ Korean boss was very handsy, and don’t look at the roll of film that comes after a bachelor party. Ew.

  3. great story! Now I want some fries and a shake! (don’t eat meat)

  4. All great points.
    I worked from the time I was in grade school in my families businesses. I learned a lot from that and all of the jobs after. The one thing I would add to your list that jobs have taught me about parenting/life/marriage is that the most important thing is to show up. Being present is paramount. I think we often over look that in our super fast, on-line, driven world. But, showing up matters and a lot of the time just showing up is almost applause worthy.

  5. Great analogies Tara! And smart parents you had there. :)

  6. I really love your analogies and your story. How true is all is… Thanks so much for sharing :)

  7. Linda. Emory says:

    As long as you know you did everything you could to make them the BEST burgers & fries. Its when they go out that door that you pray they know which end to come out! Lol


  1. […] I took that first job flipping hamburgers, I wasn’t allowed to start cooking the hamburgers right away. Hell no.  I had to master the […]

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