Our Best and Worst Summer Jobs

posted by Andrea | 07/11/2016

summer jobs

I am often asked if Dave has a summer job… and I think most people are shocked when I tell them no.

As you’ll read below, he has had many summer jobs in the past, but we both decided that after we had kids, we wanted him to be home during the summers — and that has always been one of the many reasons we live somewhat frugally.

I’d SO MUCH RATHER give up vacations, fancy “toys”, expensive clothes, cable TV, and other conveniences to have him home all day, every day for 10 weeks in the summer… especially since I know he wants to be home.

Some of our friends joke that he must get bored or go crazy at home with the kids all day — but Dave assures me he definitely does not want to get any type of summer job while our kids are little… and I’m not going to argue with him on that one! He is such a fun dad and plays so well with our kids — I’m positive our entire family benefits every day he’s home with us.

That said, Dave and I were recently talking about the summer jobs we’ve had in the past — and since some of you have asked me about our summer jobs, I thought it might be fun to share them with you!


I’ll start off with my jobs…


The neighbor across the street from my parents ran (and still runs) a catering business out of her basement. I started working for her on a VERY limited basis back in 5th and 6th grade already — mostly just on weekends and in the summer. I continued working for her off and on throughout middle school. It was the perfect job for me at the time because I could just walk across the street.

It was hard work because I was so small (lifting heavy stacks of plates, washing huge pots) but I really did love it. I can remember the first time I saw her effortlessly carve a watermelon into a beautiful basket (with a handle) that she then used to serve her fruit salad. And to this day, any time I put plastic wrap over something, I think back to her HUGE rolls of plastic wrap that we had to put over everything before we could bring the food out to her catering van.

Office cleaning

Another neighbor cleaned offices at nights, and in 8th and 9th grade, I would often help her do some of the larger cleaning jobs on the weekend. I don’t remember enjoying it that much, but I did learn a lot about cleaning from her.

Bussing tables

This is potentially my worst job ever (besides babysitting, which I didn’t include because I almost never babysat for anyone!)

The restaurant I worked at was dark and smoky (this was before you couldn’t smoke in restaurants) and I got a headache every time I went to work. I was hardly 16 when I started working there and I told my mom she should be ashamed of herself for letting me work there 🙂

I soon found 2 other jobs (American Eagle and a grocery store) so I  quit after about 6 weeks!

American Eagle

Working retail was absolutely AWFUL (at least for my personality) but I did it because all my clothing was from American Eagle and I wanted to get the 40% off employee discount.

I worked as few shifts as I possibly could (while working at the grocery store) just to keep my discount!

Grocery Store Cashier

For 3 summers, I worked as a cashier for 2 local grocery stores (not both at the same time). Although it wasn’t my dream job, I really did enjoy this work.

I loved keeping my cash drawer neat and orderly (with all the bills facing the same way). I loved bagging the groceries in an organized fashion so everything fit just so in their carts (people thanked me for this ALLLLLLLLLLL the time), and I loved stocking the shelves so everything looked nice.

The grocery store was definitely my favorite high school summer job.


For a short time in college, I did data entry for a local greenhouse. It wasn’t fun but I could do it whenever it worked in my schedule, so I could fit it in around my other job(s). It also paid by how much I finished (not by the hour) so I worked quickly and made really great money!

House cleaning

About 3 months into my college career, the telephone in my dorm room rang. The person asked for my roommate (apparently they were in a chemistry class together) but I said she was gone for the weekend. I asked to take a message — the girl explained that her parents were looking for someone to come clean their home once a week and they really wanted someone to start the next day.

I said I could come… and the rest is history!

For the next 7 years (even after I was married) I spent a full day EVERY week cleaning a mansion of a house about 1 mile from my college campus. I house-sat when they want on vacation, I dog-sat when they were out of town, I helped her in the yard, I helped with laundry, I helped her prepare for upcoming holiday parties and other events… and I cleaned their massive 3 story, 6 bedroom, 6 bathroom house every week.


We don’t stay in touch anymore (sort of weird, but that’s her personality) but I have so many great memories working for this family… and it was the perfect job for me as I was always able to schedule my college courses so I would have heavier class loads 4 days a week with 1 day free for cleaning!


Right around the time I got the house cleaning job mentioned above, I also snagged a sought-after position as a custodian in my college’s athletic center. This was perfect for me because I played 2 college sports so I could do my jobs either before or after practices and games (we were only allowed to work 2-hour shifts).

I could also pick up a bunch of extra hours during summer break, so I was able to work this job around other summer jobs throughout my college career.

We had a fabulous group of students and friends to work with, and, as some of you might remember from previous posts, this job is where I met Dave for the first time — so it has extra happy memories for me.

In fact, our boss is actually the person who encouraged Dave to ask me out on our first date, AND she’s the one who helped Dave pull off his amazing surprise proposal (read more on that here).

This is by-far my most favorite summer job (probably good since I did it for 3 summers in a row!) Dave and I still stay in contact with many of the friends we worked with — including our boss!

Volleyball Official

I used to be a certified volleyball official for both middle school and high school volleyball programs in our state — so I spent a fair amount of time working at volleyball camps during the summers after we were married. Sometimes it would be an all-day tournament on Saturdays; other times it would be a week-long camp in the evenings.

Either way, it was good money and I enjoyed watching all the volleyball.


OK, Dave’s turn…

Dave grew up in an a very rural setting in Washington state, so many of his summer jobs involved working with crops, with animals, on farms, or other similar jobs.

Cherry Orchards

Dave worked in cherry orchards for 3 summers in middle and high school. He got to drive a tractor and trailer throughout orchard loading up boxes of cherries that the pickers had finished.


Dave and his siblings worked in his Uncle and Aunt’s vineyard on-and-off from middle school through college. They did a little bit of everything — but Dave says a lot of weeding, training new grape plants, and thinning older grape plants.  His favorite jobs required driving tractors and using all sorts of weird equipment.

He worked in the HOT sun… but I know he has good memories of these years because he talked about “when he worked in the grapes” all the time!

Flower Fields

Dave thinks this happened in high school, and that he only filled in for part of a summer. Basically it involved walking up and down rows of gladiolas and cutting off their flowers. The flowers were just tossed on the ground, and he never really understood why. He thinks they were growing them for the bulbs.

Agriculture Fertilizer Company

For 3 summers in high school and college Dave set-up bug traps in orchards, then he drove around all summer counting how many bugs were caught (for real!)

This work helped the company determine when and what to spray on the trees.

Building a Dairy

For part of one summer, Dave worked on a construction crew building a dairy. He did lots of cement work and getting steel girders ready for the roof.

He absolutely HATED this job. He said it seemed like 12 hour days and it was hot — close to 100 degrees many days.

Maraschino Cherries

After he quit the construction job, Dave took a job “making” maraschino cherries.

Essentially, he put insane amounts of cherries into a brine that took all the healthy stuff out of them, and then added lots of sugar and food coloring which turned them into maraschino cherries.

I hear LOTS of stories about when he worked with the maraschino cherries… and to this day, Dave will NOT eat maraschino cherries!


As I mentioned above, Dave and I met while working as custodians in our college athletic center. Dave loved this job as much as I did — but it was not because it was such a glamourous job, but rather because we had so many fun people to work with (and our boss was amazing).

We have so many stories from our days working together in the gym!

Snow Mountain Ranch (YMCA of the Rockies)

Dave worked at Snow Mountain Ranch in Colorado for one summer while attending a leadership program through our college. He worked 40+ hours a week in Conference Services — setting up for a variety of meetings and making random deliveries.

This was one of his favorite jobs as he had lots of free time to participate in the program, hike, and do other sightseeing (it’s beautiful up there!)


Dave worked for a roofing company the year before we got married. He helped put a new roof on a local school… and when he took the job, I wasn’t aware that he was afraid of heights!

This was also the summer he proposed to me, so I have a feeling he was willing to do anything in order to save up money for a ring!


Dave worked on a painting crew with a group of fellow teachers after his first year of teaching. Essentially, this was a perfect summer job for him because it fit nicely around his school schedule and he would be able to work with many teacher friends as well.

However, he quickly discovered that he is not a great painter, he does not enjoy painting, and his fear of heights is actually worse when painting up on ladders than it was when he worked in roofing!

Pursuing Higher Education

For 3 summers (after he quit painting but before we had kids), Dave spent a huge amount of time getting his Master’s Degree. He actually traveled out to Dordt College in Iowa, for 3 weeks each summer because it was the best, fastest, and cheapest way for him to get the Master’s Degree he wanted to get.

It was SO much work for him and I’m extremely thankful he crammed it in before we had babies and toddlers running around!

Online Tutoring

After Nora was born, Dave did some online tutoring for 2 summers. He enjoyed it, but the organization he worked with was pretty disorganized and ultimately he quit because he was frustrated with how the program was run and felt like he didn’t have the freedom to teach how he wanted to teach.

In the future, I think he would be open to pursuing this type of job again… but probably with a different organization.

Sports Camps

At one point, Dave was teaching full time and coaching 3 sports. His schedule was PACKED FULL!

Over the past 4 years, he has given up coaching to be home more, but he has continued to help out with various sports camps throughout the summer. This is a very minimal time commitment and he really enjoys doing it.

I have a feeling there are a few jobs we might have forgotten about — but I certainly hit on a lot! Dave and I were both surprised to see we’ve had more than 20 different summer jobs in the course of our lives!


Of course, for the past 5 summers, we’ve been working tirelessly on various house and yard renovations (and raising 3 kids!) 

Seriously, just typing that out makes me wondering how on earth we did all of that over the summer months — especially while adding 3 little people to our family in the midst of it all!

What we’re up to this summer…

Although we have 3 crazy kids running around all day, this summer is probably the most relaxing summer vacation Dave and I have ever had.

Dave isn’t taking any classes or working at any camps, we aren’t traveling at all, I’ve cut back quite a bit on my VA work and I’m not doing anything big on the blog, we aren’t doing ANY house or yard projects, and our kids are all in bed by 7:30 every night!

We have played at parks, gone for bike rides, read books, gone bowling, watched movies, lounged around the kiddie pools, hung out with friends and family, and even taken a couple of naps — and you know what, I really like the slower pace!

There is part of me that feels like we’re “wasting” the summer months and that I should be getting more accomplished because Dave is home to help with the kids — but there’s another part of me that’s worn out from a crazy school year with 3 very young children and loving our break.

I know future summers won’t all be as “lazy” as 2016, but for now, I will enjoy reminiscing about all our past summer jobs while relaxing in the kiddie pool and munching on juice pops!


Now I’d love to know…

What were your best and worst summer jobs?

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  1. Debby


    Haha I love this post!!!!! My husband had a job at a family owned grocery store in high school and college and swears it was his favorite job ever. I worked as a car hop in high school and college and loved it. I got tan, lots of exercise, and good tips. (no roller skates, lol).

    Our worst jobs:
    My husband used to clean up a drive-in parking lot for a dollar a day when he was in 6th grade. He says it was gross.

    I sold corn out of the back of an old farmer lady’s pick up that she parked in an abandoned gas station parking lot on the corner of two busy streets. She gave me and my friend $3 a day when I was in 6th grade. It was not a horrible job but it was long and hot sitting or standing there on that hot asphalt. love the post. Have a great summer and enjoy the babies. 🙂


  2. Kris


    It sounds like you both have had some really good variety in your previous jobs! I am job hunting right now and haven’t had much luck thus far, so even some of the “worse” jobs you mentioned above sound appealing. I am from Iowa and went to college for a year very close to Dordt – awesome to hear Dave earned his Master’s there! I have some good friends/family who have gone there – it’s a solid school and a neat area of the state. Cool to hear your “Iowa ties”! 🙂


    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, that’s probably our only Iowa tie right now — but it is fun to make those connections!


  3. Pick Panda


    The worst one for me is to go out for shopping with my wife specially for cloths. We end up purchasing almost everything but cloths 😛


  4. laura


    I worked one summer and school year as a “television hostess” Not the glamorous job the name would imply. Our local hospital had leased televisions in each patient room and the patients had to pay each day for the service if they wanted to watch TV. I had to go to every room and ask sick people for money to keep their TV on. It was awful and who knows what kind of germs I was exposed to. Sometimes they were asleep and I would have to wake them up. It was the worst. Or sometimes they had no money so I would have to use a key and lock them out of the TV. I got the job because my neighbor was in charge of it and she needed someone to help so she didn’t have to do it 7 days a week. Her own kids wouldn’t help her. Fortunately I got “laid off” when the hospital purchased TVs and discontinued their lease program.


  5. Meredith


    The worst was sorting wood samples/making catalogues. My dad got me a job at his furniture factory. All I did was separate wood samples and pull together catalog pages for 40 hours a week.

    My favorite was working in a coffee shop. Not like a starbucks (they were just starting to show their face) but a place that actually selled coffee and desserts.


    Andrea Reply:

    yup, that sounds like a pretty crappy job! I can’t even imaging sorting anything for 40 hours a week — let alone wood samples!


  6. Audra


    I wondered if catering would be on your list. 🙂 I loved working there! Oh those rolls of plastic….how about “hot box chicken?” My favorite! I spent MANY, MANY hours there each day in high school and college only to turn around and do another 14 hour day the next day and the next. I think I started helping out in middle school too….I know I would get up at 4 in the morning and do the breakfast rounds at Consumers before school with my mom when M was on vacation. 🙂


    Andrea Reply:

    I know I didn’t work as much as you did, but I did have a few LOOOOOONG Saturdays spent catering weddings!


  7. Jana


    I did some babysitting for neighbors, which I liked. I also picked blueberries. Did not enjoy that at all! Enjoy your summer with your active little ones. The backyard memories are some of the best. Glad Dave can be around to spend time with all of you. That is a real blessing!


  8. Jane


    I worked at a greenhouse/farm picking vegetables. Dirty hot work with minimal pay. But it made me appreciate the bussing table job I had after it!!!


    Andrea Reply:

    yes, often times the nasty jobs helps us appreciate the better jobs so much more!


  9. Christine @ The (mostly) Simple Life


    It’s so fun to look back on those kinds of jobs! Camp counseling was insanely exhausting but really rewarding. I waitressed, which was super hard work, but paid well. My first job was at Robinette’s Apple Orchard serving donuts and cider. It was delicious, but made me way too busy (I was in high school) and I had to quit because it was too stressful!


  10. Avia


    I learned something new today and that’s that Dave and I grew up in the same general area. I’m not quite in cherry/grape country but have a good idea where he’s from.
    My worst summer job was in the middle of my college years. I worked for a telemarketing company raising money for the special Olympics. I hate talking on the phone, asking for money etc, etc. the the fact that I was pretty good at it was amazing. The worst part is I came to work one day the husband/wife team who ran the place were very hurriedly packing up and moving out. I’ve always wondered if they were running a scam.
    My best was working for a kid’s summer day camp which I did throughout most of my high school and college years.


    Andrea Reply:

    oh wow — I don’t think I could ever do a telemarketing job or a door-to-door sales job!
    Also, Dave is from the Yakima Valley area of Washington State 🙂


    Avia Reply:

    I live west of Spokane so pretty close. 🙂


  11. Chris


    I picked cherries as a teenager and got paid by the bucket. Very low pay. Helped pay my college tuition though.
    After I got married and moved to a different state, I had probably my worst job. A telemarketing job where the person beside me smoked. 🙁 Thankfully, it only lasted about two weeks before I got a job in my field.
    You may not be old enough, but American Eagle actually used to sell classic type clothing before they started selling trendy clothes.
    It is awesome that Dave can stay home in the summer! Your children will cherish these memories all their lives!


    Andrea Reply:

    No, I’m not old enough to know American Eagle as a more casual store. I think it started in the 70’s — and crazy enough, it’s “rival store” Abercrombie and Fitch started back in the 1800’s selling high quality outdoor gear. Even though I don’t really buy into the whole Abercrombie image now (and never really did) I think it’s kind of cool to know where these brands came from!


  12. Karen


    I never had a summer job as we lived in a rural area, most families raised their own summer help. Not even much babysitting, as farmers rarely needed it.

    My aunt used to do the maraschino cherry thing, and she wouldn’t touch them either. We own a roofing company, and since I am also very afraid of heights, I agree, awful job. Hot and dirty, lots of opportunity for accidents.

    I’d say Dave’s summer job now is by far the most rewarding. Everyone benefits.


    Andrea Reply:

    I’m so glad I never worked with cherries — because I LOVE a good Maraschino cherry on my ice cream sundaes!


  13. Lynn


    You are such an inspiration! Also, if anyone deserves a slow-paced, relaxing summer, it is the both of you! This time are memories that your children and you will cherish forever.

    As a native Michigander, I was moved to Missouri at the age of 10. Still had a lot of family back in Michigan, so every summer I would go stay with family friends in Dimondale, Michigan – where my family had a machine shop. I would gather the parts after they came out of the ‘washer’ which was a lot of oil! I’d have my arms, up to my elbows, covered in oil. I would clean the break room, etc.

    As I became older, during my high school years I would stay in Missouri and I started waiting tables in a local restaurant. I too am an introvert, so not my favorite job!


  14. Shelly


    I am so glad that you both can recognize the value of having Dave home during the summer months, especially while your kids are little! These are the years where memories are made, and they will last a lifetime!! Like you, I would much rather “give up” some things that our culture thinks are “necessary” (ie: cable, fancy cars, big homes) to have more TIME with my spouse and as a family.


    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Shelly 🙂


  15. Susanne


    Enjoy your summer! My husband and I both teach and have always enjoyed being home with our children, traveling, and growing big vegetable gardens in the summers. Since our children are older now, he has recently started doing some summer work through the school system. It is a bit of a drag to have him gone, but he is nearing the end of his career and any amount he earns will boost his retirement. That’s a pretty good incentive!


    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, we’re enjoying it so far. It’s sad to think it’s half over already 🙁
    We’re trying to put away as much as we can for retirement — who knows how much we’ll need to live on! It sounds like it could be a lot!


  16. Katie


    I can see how many of your previous jobs gave you experience for your blog business. Very cool!


    Andrea Reply:

    yeah, that’s what I was thinking when I wrote this post 🙂 So many home and food-related jobs!