One Of Jackie’s Not-So-Magical Moments . . .

You're Fired

It’s coming up on my 3-year anniversary of being fired from my job back home that I really loved. Yup, you heard right, I said fired. I haven’t shared this with many people because it’s not my most favorite subject ever, but I feel like it’s high time I share it with you all now since it seems to be holding me back from moving forward, in more ways than one. I’m normally a pretty positive and encouraging person most of the time. I try really hard to be that person ALL of the time, but sometimes I’m just not able to achieve it, especially lately, so I end up just staying quiet. That’s not working for me either as it turns out.

I’ve been in rather a rut for a couple months [even years] now. I’ve had my highs and lows over the past few years, just like any other regular ole person, I imagine. With my old job, I was in the public eye a whole lot. I was very well known in the community for running one of the best childcare centers in my neighborhood. The way I conducted myself at work and outside of work really mattered to a whole lot of people, including myself. I was able to make a difference in my community, every day through the children in my care. I’m going to share the story starting back from when I got said job so you’ll have the big picture because, ya know, I have that gift of gab and like to tell the WHOLE story. So, here goes…

Back when my almost 15-year old was a mere 12-months old, my dear friend who watched him at her home while I worked had a miscarraige twice in a matter of 6 months. After the second one, she reluctantly decided to stop watching my little guy. I was sad, but at the same time, he was over a year old and I was VERY grateful to have had my precious baby in her loving home for the first year of his little life. My husband and I started touring in-home childcares and, well, we were NOT too excited about leaving our child with a perfect stranger in their home. The references didn’t really do anything for me [or my hubby] either because of course, the people only hand out references that will say good stuff, right? Ok, with that being said, I started thinking about maybe working an administrative position at a childcare center because then I would actually be able to work where my child went to daycare. I had TONS of customer service experience under my belt and really felt as though I could do just about anything thrown my way.

One afternoon, I called several nation-wide childcare organizations in my old neighborhood. There was only one that impressed me over the phone, and they happened to be hiring immediately for an Assistant Director. I set up an appointment for that same afternoon for my first interview with the current [brand new] Center Director. My interview was awesome and I found out the next day that the District Manager wanted to interview me as well. I took a half-day off of work to go meet with her. I’ll never forget how intimidated I was during that interview when the District Manager listed off all of the qualities I DID NOT have, like, most importantly, no management experience whatsoever. I have always been a very confident person and was raised being told that I could do ANYTHING I put my mind to, so I assured the District Manager that if she gave me the chance, she would not be disappointed. Well, I’m happy to say that my confidence won her over and I was hired immediately. I went in to my employer for the past five years and turned in my two-weeks’ notice.

Now, let’s fast-forward a bit. I worked some long and hard hours as an Assistant Director, and for those of you that have jobs in the field of Early Childhood Education, you know that those are tough hours. The position of Center Director came open a couple times, I applied and was turned down twice. The third time it came open, I sat down with the same District Manager who’d hired me and I asked her to please reconsider and to give me a chance at the job, if I didn’t do a good job, well, she could demote me. I told her, just like I did at my original interview, that she would not be disappointed.

I took over the Center Director Position in the fall that year, and my center was barely at 60% capacity. The financials were so atrocious that the center wasn’t making any money. The parents at the center were not happy, nor were the staff, or the children. The state Dept. of Licensing wasn’t happy either. I knew I had my work cut out for me, and I wasn’t afraid at all. I walked into that center and got rid of the staff who didn’t need to be working there. I hired, trained, and coached my own staff. I worked tirelessly doing a bazillion other things that it takes to run a childcare center. By the beginning of the new year, my center was at 100% occupancy and my financials were a picture of beauty. I had the best looking P&L [profit and loss statement] in the district. I earned every bonus that I was eligible for, maintained outstanding relationships with my customers and vendors, and had a great relationship with my licensor. I spent time building relationships. I went on that way for many, many years. Other new Center Directors came to my center to learn how to do their financials because mine were so beautiful. I worked so hard to make my budget every quarter, and I now have a stack of awards that’s about two feet high sitting in my garage. I trained my staff well and made sure that they knew their voice was important. I chased parents, often the same ones, week after week when they didn’t pay their bill. It got to the point where they’d see my face and think money because they knew that’s what I wanted. I provided the loving, caring, safe, and clean environment I promised for their child. They needed to pay their bill. Pretty simple.

One day back in late August of 2009, a gentleman walked through the front door to pick up his child [who was 9 at the time] while my Program Specialist and I were meeting in my office. She knew him and was really excited to see him. It was like a high-school reunion right in my front lobby. I smiled and looked out and she told me “this is so-and-so’s dad.” I said hello and went back to what I was doing. A few hours later, she comes into my office and tells me that “so-and-so’s Mom is on the phone” and is upset with us because she didn’t think she’d put him back onto the pick-up list and why did we let him take HER son? After much digging, we found that he was listed on the previous authorized pick-up lists, but not the most current one. Well, you’ve probably imagined how this went down already, right? I had to suspend my Program Specialist and I was suspended that afternoon as well. It was pretty bad, but, I wasn’t terribly worried because you see, in the State of Washington, a childcare and/or school is not allowed to prevent a biological parent from picking up their child unless there is an active restraining order on file, which there was not.

The problem? I worked for a large corporation and I was just a number, a number who could be replaced by someone else who could be paid far less money to do the same job. A number who would be better off gotten rid of than for the company to suffer the consequences of what this parent had up her sleeve. Remember how I told you about chasing parents to pay their bill? Well, the parent in this situation was one of those parents. She hated me because my bookkeeper called her religously each and every week looking for payment. In fact, she wouldn’t even look me in the face half the time when I saw her because she was afraid I’d ask her when she’d be bringing in her check. She normally pretended to be on her cell phone when she passed by my office.

While I was on suspension, my Program Specialist ended up being fired for her involvement in releasing this child to his Father that day. On September 11, 2009, I was relieved of my duties as the Center Director and I have never been the same since. See, when I make a mistake, I’m the very first one to admit it. I don’t ever try to deny it if I screwed up. What’s the point? If I had legitimitely done something wrong, then, by all means, I would’ve deserved to lose my job. But I lost my job simply because I was the one in charge at the time of the incident. We had a 10-day Walt Disney World vacation and were flying out just four days after I was fired. It was really bittersweet for me, amazing as we spent 9 nights/10 days in the Saratoga Tree House Villas, but so hard because I didn’t know how we’d pay the mortgage when we got home. I have been trying since that dreadful day, to swallow that sometimes, $hit happens and we need to move on, just like I’ve taught my children. The problem was, they ripped my whole world from me that day and they’ll never even know it, let alone care that they did it.

I was the local “Mama” for my staff, my kids, even the parents who dropped their kids off each day. I was cried on, by children and adults, spit-up on, puked on, and nonetheless wore a smile. I was the Bookkeeper, Trainer, Hirer, Firer, Coach, Plumber, Counselor, Therapist, etc. for so many people each and every day. I gave my blood, sweat, and tears to the company gladly because it gave me a sense of purpose [and a paycheck]. I left work feeling like I’d made a difference in someone’s world almost every day of the twelve years I worked there and all of a sudden, I felt empty. I felt like, even though I had my own family and beautiful kids to take care of and raise, I didn’t have a purpose. I learned a month or so later that my boss was fired as well, she’d been with the company for nearly twenty years. It was just a shame, really. I also found out that even though this woman “pretended” that she had no idea where her son was for three days, she actually knew exactly where he was because several of my staff saw her with her kid and the Dad. The whole stinkin’ thing was a hoax and three genuine, hard-working people lost their jobs because of her immaturity. While I don’t wish any ill-will to the woman who caused all of this, I do know that what comes around goes around, and I’m quite certain it did in her case as well. The good news was that I won my unemployment claim and didn’t even have to fight for it because the judge couldn’t get a decent answer from the corporation as to why I was fired in the first place. I didn’t do anything wrong. That’s the bad thing about the State of Washington, it’s an at-will state, and therefore, employment is at-will, so there was no way for me to fight for my job back, even though that was what I really wanted.

I started looking for ways to fill up my time while I searched for a new job. I found a lot of you on Facebook and Twitter and started building relationships. I started listening to Disney shows online and that made me happy. What was super hard for me was that I was really well-known in my community and the situation was just an outrage to everyone who knew about it. I couldn’t even go to the grocery store or to get my nails done without running into someone I knew wanting to know what happened. I got so tired of explaining the story and the more I explained it, the more angry and depressed I got as the days went on. That was about when my husband heard about a job opening coming open in Savannah. It would be his same position with the same company, only his territory would be a whole lot smaller. We got to talking about it and decided to go for it. What was the worst that could happen? We’d hate it and move back? Ok, that’s do-able, right?

Last Friday was our two-year mark of pulling into Savannah. I’d really love to tell you that the decision to move here was the best one we’ver ever made, but we’re not quite there yet. At least I’m not. I’m still pretty homesick, as I described in a previous article. I have actually been looking for a job since we moved here. I never imagined it would be this difficult to find one, especially with all the experience I’ve had. I’ve gone on so many interviews that I’ve lost count. I have no desire to run a childcare center and it seems that when people look at my resume, they see that I have the most experience there and look no further. It’s a pretty sad state of affairs. I have managed to find a job working from home answering incoming calls. It’s not my ideal job. I’m not passionate about it. It doesn’t pay much, but it is better than nothing at all.

I had lunch last week with Rene Syler from Good Enough Mother, and we talked about the article she wrote about being fired. I really loved her article and she encouraged me to share my story because I’m still so very upset about it and it’s been almost three years already. She told me that we all heal in our own way and in our own time, and for this sensitive girl, it’s taking a while. Thank you, Rene, for encouraging me to share my story!

My friend Traci also wrote a really fabulous article today about her job experience last year and it really got me thinking about why I have been lacking the drive and motivation I once had. I’m not even as active online as I used to be. I think it’s time for me to get out of my own way! Thank you, Traci, for always being as honest and open as ever and for opening my eyes today on this hot and humid afternoon in Savannah!


  1. Jackie, I AM SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO PROUD of YOU!!!!!  This was no easy task and I have tears in my eyes for all you’ve been through!!!  Thursday is your birthday and you have just given yourself the best birthday gift ever!!!!  You have freed yourself from the bondage of the past three years and have a wonderful future ahead of you!!!  I can hardly wait to see what’s ahead for you and wish you lots of love and bunches of GREAT STUFF!!!  You’re on your way now!!!!  I love you, mom

    • jjzmgailey says:

      Thanks so much, Mom!!!! Your support truly means the world to me!!! It’s taken me a really long time to find the courage to write and post this article. I’m glad to have it off my chest, that’s for darn sure!!!

  2. I know you already know this, but you are more than any “J-O-B” you will hold. What you write and share with others is meaningful. You are like a ray of sunshine in person and I hope writing this will help cast away those last few lingering clouds that might otherwise block your glow. Surrounding yourself with great mentors is moving you towards the great big beautiful tomorrow that lies ahead! Love ya!   

    • jjzmgailey says:

      Sherry, you are so sweet! I know that if I keep doing what I’m doing, it will once again feel like I’m accomplishing something good! It’s so crazy how our jobs can be such a HUGE part of who we are sometimes! Thank you so much for your sweet words! Love ya back!

  3. Jackie, It was good to read your article today as I sit updating my resume after getting “let go” from a job I had with the same person for well over 14 years.  I even moved with her from one company to another and to be told you are no longer need, after planning her daughter’s birthday party’s, their vacations, living through her divorce and that is only some of the personal stuff on did on top of my real job, really took my breath away.  Now what makes it worse is I know that they now have the 30 year old working for them, who I helped train.  Like you said what goes around comes around and some day it will.  Thank you for sharing your life with us, it aways good to know you are not in the boat alone!  One of your Disney Friends!!

    • jjzmgailey says:

      I’m so glad you took the time to read my article, Judy! Thank you so much! I bet you feel like they just ripped away part of you too. It’s such a horrible feeling. I do know that what goes around ALWAYS comes around…sometimes sooner, sometimes later, but it always does. I wish you the best of luck on your job search too! I appreciate your friendship!!! :)

    • Judy this is almost identical to what happened to my sis-in-law a few months ago ..she too moved with the boss from one company to another and was let go after 19 yrs of service (personal & professional) to be replaced by a 20 something gal.  On next job I’m sure she will be just as dedicated, professional & hard working – the only thing I hope for is that one remembers your Boss can never be your Friend – not in the ‘real’ sense  Oregon like Washington is an at-will state.. sad for my sis-in-law as being replaced for being too old is not a good reason for dismissal and really that was it.  She challenged it through the State but lost.  Jackie although I have not experienced your traumatic departure from a job, I am living it through my sis-in-law.  Now even more than I already do – I am going to try harder to let her know what a valuable person she is  – much like you Jackie, a very loving, kind spirit and an amazing woman.   Hopefully next time I’m in FL you can find time to meet up with us.  Happy thoughts coming your way HUGGS !

  4. Jackie…I am so happy you wrote this! And I wish I could drive over and hug you and then go out for coffee with you. This was a great blog post and I hope it helped a little bit. I know how hard it is to get over a bad work situation but just know that your friends are here for you! Love you!!! xoxo

    • jjzmgailey says:

      Yay!! Me too!! I wish more than anything that you could drive over and have coffee with me!!!! I need a hug!!! Love you back!! <3

  5. lynnsc08 says:

    Jackie – what a great post! I hope you find your perfect job very soon. You’re an amazing person and I’m thankful our paths have crossed.  I’m not too far if you ever want to get together for lunch or something :)

    • jjzmgailey says:

       Aww, thanks Lynn! I am super happy that our paths have crossed too! You’re a doll and we REALLY need to do lunch! I’m off Sundays and Mondays right now…that may change real soon though. We need to make this happen! :)

  6. Wow, Jackie! That’s really a lot of have to deal with. I hope that writing this proves to be therapeutic for you and you’ll find it easier to move forward from here on out. I wish you best and hope you find work that you’re passionate about soon. Hang in there, lady. You’re pretty amazing!!

  7. Hi Jackie, nicely done – sharing this that is. I don’t normally spend the time reading entire posts – I skim them.  I started to skim yours and kept going back to get the details.  I gave in and read the entire post.  

    So sorry you were affected so negatively by what happened. Wish there were the right words to say to make it all better. There really isn’t.  Things happen in life – many because we cause them or had a direct influence on them happening. Some, like in your case, come about because we live in a imperfect world. Some people call it bad luck, others (myself included) call it the result of a sinful world.

    Regardless of how you see the world, sometimes it’s easier to let go of pain like you’re feeling when you allow yourself some grace. Don’t look at what happened (being fired) as something that was done against Jackie, but because the world we live in is broken. 

    I read how hard you worked, and how you brought the place back to a wonderful daycare.  Something to be proud of. You are obviously a hard worker and part of who you saw yourself as was tied to your job. You are what you were created to be, that is, you are still that person that was able to make something good out of that place. You’re still that same person.

    There is another place out there that is looking for someone like you. rewrite your resume with a different perspective.

    Jackie, I am going to pray for you and your family for the coming days as you and your story come to mind.  Not sure if you are a believer or not, but I wish you the peace and grace that come from Christ.


    • jjzmgailey says:

      Thank you! Rich, I have to tell you, I’m just tickled that you kept going back for the details and gave in! That’s really fun!!!

      Thank you so very much for your words of inspiration and encouragement, and for reminding me that I am still that same person who once made a really big difference in that childcare center. I really needed to hear that because I’ve really been feeling like I’m not…especially lately.

      I’m a strong believer in everything happening for a reason. Sometimes when things happen, I’m not quite sure what the reasons are exactly, but there always is one. Good, bad, or indifferent! I agree with what you said about our broken world, sad, but true. It’s so refreshing to have people in my life who remind me not to take this situation so personally. Thank you for that reminder.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to write. I truly appreciate your kind words and you keeping our family in your prayers! It really means the world to us!


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