If I thought life felt like a roller coaster with a toddler around, it is nothing compared to the ride when a child goes to school. Cara and I were talking about this the other evening: many moms feel they should be home when their little ones are infants, but it could just be those school years when real flexibility is needed.
Consider my situation, for example. Little One goes to preschool every morning from 9 a.m. to noon. That right there is a challenge for a working mom. Most offices want you at your desk around 8:30. And then, what do you do with your child in the afternoon? Even when they’re in grade school or high school, they’re getting out around 2 p.m. Lots of “potential-for-getting-into-trouble” hours lie between then and 6 p.m., when Mom’s likely to get off work. Of course, you line up a sitter, but you’ve got to account for the added drama of having that person pick your child up every day.
On top of that, Little One’s school is part of the public school system, and they canceled classes two days in a row right at the start of the semester when the heat became dangerous. (Most of those schools have no AC – can you believe it?) If I were working full-time in an office, I would probably have lined up my week just-so, taking a couple days vacation to help Little One get adjusted. Canceled classes would have thrown everything off. And I shudder to think about snow days!
That’s why I have really appreciated my flexible, work-from-home schedule. I am able to drop Little One off at school, then work for a few hours before pick-up time. Three afternoons a week, a friend takes her, along with her own son who goes to the same school, and I have a full day of uninterrupted work time. On days when she doesn’t go to the sitter, I complete tasks on my “to-do” list while she’s napping or after she’s in bed at night.
It sounds ideal, I know, but I still feel pressure and, yes, even guilt. Because the work needs to get done. In some ways, a flexible schedule means juggling even more because the work is always with you. I may be able to take the time to bring my child home and play with her a bit in the afternoon, but I’m always thinking about what’s next workwise. And she still spends time at a sitter, which I know won’t kill her, but at a time when she’s going through so many transitions I do feel a little twinge at leaving her, first with teachers at school and then with somebody else for the rest of the day.
I guess it just reminds me about how much we all juggle. I’m starting to think it’s all just part of being a parent, no matter what your situation is: Constant change, constant compromise – plus that constant feeling that they’re growing up way too fast. What happened to my little baby? She’s a schoolgirl now!