Q&A: Balancing a career with school-aged children?

Laura writes:

"My question is about balancing work with school-aged children.  I have 3 kids: this fall they will be in 3rd grade, kindergarten (all-day), and pre-school.  I have worked part-time since my oldest was born and it's been a pretty good arrangement.  They've done well in child care and I enjoy the mix of working and stay-at-home mom stuff.  I've always planned to go back to full-time work, or at least almost full time, when my youngest is in school all day.  My part-time job is good and it's kept my foot in the door of my field, but it's not a career-track job.  I can't see myself doing this job long-term.  We don't need a second income, but I do enjoy working in my field.

So, I'm starting to think ahead to what I want to do when all the kids will be in school, and it seems like it's only going to get MORE complicated, not less.  I'm assuming I'll need after-school care, but when do we fit in extra-curriculars?  It seems like before-school care plus after-school activities is too much.  If we do the activities on the weekend, when will we have family time?  And then there's the summer– babysitters vs. expensive camps.  When do I get to enjoy hanging out with my kids?  With my oldest in school all-day now, I'm realizing how little time we actually spend with him and I want to be around for the time we do have together.  I can only imagine it getting more difficult when we have 3 kids competing for limited after-school and weekend time.

Finally, there are my kids' opinions to take into account.  My oldest can verbalize what he wants and he likes coming home after school to read, play, practice piano, go to soccer, etc.  He wants to spend the summer at home with us, not with a sitter or at a camp.  And I get that.  My mom was home and I loved lazy summer days at home with my family.  School can be stressful and it's nice to decompress in a safe space with your own people.

I guess I feel like I'm missing something.  Everyone talks about getting back into your career when your kids are in school, but how does it work?  Has anyone found themselves working less, or not at all, once their kids reach school age?  And if you're successfully working full-time, how do you balance everything?"

Heck if I know. Seriously. I can't even balance working at home with two kids. I feel like my oldest never gets enough time to just hang out and be himself without his brother around, and like I never get enough time with them that's just fun, goof-around time (part of my custody arrangement that I never anticipated until it was too late).

The one thing I do have going for me is an awesome, awesome babysitter who loves them like she's their aunt. So I know when they're off school and I'm working she's having fun with them. She takes them to the zoo or to Central Park (two summers ago she literally bumped into Bono with his kids in one of the paddleboats in the Pond), or just lets them hang out in their pajamas all day and decompress if that's what they feel like.

But, as they get older and our situation changes and she leaves to get a different job (she finished her college degree in December), I honestly don't know what's going to happen. And you're right. Summer camp is fun, but it's not for all kids. And when do *you* get to have fun with them? And how many activities do they want to do, and how do the activities of one affect the others?

I remember when my older one became a toddler at around 13 months or so and the energy suddenly changed. I went from taking physical care of him to taking emotional and logistical care of him. And part of me was relieved that he wasn't physically on me all the time anymore, but the increased difficulty of the emotional needs hit me harder than I knew it would. And then each progressive energy shift seemed not necessarily to be harder, but just way more complicated.

So I think it just gets harder and harder until the kids start to take a lot of responsibility for their own schedules, at which point they're gone from you anyway.

Does anyone with slightly older kids have any tips? How do you possibly manage to find any space for your family in the middle of work and school and everything that has to get done? Or does it just seem to fall into place?


I'm going to use May to play around with topics and formats, so please register for anything you like, and pass the registration info on to your friends.

Upcoming classes:

Welcoming a New Sibling webinar

May 7, 9 pm EST


This 40-minute web-based session will
cover all the bases leading up to the birth and the days after
welcoming a new sibling into your family. Covers your older child's
fears and behavior changes, as well as best practices to integrate
the new baby into the family.

Register here:

Or if you can't see the button, click through this link:

Baby's Here–What Do We Do With a
Sibling? webinar

May 13, 9 pm EST


This 40-minute web-based session will
cover what to do in the days and weeks after your second child
arrives. How to deal with your older child's needs while taking care
of the new little person without losing your mind are the focus.

Register here:

Or if you can't see the button, click through this link:

β€œDon't Put Me Down, Don't Leave The
Room, And Did I Mention I Hate Daddy?”

A webinar on making it through that
clingy 20-24-month-old phase without losing it

Thursday, May 28, 9:30 pm EST


This hour-long web-based session will
give you some insight, perspective and tools for dealing with this
brutally intense clingy phase right around two years. What you learn
in this class should help you ride the wave of annoyance instead of
falling into anger or self-doubt.

Register here:

Or if you can't see the button, click through this link:

Elephant in the room

Let’s talk swine flu. 6,000 people in Mexico have it, with 100+ deaths. And the first US death, or a 23-month-old in Texas. And now Germany’s reporting it.

Yesterday I missed the school bus and took my older one to school. There was a girl wearing a mask walking into the school.

This morning I asked my older son if he’d heard of it, and he said his teaching said it was “going around the school.” I’m sure that’s an exaggeration, but it may not be in another few weeks.

I think we all know the best precautions:
1. Wash your hands.
2. Take care of yourself (sleep/good foods/water/laughter/vitamins/exercise).
3. If you feel sick, go to the doctor.

Can we talk about how we talk about it to our kids? And if you want to express fears, go ahead.

Q&A: killing bugs inside the house

If you're thinking about signing up for the "Release the Yelling" class, do it today or tomorrow, so you don't miss the first email Friday morning! If you signed up and haven't gotten a confirmation email, check your spam file. You should have gotten one receipt from Paypal and another one with a link you had to click through to confirm that you were on the list.

Also, I'm thinking about doing a webinar (sorry, but I can't think of another good word for a web-based seminar with movement and sound) on that weird stage from 20-24 months when they have separation anxiety or only want one parent and get all sorts of strange fears. I'll schedule it for the week after Labor Day, and will put up more info when I have everything scheduled.

And now for a small question to lighten the load after yesterday's topic. "No name" writes:

"Now that spring has sprung a few bugs have snuck into the house.  How do I explain killing bugsto my 3.5 year old?  I want him to respect living things.  I personally
don't have a problem stepping on an ant in the house, but I'm not sure
how to ethically explain the difference to him?  I don't want him to
become a bug killer and stomp on every bug he sees on the sidewalk. 
What's the best way to explain it, while still showing respect for life
that a 3.5 year old can understand? "

It would never have occurred to me that this would be an issue. I always thought that bugs outside were in their homes and should be left alone, and bugs inside were in my home and were therefore fair game to be squished.

Is this cruel? (I also don't feel lots of sympathy for those people who jump into the polar bear cages at the zoo and then get mauled, but would feel awful if a person was attacked by a bear inside a house.) What do you do or teach your kids?

Battle for Terra movie contest

The movie Battle for Terra is coming out this Friday. It's an animated film about an alien world that humans invade when our own planet is destroyed by our excesses. The movie is really only for ages 10 or 12 and up because of some complex themes (and decisions characters have to make that I didn't want my 7-year-old to think about), but it's beautifully designed and the story is a twist on the classic "alien invasion" theme.

They're running a contest for 3rd to 8th graders with a grand prize of a California community service adventure on the website here. It looks like a very cool prize, so if you have older kids who are interested in animated action movies and conservation, check out the movie and the contest.

Q&A: Abuse/Neglect/Closure?

Our own commenter enu writes:

"Friday's column has been bringing up all sorts of bad stuff that's never far from the surface for me.  So here's my question:  I have been living under a cloud of suspicion since my older daughter was 5
months old, and we were investigated for child abuse/neglect b/c she was underweight.  I've felt I had to parent in such a way as to look good, rather than follow my gut, ever since then.  It's been a tense
20 years!!!!  We were never told the investigation was over or what the findings were.

Tomorrow my younger child turns 18, and we become DSS-proof.  I would like to tell the state and everyone who dealt with us how much misery they caused our family, and basically to tell them all to take a big, cosmic flying F—–…. er, flying fish.

In the end, I guess, we did show them.  My kids are just incredible young adults.  We are all very close, they have very bright futures ahead, it's all good. Living well, best revenge, etc.

Nevertheless, I feel I need closure on this 2 decade long reign of terror.  So maybe whenever people start talking about reporting people to DSS for this or that I won't risk a stroke ;-)  Any ideas?  Anyone else live with false allegations and find a way to move on?"

I've known about enu's situation for a decade now (we've been friends for that long, but have never met IRL–go figure!) and have known how much of a shadow it's cast over her parenting, especially parenting in public.

Maybe that's one reason I never joke about reporting anyone to CPS (although I occasionally joke about someone reporting *me* to CPS). I know how much damage it can do to a family. And one of my friends who used to work for the DA's office said that reporting someone is a very common method of revenge in some neighborhoods, because everyone knows it takes months if not years to completely clear yourself of the allegations.

Readers? Do you have any comments on this for enu? Has anyone else been in a similar situation? I suspect that there may be some people with similar kinds of traumas from nasty custody battles, or from life-threatening illnesses, but  don't know if those compare in any meaningful way.

Q&A: Does it matter how friends talk to their kids in front of yours?

"Release the Yelling" class starts a week from today. Sign up now!

Anonymous writes:

"I am fortunate to live on a friendly street where all the kids play together and the families are all friendly with one another.  It is really nice to have a social outlet at the end of a day spent alone with two young children (2.5 y/o and 6 mo boys).  The kids play most afternoons, so we see a lot of the neighbors.  It is exactly the situation I was hoping to find when we moved here last year. 

The problem I am having is the way one of the other mothers speaks to her children.  Of course I would never say anything, but she can be really unkind and kind of nasty to her girls.  I feel her reactions are far out of proportion to the girls' behavior, which is typical for a 3 and 4 year old.  They are really very good girls.  I know she loves her girls and they are well cared for.  I am sure that the time of day that we usually see each other (4:30-6:00) has a lot to do with her frustration level. 

My concern is how my two year old perceives the way she speaks to her kids.  I want him to be kind and respectful and her behavior is anything but.  He is starting to repeat the words, inflection, and attitudes we display in our home, for better or worse.  My husband and I are both striving to be kind and respectful even as we are disciplining our older son (and the younger one too, when it is time).  We are not always successful, of course, he is two after all, but the "Super Nanny" style of using a firm voice, making eye contact, and following through with discipline (time outs, loss of privileges, etc) usually works for our son.  We do not resort to sarcasm or belittling or name calling.  Of course I am not perfect and it has been hard to see some of my bad habits reflected in his behavior.  But that is what concerns me. 

Sometimes the things my neighbor says to her girls makes me cringe.  If she was a character on a TV show, I wouldn't let my son watch it.  If it was another child acting this way, it would be easier for me to say "That isn't how we speak to people," etc, but since it is another adult, I am at a loss.  Does he pick up on her behavior?  Could being in that situation several times a week affect him?  He seems to be very perceptive of our moods.  I am worried about him being around such negativity.  I don't feel like I am framing this question very well, but I hope you get the gist of what I am asking."

This is the line from your email that hit me: "If she was a character on a TV show, I wouldn't let my son watch it." That's really enough for me to think that the mom's mode is not appropriate.

Unfortunately, I don't know what to do. I'm in the same situation, in that the dad of a friend of one of my sons is belittling and just way too nasty to his son. I don't think my kids are picking up on it, mostly because my ex-husband and I have agreed that we don't want them to hear it. We've made an agreement to try to keep our kids away from that dad when he's talking that way to his son. That's something you could do–distract your son with a toy or game when the mom's in belittling mode so he isn't really listening to her. Soon he'll be older and will have a gut feel for the way he's treated and that it's not the same as all other kids are treated by their parents. (Unfortunately, that opens up another can of worms if you get any "Mom, why does X's mom do Y? Doesn't she love him?" questions. Yeesh.)

The bigger problem, though, and the one that makes me worry, is what's happening to the kids who are being belittled. I don't know how to say to another parent "The way you talk to your child is hurting him" without completely ruining the relationship. And I don't care about my relationship with this man (although I'd miss his wife), but then what happens to his son? He loses my son's friendship, and is just that much more isolated from people who think he should be treated kindly.

Does anyone know what to do? Sometimes I think bearing witness and being kind of him myself might be enough. But at other times I think someone needs to let the kid know (even if it doesn't sink in with the dad) that that way of talking isn't right. But is the risk of further isolation worth it? Is there a way to educate the parent without offending him or her? Has anyone done this successfully?

Product Review: Asus Eee PC laptop

Since I'm reviewing things anyway, let me review my laptop that I've had for a few months.

I got the Asus Eee PC 904, which is a teeny tiny little thing (I named her Ava). I was looking for something a) cheap, and b) tiny, and she's both. Only US$320 (and free shipping), she runs XP and has 160 GB of storage. Intel Atom processor. 6 hour battery life. And she warms up really quickly (in about 10 seconds from off to ready to go).

My needs are the internet, writing, and storing phootos and MP3s, and she's a champ for all of that. And I can just toss her in my shoulder bag and go. She's a dream at the airport, and a conversation piece in public.

There are some quirks:

  • The screen is only 8.9 inches diagonally, so it's a little small and you have to get used to it. It wouldn't be right if you do a ton of photo editing.
  • The keyboard is a little narrow. I think my hands are about as big as you'd want to have to type on it. (I wear a size 7 1/2 shoe US/38 European, if that helps you know how big my hands are.) I can't imagine it working well for a man, although it would be perfect for a kid.
  • She has no disc drive. Three USB ports, so you can put in a flash drive, but no CDs/DVDs. (There's a really detailed review on Amazon.com telling how to network the Eee with another laptop on your home wireless and loading a CD onto the other laptop and then moving it onto the Eee, if you're interested.)

Other than that, though, the Eee is surprisingly robust and easy to use. I recommend it as a second laptop, a travel laptop, a laptop for a child, or a laptop for an adult woman who doesn't need a big screen. You absolutely can't beat the price. (I mentioned it was just over three hundred bucks?)

Awesomeness: Sleep blog from Isabela Granic

Isabela Granic wrote me yesterday to thank me for the review, and to tell me that she's started a blog to talk about the developmental stuff behind the sleep stuck spots. Here's what she said:

"Hi everyone,
I can't tell you how surreal and fantastic it feels to have Moxie review our book. I've been a LOOOONG-time reader and love this site and all the fabulous people that are part of it.

Just so you know, I have tentatively started a blog to discuss the developmental issues raised in Bed Timing, to put up some of the research studies that the book is based on, and to provide a space where people could ask specific questions about their own sleep-teaching/training issues. I have been incredibly inspired by Moxie and the ethos she has developed through this site and I'm in no way capable of providing her level of wisdom. That's not something I'm even shooting for. What I CAN provide, I think, is some developmental theory and studies that might help us think about sleep issues. Because I am still quite passionate about cognitive and emotional development as it applies to children's sleep, it
just basically felt wrong stopping the discussion when the book was finished.

Also, if you're not sure you want to invest in another sleep book, you can browse through the contents of the book (link is on the blog) and see if you think it's worth your while.

http://www.bedtiming.typepad.com/ "

Cool, huh? Please pop on over and read the posts she's got up already (I particularly like the one about hating the term "sleep training" but having gotten over it.) And if you've read my stuff on sleep regressions and thought, "Yeah, but WHY?" go ask her, because she knows.

Also, I'm just going to say that not only did I tell everyone so (about the 4 months and the 9 months and the 18 months, etc.), but my mom has been saying for years that 6 months is a great time to switch your sleeping arrangement. So she's been telling everyone so, too. πŸ˜‰ I bet your mom or grandma will read the book and start nodding her head in vindication, too.

Hey, did you sign up for my class yet? it starts in 8 days, so sign up now.