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?

0 thoughts on “Q&A: Balancing a career with school-aged children?”

  1. I’ve worked full-time all along; my kids are now 2.5 and 5.5. For summer camps, there are some that are not outrageously expensive (at least, compared to paying for day care!) – we have had success with the YMCA as a good provider that allows for working parent schedules. (There are many day camps that are reasonably priced but geared only to SAHPs – hours 9-3.) Before and afterschool at the school are inexpensive too, and once the kids are older they get their homework done there so there’s less slog-through-homework time (can you tell I am anti-homework for small children?) at home and more family time.I do feel like we have good “hanging out” time at home. We all get home together at 5:30 and bedtime doesn’t start until 8pm, so we often play outside and hang with neighbors before/after dinner. We pretty much spend all weekend together. What we’ve cut in order to be able to do this with both parents working full-time is extra-curriculars for both kids and parents. We’re lucky in that after-school has a Tae Kwan Do class twice a week (extra fee), and Casper loves that, and they’ve had occasional art and dance classes come in. But we don’t do soccer (tried once and she didn’t like it and the schedule was very hard for us) or swim lessons or music. And the parents don’t do much in the way of extracurriculars either – our standing date is for lunch during the week, so we don’t take away from family time.

  2. I forgot to say, in the (wonderful) book about working mothers and why some choose to stay home, Opting Out, many of the mothers worked when their kids were small and became SAHMs when the kids got to school – the complex logistics and emotional issues of parenting *older* children were the straw that overloaded their families. It is a hard transition. I used to think it would get easier once my kids were in school, but nope.http://www.amazon.com/Opting-Out-Women-Really-Careers/dp/0520256573/ref=pd_sim_b_2

  3. I’m so glad to see this question and will be reading avidly today.We actually have kept my son in his Montessori for the next year in part because managing the 1/2 day junior kindergarten to part-time daycare shuffle loomed so large (and we didn’t particularly like the at-school care solution).
    His Montessori offers martial arts, yoga, dance, and painting in “afterschool” hours so his extra curriculars are sort of easily rolled in (not that a 3.5 yr old NEEDS them).
    I have NO idea what we are going to do next year or the years thereafter. This might be when I look for in-home daycare with someone with a child of similar age and interests, but how easy is that going to be? Not very. There’s the afterschool nanny, also a rare bird in my area it seems, and family which is wobbly at best. I might have to look into au pairs or something.
    Summers to me are sort-of ehn. I like the concept of the lazy idyllic summer but I suspect in reality it would be not so fun. Maybe that’s because I think I would have to police too much about media, or because I fear letting my child loose on the neighbourhood for days which is what we did.
    From about 12 on I always worked in the summers as a mother’s helper, daycare helper, counsellor, fast food, etc., when I wasn’t at camp.
    But times are really really different now.
    Anyways, curious as all get out.

  4. I’m a SAHM, so I don’t have actual experience, but many people I know who have these kinds of problems have ‘solved’ them by working on an academic calendar (public / private school, university, etc). That way you can keep the same schedule as your kids and don’t have to worry about, say, summertime childcare. There are TONS of jobs in the school system that do not involve teaching if that’s not your bag.I’m a completely burned-out former teacher and I do plan to work once the children are in school full time, but I REALLY don’t want to go back to the classroom. However, keeping the same schedule they’ll have is hard to turn down. Working in the shcool system is a GREAT option for families.

  5. Let me tell you, this looms large for me, really… as what I do is busy for the academic year, but TWICE as busy in the summer (I do field research and this means for me that come mid April I am really really busy every day all day until mid september.I have no idea what I’m going to do when he is in school, and was just considering this and figuring that college age summer nanny might be the only realistic option, even if he goes to some sort of camp, there is no way I can completely adhere to those hours.
    Will read tonight with interest… off to the field!

  6. I’ve worked full-time since my oldest was a little over a year old (I worked part-time when he was an infant, following a disastrous attempt to go back to work full time after 12 weeks’ maternity leave). And I still have something that is more of a job than a career. I shifted my hours so I can meet the school bus; my husband does drop-off.I too felt bad about not giving my kids the lazy summers they wanted, but then I realized that my SAHM mother had signed us up for every day camp in sight, both for our sake and for hers. We’d have been whining about being bored and having nothing to do all summer long otherwise, despite the fun we had riding our bikes to the pool, disappearing into the woods for hours, and generally occupying ourselves in ways my kids — and most kids today — can’t safely do.
    I am learning as I go, and I don’t think I’ll try to send my introvert to spring break camp ever (he is going to summer camp, and he is not excited). I am lucky in that I have lots of leave, a portable job, and a very understanding boss. So I can telecommute when one of my kids is sick; I can volunteer at some school events; I can work at home while waiting for the repair guy. Still, it is hectic, and you don’t want to know how poorly I have on occasion behaved when my husband has been out of town and I’ve been doing it on my own. (Hint: VERY poorly.)

  7. I have to say I never thoroughly worked this one out – I tried SAH, WAH, WOHPT (and WOHPT for the school system, which as another poster mentioned has some serious bennies, although the job stank!) and eventually went FT when my youngest was in high school.I don’t think there’s any one good answer that will meet every family’s needs, and you need to be open to change.
    Eventually, the problem goes away… ;-(

  8. I also thought that if you LIKE working part-time and your family doesn’t NEED a full-time income, why not just stay part-time so these kinds of issues don’t become overwhelming? It sounds like there’s no imperative to go back to work full-time once the children are in school, so if it’s going to be more stress that it’s worth, why do it? Maybe the answer is to wait to go back full-time until, like Moxie said, the kids are more independent and able to manage their schedules more on their own.

  9. Such a great question. My two are still little (2 1/2 and 1) and my husband I have both worked full time for the duration. It has worked out fairly painlessly through a combination of a great daycare situation and flexible work environments but it’s the school-age quandry that really makes my stomach drop. I want a parent to be home when my kids get home and the idea of staying at afterschool care (especially in the dark of winter) makes my heart ache. The first problem with a friend that I’m not available to help with? the idea makes me cry.I am hoping that either my husband or I can switch to part-time or some other arrangement, possibly waiting until the younger one is in Kindergarten (with the idea that since both of our careers were “maintained” throughout the heavy parenting years, we could resume full time schedules once the kids are away at college/highschool).
    I would love to hear if any one has done this and how it has worked out.

  10. I just want to mention what I’ve noticed is the great irony of staying at home, part time or full time: how much you enjoy it seems directly proportional to how much backup support you have.I took nine months off when my son was born and since then have been working part time, four days a week. This is working well for me (despite an hour+ commute) mostly because I have a husband who more than pulls his weight with parenting and household tasks and I live five minutes away from my wonderful in-laws. My Wednesdays off wouldn’t work nearly as well if I didn’t have my husband to help us get organized in the morning and my mother-in-law as a pinch-hitting babysitter.
    Public school here in France starts at age three, and we have generous family leave possibilities until then. School days are longer, with classes until five o’clock and care options until at least six, but there is no school on Wednesday. Many women work four days a week for most of their careers for this reason. When my son turns three in just over a year, I’ll have to choose; if I stay part time after that, going back full time will only be possible at my employer’s discretion (which in this economic climate most likely means not at all).
    On the one hand, I can’t wait for my son to be old enough to do more sophisticated things together than outings to the playground. I’m waiting (sometimes not so patiently) for the day we’ll be able to take kid-and-mom art or gym classes together, or I can take him out to explore Paris for an entire afternoon. And helping my son become truly literate in English may also be easier if we can spend one full day a week reading, writing, and talking together.
    On the other hand, I don’t know if I want to be mommy-tracked, as is almost inevitable if I stay part time.
    I’ll have to admit, the 25-minute-long tantrum I fielded yesterday (rather ineffectively, apparently) made me wonder why I’m not working full time right now.

  11. Do you live near a college or university? I work at a university in a 75% position and I find that colleges in general are very open to reduced schedules like mine. A 75% position translates into a six-hour a day workweek so you would probably be around to see your kids off to school and then be there when they get back (as long as you don’t have a long commute). The work environment and benefits are also amazing. A friend of mine works at a small liberal arts college in a 75% position, receives full benefits, and only works the nine months out of the year that correspond to spring and fall semesters since her small college basically shuts down in the summer.One other option might be for you to go back to school and getting a teaching degree. You would probably need some daycare during the school year but then you would have summers off which it sounds like is important to you.

  12. “the 25-minute-long tantrum I fielded yesterday (rather ineffectively, apparently)”But maybe it was going to be a 50-minute tantrum, and you reduced it by half!

  13. Also, I’m a little weirded out by people suggesting someone get a teaching degree for the hours. First, if the teachers at my kids’ school are anything to go by, your schedule during the year is going to be a killer — getting there around 7, leaving around 5. Plus, I don’t think liking the hours is going to be enough to sustain someone — I mean, would you go into medicine because it would make getting dressed easier?

  14. We currently have 2 school aged children and we’re somewhat over extended this semester. Oldest (15y, 9th grade, not driving yet) has Boy Scouts and tutoring. Middle (6y kindy) has Daisy Girl Scouts and T-ball. Youngest (16 mos) is along for the ride. Her hobbies are climbing and learning new words. DH has volunteering for Boy Scouts with the troop, oldest’s old Cub Scout pack, and the district. Girl Scout troop leader was recently diagnosed with Lupus, so I’m looking at stepping up to help out more (but I was also the cookie chair and have planned the next troop outing). T-ball has practice 2 nights a week and games on Saturday. Also, DH and I both work full time outside the house.Do I need to mention we have not used our Disney passes or Y memberships this year as much as I would have liked?
    Dude. I am so looking forward to summer when everything dials down a bit. Here are the hard parts: finding a chance for DH and I to reconnect; figuring out a plan for dinner – Daisys meets at 6:30 and t-ball practice is at 5:30 and tutoring one night is from 6-8; getting some vegetable time for me (I think DH and the kids are running short on vegetable time too). Google calendar (or some other shared family calendar system that works for you) is the best thing ever to help manage the situation – Everyone one has their own calendar (except the toddler) and there’s one for the menu too. The hard part is getting DH to add his events.

  15. My daughter isn’t old enough yet for me to have direct experience, but most of the people I know who work with school age kids use after school programs. The YMCA runs programs at most schools here (San Diego), and some families choose other programs, many of which run buses to the schools.In the summer, they do day camps or “college nannies” (college kids who need a summer job). The kids who go to day camps seem to have a blast. Surfing for a few weeks, and then on to photography camp, etc. I have joked with some coworkers that we’re jealous.
    There are jobs out there that have flexible schedules- I used to have one. I was a consultant/contractor and depending on the project I was on, I could choose to work from home a lot and set any schedule that worked for the customer. I was also able to switch to a 35 hour week (with accompanying drop in pay) after my daughter was born. My feeling is that it is very small companies and large companies that are more likely to give you this flexibility. My current medium size company doesn’t have anywhere near this flexibility. At my old job, there was one woman who arranged her schedule so that she could leave at 3, and be home for when her kids got home. There was another guy who worked at home almost all the time, so that he could be there when his kids got home. They were old enough that they played on their own while he worked, but he was there in case they needed him.
    And finally my philosophy on all of this is- you’re a smart person, and so is your spouse. You’ll figure out a way that works for you. I don’t mean to be flippant about it, but I really do think you’ll work something out IF working outside the home is something you really want to do. Looking back, Hubby and I have already figured out so much to make our two career family work. I never would have expected that going in.

  16. I certainly wouldn’t suggest that someone get a teaching degree JUST for the schedule. But if you are inclined to that type of work and are looking to establish a career, I think the schedule can definitely be an added benefit. My mom is a teacher and loved having the summers off. It was worth it to her to make the trade-off to work harder during the school year (although she was usually home quite early since her school started very early, it seems like you sacrifice either the beginning or end of the day with your kids when you are a teacher). My parent friends who are teachers also love the benefits of their schedule.It seems like the pull is between staying working part-time or establishing more of a “career” (hate that word, but not sure how else to distinguish the two). Laura, if you do want to establish a “career” there may be some expanded options for you if you are willing (and can afford to) go back to school.

  17. This is a big one for us…I have been working f/t outside the home (university prof) since my daughter was just months old. I have really struggled with guilt/anxiety of having her in (really very fine!) childcare ALL DAY. Because my work schedule is so flexible (don’t have to be doing things other than teaching at particular times), I often give in to the guilt & pick her up in the early afternoon. As a result I am falling behind on important work & am probably going to start paying the price for that in the very near future.
    I have been making a concerted effort to feel better about keeping to a full day schedule for her & for me. One thing that I keep reminding myself of is: my own mom was an “always there in the afternoon” mom, and it was really NOT GOOD for me. She managed the activities, controlled the space & the pace, and I never really got to develop my own resources. I wish that I had been given more of a chance to learn about the world & how I fit into it by myself.
    I’m really looking forward to reading other people’s take on this.

  18. My kids are still relatively little (oldest is 5) but what is working for us now with 2 FT parents is an au pair who drives and we do activities during the week based upon what we can get to and what is not too much. Right now oldest has 2 after school activities and middle has 1 which coincides with 1 of oldest. I think the key is really finding excellent help and for us at this stage that meant au pair/nanny. We have downtime in the evenings, even before school, and on the weekends. I think preserving downtime is important for every family, not just the “working” ones and it means saying no to a lot of things and limiting outside activities. I personally think that kids don’t have to go to EVERY birthday party, etc. And I think that the original poster was posting because she loved her career, so I’m not sure switching careers would really work for her. Personally, I’m an attorney and would hate teaching so that would not address anyone’s issues. I also value the job teachers do and think that entering the profession to get summers off is maybe not the best reason. Just my .02.

  19. How timely! Just last night I posted online that I love my husband and my kids but wonder when I ever get to wholeheartedly pursue *my* career. I guess I will read and see what others have said

  20. I agree that this is something that blind sides parents. I think my kids need me more than ever, and it is getting harder and harder for me to figure out what the help looks like.I am a SAHM mom with young children and school-age children. I have no idea what I will do for a career later. By the time I am ready to go back, I will have been out of my old field for so long, I think it is unlikely that I’ll be able to get a job there. Plus I will be so old (50-55) that it is hard to imagine starting a new career, or that it would be easy to get hired as a newbie anywhere. But I guess I will cross that bridge later….
    I did not anticipate being a SAHM. People who knew me 10 years ago would be shocked! But my husband has unpredictable hours that are totally outside his control, and my previous field is not daytime work, and there is almost no other way to make this work for our family. Plus, I like it more that I thought I would. My major problem is that I am the only SAHM I know, so I am super lonely at times.
    For me in some ways the summer is easier because there is so much less pressure to be places ON TIME. That pressure to hurry accounts for about 75% of my yelling.
    On the other hand, frankly I do get a little sick of them during summer. I am in a a pickle because I would really feel totally comfortable letting the big ones roam around unsupervised, because I am convinced that this is no more or less safe than it was when I was small.
    I have looked at the stats – it wasn’t as safe as we remember it then, and it is way safer that we imagine it is now! The only exception I see is the risk of getting hit by a car, which I do believe has risen substantially.
    The problem is 1) my kids would be the only ones – there are no other kids out there to play with because no else seems to feel the way I do, and besides none of the neighborhood kids seem to be in the neighborhood until dinnertime and 2) I worry that some one would report me for negligence.

  21. I have a 10 yr old stepson, a 3 yr old son and a baby boy due this summer. I’ve always worked but I’m going to part-time after my maternity leave (4 days a week) more to manage my commute and stress of getting 3 kids dressed and out the door than anything. Luckily my husband has a job where he doesn’t travel much and neither do I. Plus both of us have generous vacation benefits (4 weeks) and his job is actually closed down for the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Both of us have understanding bosses so working from home when one of the kids is sick isn’t a problem and neither is leaving early from time to time for kid activities. So we seem to manage ok. And with our previous jobs, we had shorter commutes and were usually home by 4:45 which left plenty of family downtime.My husband does leave work an hour early once a week to take my stepson to soccer/basketball practice. We are lucky in that there is a fabulous before/after care at my stepson’s school and some of his extracurriculars are done either immediately before or after school such a choir, etc. Plus we live maybe 5 minutes from our awesome community rec center which offers tons of fun activities, classes and camps.
    Right now my stepson only plays recreational sports so it’s usually just once a week but when he played in a soccer league, it wasn’t much more of a time commitment. Practice one night a week and a game on Sat. morning.This summer he has decided that he wants to take art lessons and my little one will be doing pee wee soccer with daddy on Sat. mornings.
    We do limit activities somewhat; mostly to keep the kids from being overwhelmed. But also to keep the weekends from being all activities and no family time.
    Frankly, when my husband was laid off and I was on maternity leave a few years ago, my stepson got bored very quickly. Plus in his case a lot of his friends were at the before/after care summer camp. This summer when I’m on maternity leave, we are going to have both boys doing some part-time camps to keep them from being bored.
    But I agree, if the OP is ok with her current job and doens’t need a 2nd income. Then I’d stick with the part-time schedule. Personally, I am so glad that my employer and our family financial situation is going to allow for me to go to part-time.

  22. God, this is discouraging.I tried working PT after maternity leave. It was a disaster with infant twins, so decided to stay home and pursue very small options like tutoring for a few hours a week. I have been coping with the loneliness and boredom by daydreaming about pursuing my own interests when everything is easier “because they are in school.” I tell myself I can handle sacrificing a few years of professional growth and experience in order to be with my children during these early years. So much for that delusion!
    I guess it’s good to have eyes wide open about the future and plan accordingly.
    Good topic.
    @mamie-I have often wondered about the safety then/now thing. Are we simply more *aware* of dangers than our parents were?

  23. Re: SafetyI grew up in a small town on a dead-end street that had acres of woods behind it, plus dinky streets on which we could ride our bikes to school (to use the playground) or the swim club.
    I live in a DC suburb surrounded by a lot of busy streets. So some of the safety issues for us are maybe a greater awareness of what could be dangerous, but a lot of it is that we’re in a different setting.
    Plus, yeah, not a lot of free-range kids in the neighborhood, at least until they’re in the double-digits in age.

  24. Am I the only person on the planet who believes in limiting extracurriculars? I am beginning to feel that way when my friends IRL complain about their five year old being overscheduled. One activity per semester (or at a time, like a short soccer season followed by T-ball or whatever) per kid is plenty, I think, especially when they are young. They still get to develop their interests without running everybody in the family ragged.The way I remember my parents working it out when they both worked full time is carpooling a LOT; there was always one parent available to take the kids and another to pick up. For example, maybe one mom gets home at 3 on Tuesdays and Thursdays so she takes the kids to soccer; you can wangle leaving at 5 so you do pickup. Then no one person gets stuck with everything. Or, one mom handles picking them up after practice and watching them until you get home, then you do pick up and dropoff for the Saturday or evening games.
    As for summers, we got that “hang out” experience by having outstanding babysitters. We had some crappy ones too, so ask around :-). We still talk about how great our one babysitter was — Jill. LOVED her.She was a lot like how Moxie describes her babysitter, just wonderful and fun and like a big sister to us.
    Also, many jobs around here (we’re very union so the 9-5 with no flexibility mentality is very much in effect) will allow people to work an extra hour every day during the summer to take off one day at noon. If both you and your husband were able to take advantage of this, it could free up a little family time during the summer.
    I’m realizing now I will have to worry about this next summer! My oldest starts kindergarten in the fall and we’ve always just gone to her preschool summer program, which she’ll be too old for the summer after this one. UGH. She’s been begging to go to Y day camp, which we might just let her do this summer for a week. It is really surprising to me how much the school experience is still geared toward there being one stay at home parent for transportation.

  25. I only have a few minutes to respond and haven’t read any of the comments, but the things Laura says she values: Time with the kids after school, decompressing time during the summer like she had when she was a kid, the flexibility to have some after school extra curriculars and some on the weekends so that there is still time on the weekends for family time….plus they don’t need the income….sounds like she knows what she wants to do but is feeling conflicted because of the phrase”Everyone talks about getting back into your career when your kids are in school, but how does it work?”
    I am wondering if it is something she wants *more* than the stuff she listed as important. I guess I’m trying to say does she want to work or does she feel like she has to work? Just because the kids are in school doesn’t mean everyone expects her to jump back into her career….I understand the part time thing is not mind-blowing or career centered….but it sounds like she really enjoys the flexibility of being both working and staying at home.
    ***Also, Moxie, could you outline please the part of the custody arrangement that you didn’t anticipate that is not working for you? If you are not comfortable posting it, could you email me with it? These are the kinds of things it would be helpful to know about early on instead of finding out later.
    Thanks.

  26. I’ve always hated the word “balance.” Maybe because my male colleagues with children never seemed to have to worry themselves with such concerns, but I digress. ;)My BFF who is a SAHM could’ve written what Laura the OP wrote. She has kids ages 7, 5, & 3. She identifies her current problem as two-fold: 1) Her kids are in way too many activities being held in too many different parts of town at the same time, so some activity will have to be given up if she goes to work, 2) She also hears that societal call to re-join the workforce in some paid, greater than part-time capacity, but can’t seem to find her passion right now. Coupled with a less-than-stellar job market, my guess is she’ll be a SAHM for the next couple of years unless something crazy unexpectedly good suddenly falls in her lap. Another irony: If she had to work for financial reasons she says her path would be clear, and she’d have a (non-dream) job ASAP… but I’m not so sure.

  27. @AmyinMotown…Nope, I’m with you and I wholeheartedly agree with limiting activies so that kids aren’t over-scheduled.My stepson just had his last soccer practice and we are taking a break for the next month until art classes start. With the exception of once a week choir practice after school to prepare for a special performance.
    In fact, other than a sign class when he was about a year old, my youngest had yet to be enrolled in any weekly activities. Instead, I have scheduled playdates and outings with other moms/kids the same age. We are only doing soccer with him this fall because daddy is dying to do so. 🙂

  28. Re: academic schedule/teaching jobsI agree that no one should go into teaching just for the schedule – fortunately anyone who thinks it’s an easy gig with summers off will probably be weeded out during their first day in a classroom with a thundering herd of five-year-olds or hormone-challenged teenagers. But keep in mind that there are many jobs at schools/colleges that don’t require a teaching degree – administrators, support staff, maintenance and grounds, food service, bookstore, etc. Some are year-round jobs but the workload decreases significantly in the summer and benefits like vacation and tuition remission are generous.

  29. Although my child is not yet school-aged, she will be starting preschool in the fall (we hope), and my husband and I have both been working full time since shortly after her birth (him 1 month after, me 3 months after).What we have done and plan to continue doing is adapting our schedules as much as work will allow. My husband gets up and goes in to work before my daughter and I get up so that he can be home by 4, when the nanny leaves and so he can pick her up in the fall (plus nanny for coming baby). I go into work later, after the nanny arrives, and will be doing drop offs at preschool. We hope to continue staggering our schedules as the kids get older.
    Also, as a child, some of my fondest memories of time spent with my dad were when I was taking gymnastics and he would take me and stay and watch on Saturday mornings. Even though I was in an extra-curricular activity, his just being there meant so much. And then we’d go out for lunch and have more quality time. So you don’t have to cut the activities to feel like you are spending quality time with your child.

  30. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. My girl is nearly 3, so we have two more school years before she’ll be off to full-day K. I work as a freelance writer 4 days/week from our house; she’s in daycare from about 7:45 am to 4 or so. School is 9 to 3… thus shortening my work day/hours available to bill significantly. What I’m thinking now is that the tradeoff will be that I’ll have that 5th school day to work — but I’ll still end up with a net loss in work hours. I guess I’ll have to get better at working in the evening, after bedtime… or just cut back a bit. I am SO looking foward to socking all those daycare payments into our retirement accounts, and can’t really foresee using before/after care, though a daycamp or two seems well within reason.The bonus for us is that my husband is a high school teacher in the district in which we live — so the two of them will be on the same schedule, if all goes as planned. It’s really hard to imagine how the summers, in particular, are going to work, with me being in my home office and them doing… whatever they do… all day. Perhaps we will invest in some more doors.

  31. Oh, and about the outside time and safety issues: I’m in Maine and it sounds corny, but we do really feel safe here. Kids roam around in packs, and it’s not at all unusual to hear one of the neighborhood moms standing on her porch, hollering for her kid(s). (Holy Leave It to Beaver, I know.)

  32. @Blythe – your description of non-classroom jobs is exactly what I meant about exploring job opportunities in education. There are TONS of jobs that keep an academic schedule but do not involve specialized training or classroom teaching.@Hush – I’m in the exact boat as your friend. I’m going to SAH as long as possible because I love it and I don’t have a burning passion to do something else. If I had to work FT I could probably do so pretty quickly. And be miserable. No thanks.

  33. Original poster here. Thanks, Moxie, for posting my question! And thanks to everyone for the great comments.I wanted to add a few more data points that might clarify my own situation. I currently work at a university, so I agree about the flexibility and great benefits. I’m a scientist but have gotten out of direct research and do more project management (and glorified administration, frankly). Like I said, my job has kept me somewhat current in my field and I’ve maintained contacts. But it’s not a situation I want to continue once my kids are all in school. If I can’t get back into my career I don’t want to keep doing the job.
    I’m not really looking to go back to school or switch careers… just trying to figure out how to get back into mine in the next couple of years and still stay connected to my kids.
    I agree that what works is different for every family. But I’m curious to hear how people have made it work, because I’m feeling stumped!

  34. We’re hoping we can manage to have my husband stay home full-time once the toddler starts kindergarten. I have to admit I felt very relieved when he suggested that plan, because the logistics of after school care seem pretty overwhelming. On the other hand, things always seem overwhelming before you get there, and once you’re in the middle of it, you can generally find a way to make your life work. Transitions are scary because you can’t really imagine what things are going to be like once you’ve actually made the move.On the topic of whether the world is a safer place now than when we were growing up, I’ve been reading this blog lately:
    http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/
    it has been very interesting.

  35. Would I love to be SAHM? Absolutely. But that’s not my life.We both work f/t. We have a 10 y.o. and 12 y.o. We have staggered out schedules so that one of us goes in early, and one of us is home until school starts, then whoever went in early is home when they get home from school. We’ve been doing this since the youngest started first grade. It has worked very well for us, but getting to work at 6:30 in the morning is difficult–tho getting out at 3:00 is fabulous.
    We can handle all the extra-curriculars and homework, though at this age I think every family feels overloaded just getting through the week. We are lucky that we both work at a local university that has allowed flexibility and has generous leave time.
    This summer is the first that our kids will not be in full time day camps. The younger will be mostly, but some of both of their time will be in partial day day camps and that is going to present a challenge. We’ll see how that goes.

  36. I worked for the school system for 7 years (not as a teacher.) The job was gawdawful, but the schedule was dreamy. tradeoffs….In terms of limiting activities – I don’t agree. I do feel that putting your kids in a gazillion activities to keep ’em busy is likely to just drive you (and I use the word drive deliberately) nuts. But at least in our case, the child was driven (ooops there’s that word again) to do things. She was passionate about them, and they energized her. Yes, she did too many, but cutting any of them would have made her give up something she loved and was committed to. She had her music and her sports and her religion and her writing and her languages – and giving any of the up would have taken away from who she is.

  37. @Enu – Great comment. Every kid’s needs are slightly different. I’m sure many people thought my DH and I were “overscheduled kids,” but those summer nerd camps and after school activities were so critical to our sanity & self-esteem, and are some of the best memories we each have of childhood. Granted, we both had crappy homes lives, didn’t fit it where we grew up, and needed to escape… I can see how healthy families with college-bound kids struggle to eke out “family time.” In the example I gave of my friend with 3 kids and tons of activities, the problem she faces in trying to determine how & where to cut back has to do with her ideas about fairness. She has one child who is a very good athlete in the same sport in which she and her DH got full rides to college, so how does that potential factor in with her other kids’ music or dance class? It’s very tough. She’s also someone who wants it all and doesn’t mind the stress of juggling all of this alone (her DH wants no part of it.)

  38. I’m reading all your comments with envy.With a disabled husband, I have to work full-time (or near full-time) just to maintain our health benefits. yay.
    Maybe it would be different if I had the leeway to figure out what I wanted to do as a CAREER, and not just feel stuck in a JOB…

  39. OT: But speaking of activities… I’m planning another DC Area get together. If you are in the DC Area and want to meet up with other Ask Moxie readers and parenting bloggers, please swing by my blog and vote on a date and comment on a location!

  40. @Laura- having come back in and read your follow up, I have a few more things to say. Again, these are from someone with a toddler (in full time day care), so you can take them with a grain of salt. However, I am also a scientist, so I get what you’re saying about not wanting to stay out from research for too long. I think science as a career presents some unique challenges to the working mom. OK, reading that statement, I think every type of career presents different sorts of unique challenges.Anyway, here are my additional ideas:
    1. You don’t say what your partner does, but he may be in for a change, too. The absolute only way my career/mommy balance works is because my husband is doing a similar career/daddy balance. We both shifted our schedules slightly, so that our daughter is in day care from 8:45 – 4:45. I pick her up and we have a good 30-60 minutes of play before Hubby gets home. He gets the bum end of the deal in my opinion, because he has to fight her over sunscreen, etc. in the morning, but he like the later schedule. He’s home by 6.
    2. Your extra income will allow you to outsource some of the chores, giving you more time on the weekends for family time than you might expect. Just be careful not to have the outsourced chores just make more time for different sorts of chores- we make a conscious decision to let some stuff go.
    3. Have you thought about a job in industry? Is that even an option in your field? My completely unscientific poll of my mommy scientist friends indicates that those of us working in industry are less conflicted. My completely unsupported theory about this is that industry scientists have already admitted they are doing science for something more than the love of learning, so are less judgmental about people who actually leave on time, etc. Also, our HR departments enforce some minimum standards. Of course, my friends in academic science stay because they love academic science. They just seem more conflicted about the work/home balance than those of us in industry do.
    My current job is a mix of science, IT, and management. The science I do is in a computational field, so I do get more control over my hours than a bench scientist. I’m in by about 8 and leave at 4:30. I stay late sometimes for meetings, but my colleagues know they need to give me advance warning for that, and no one minds.
    I’ll also say that a lot of the working dads I know also juggle and have set schedules. At least in my corner of the working world (biotech in San Diego), this is becoming far more common, as is dads actually taking some significant time off when the kids are born.
    Finally, I wouldn’t have my life any other way. We could have made the decision for one of us to stay home, and decided that wasn’t right for our family. I am a very happy working mom.

  41. @todaywendy that is an interesting blog, and I agree with some of the more general fear-resisting ideas in terms of predators snatching a child off the street or accessing children over the Internet. I think a lot of parental fears along these lines are overblown.It’s hard, though, not to comment with the very “fear” type tactics the writer seems to abhor (which is why I’m posting a long, off-topic comment here instead :P), because kids are not statistics. It’s all well and good to say you trust your child to look both ways before crossing the street, until your kid dies because she rode her bike across the highway without looking both ways – when she was 13 and should have known better. This happened to my cousin when I was 11. Is it her parents’ fault for letting her “range free”? Of course not. Do I plan to keep my children indoors and never let them do anything on their own because of what happened to my cousin? No. But when you read the statistical probabilites, no matter how low, if you KNOW someone who was one of those statistics because she DIDN’T ingest the basic safety rules I’m sure she was taught all her life, a little extra caution doesn’t seem unwarranted.

  42. Re: fear; I think I brought this one up a bit. I agree with the free range kids stuff in theory.In practice, I’m still working it out. I am freaky ’cause I lost a kid. And my feelings are that it is different. When I was growing up we had an hour and a half for lunch at school, and no lunchroom… because EVERYONE went home for lunch because everyone’s mothers were home. Kids were out in the neighbourhood all the time. That is not the case now.
    On the other hand, the walkie talkies that they have now are small and have serious range, so that could be cool. But still. It would be pretty lonely to be the only kid out in the neighbourhood all summer.
    Re: finding a job that flexes with school… I like my job. I’d like to find a way to work it rather than finding a job I don’t like.

  43. I have to say when I first opened this earlier, I had to quickly close it back up, as the whole topic gives me a bit of an anxiety attack. But I have fortified myself with some afternoon cookies and can now deal.Growing up, my parents were schoolteachers. And I am embarrassed to say it did not occur to me until I was surpisingly old (I’m talking 11, 12) that most parents *work* in the summer. It was a shocking revelation.
    Once I had children of my own, this will sound melodramatic, and probably is, but I really had to deal with genuine feelings of grief that I wouldn’t be able to give them that childhood, wouldn’t be able to have that time with them in the summer.
    Currently, they are in an at-home daycare. Eldest starts kindergarten in the Fall. We have decided to keep her with Younger at the daycare for her after school time (the bus will drop her off there.) This takes care of summer for now, as that will keep her spot there. Once Younger starts school in 3 years, we will enroll them both in the after-school program at the school (which is quite good, and inexpensive) and I will pick them up after work. But this will, obviously, cause them to lose their daycare spot and we’ll have to figure out what to do with the summers. We have consciously decided to shelve the topic right now, as it only stresses me out and makes me sad. We have decided to roll with things for at least another year before we really attend to this.
    I have a contact that I maintain because it keeps the possibility of doing freelance from home open for me. It’s not really a feasible option, financially, but sometimes when I start to be sad, I clutch at that idea.
    Lastly, my sister lives in Japan, which is shockingly safe, and I sometimes entertain the notion of sending them there for big swaths of time and letting them roam a bit, have some extra freedom, when they’re older. but I would mis them… There’s also the possibility of sending them to Maine, where I’m from, and where my parents are… but my parents are getting older…
    Will cross that bridge later. Can’t deal with it now!

  44. It’s great reading what others have to say about this! I’m in the last year of a Master’s degree, in a field I love, and after I graduate the next big step is trying for a kid – I am wondering what that would do to my career, though the field I’m going into seems more flexible than most for working mothers (Public Health).

  45. @Shaundra I am really sorry for your loss.I am not sure it is different – you might just be living in a different kind of place (or of course, I could be wrong!). I grew up in a big city and I spent a lot of independent time all over town. I walked about 3/4 of a mile to kindergarten alone. Starting about age eight I walked alone about 2 miles to school from my middle/working class neighborhood through an industrial neighborhood to my school in the projects. I took the bus all over town to museums, libraries etc. My mom worked full time, about half of my friend’s mothers worked. No one thought that my family situation or my amount of independence was unusual. I had about the same amount of independence that my peers did.
    I think part of it is familiarity. I feel safe about young kids in urban areas, because I know what I need to teach them. On the other hand, the situation described by the person whose house backed up to the woods… that sounds completely dangerous to me because I don’t know what to teach my kids. What about drowning in a fun stream, climbing a a huge tree and falling out, some crazy PTSD Vietnam Vet who lives in the woods and kidnaps children (I really worried about this a kid for some reason), cobras, getting your eyes pecked out by hawks, lightening strikes, etc.
    I exaggerate, but I do think perception of risk is about familiarity. Keeping in mind that by a huge margin the most dangerous thing you could ever, ever do with your kid is drive them around in the car. But we do it all the time, because we feel we know how to manage that risk.

  46. I recently read an equally depressing and enlightening book about this issue: Opting out: Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home. The author’s premise is that many women who seem to be “opting out” of their careers are not doing so happily. They want both work and good quality time with their kids and because of the way our society views mothers and professional women and never-the-two-shall-meet, many of us get screwed.It’s a GREAT book:
    http://www.amazon.ca/Opting-Out-Women-Really-Careers/dp/0520244354

  47. @Rosemary Riveter- its not clear if you are going to start trying right away or if that’s just your next big life goal and may still be years away. I know that not everyone gets to plan when they have their kids, and I think most arrangements can be made to work. However, I will say that being established in my career and in my particular job made negotiating for what I wanted in terms of leave/short term part time hours much easier. It makes the conversation less of a “I’m asking for X…” and more of a “I want X. How can we make that happen?”Luck plays a huge role, too- one of the crappy things about our system is how much is at the discretion of the employer.

  48. @mamie – That’s true. Where I live is actually about 20 minutes from where I grew up, in the same city (Toronto, which is really safe overall) – but has more wild areas like bluffs along a lake and a ravine with a creek.The park where my son would play has no street front, and is pretty deserted, which is what worries me. Where I grew up we played in full view of a street in a school playground.
    I also travelled to school alone starting in kindergarten, streetcar + bus, or walking about a mile. I’ve been very independent and valued that, but at the same time I did have a number of experiences that I would prefer my son not to have, from finding a dead baby in a ravine to getting frostbite when the streetcars were stopped.
    I’m still not sure where we’ll choose the draw the line. I’m still putting money on those fancy walkie-talkies. 😉
    Meanwhile I have made a mission of knowing my neighbours. 🙂

  49. @Rosemary Riveter – It also depends on where you get a job. Much of the government and many companies have flexible policies and are good for working mothers across the board. I suggest checking out Working Mother magazine/website for their annual lists of the best places to work.

  50. @ cloud, it’s about a year away, maybe 2. I work as a lab scientist/lab manager at a university right now, and when I was drawn to Epidemiology the family-friendliness (or not) of potential jobs crossed my mind as a consideration, but the main thing is it’s a field I love. I know I won’t get to pick when kids arrive, just when I’ll remove the IUD and cross my fingers! I’m hoping to be in a decent job, better than having to negotiate maternity leave in the first few months of employment.It’s just so good to see what others have to say about this, my mother didn’t work till I was 12, and I’m not sure I’d want to leave off sciency work that long. That’s why I love Moxie’s site, I get to read about what I may be in for.

  51. @Rosemary- check into the laws in your state about parental time off before you remove that IUD! In my state (CA), protection and access to benefits starts after you’ve been with a company for a year.Overall, I’ve found working to be a good thing for me as a mother. I know not all working moms agree, but I always feel I should speak up with the positive experience to let people know it doesn’t always suck.

  52. I have two boys, 19 mo and 8.5 years. The younger I gave birth to, the older I didn’t. I met my partner when I was 28 and at 30 decided I wanted to grow up and have a career and another kid (I tried to talk her into having another but she said she was done). I’m 33 and in my first year of law school, three nights a week (four for eight weeks this summer but who is counting), work full-time-ish days and it is a mad scramble for sure. My partner works fulltime in a pretty standard 8-5, no nights or weekends and just recently some travel. I take LO to and from daycare. I miss dinner and bedtime on school nights. I get up early on the weekends to study and get in an hour after class to prep outlines. I will not be in the top 10% (or 20% even) of my class and I’ve made peace with that. 8.5 yr old is in second grade, goes to aftercare at his elementary school til 4:30/5 (could stay as late as 6 if necessary), is usually playing a sport each season and I make 90% of the games and if practice is on a night I’m not in class I go to those, too. Evenings I’m home or have a late class I’m on homework duty because I like it. I don’t cook and never have that pressure. When the LO is sick, I miss work and stay home with him. I am not on track to get on with a major firm, or a judicial clerkship or any of those things you are supposed to want to get the right career to pay off this giant law school debt – but I live and will work in the city I grew up in and feel okay about my out of school prospects.Summertime the LO is still in his same daycare. The elder was at day camp at his preschool, then elementary school and now this summer will be at the Y. We don’t have fulltime sitter/nanny help so activities are limited to those we can fit in the hours during after work/weekends and all day camp is a must for summers. I imagine LO will follow that same pattern of aftercare. It’s the middle school years that are of some concern because the at-school aftercare goes away. Not sure about that but we’ll figure it out when it happens. Anyway, on the whole I think I’m okay with what I’ve chosen as a balance btw work/career/family but I have many moments of wishing I could do a better job with one or the other. I tend to err on short changing work rather than the kids – I sort of thought that would change as they got older and my work became more important to me but maybe not. We’ll see, I guess.

  53. others have said it but I will re-say it. I’m married to a teacher and she is required to be there by about 7:15, she works all day, and is allowed to leave at 4:30. “Summer” is only 6 weeks long: the last day of school will be June 27 this year, and they start again in the middle of August. She works on lesson planning, grading, and making tests from 1-2 hours each day at home, and on Sundays much of the day is spent on that. she works WAY more hours than I do, at my plain vanilla 9-to-5. The schedule seriously blows and the more “accountability” is stressed by the states and feds the more hours of teachers’ lives will be demanded. I can’t recommend it unless you have a vocation for it 🙂

  54. Just wanted to chime in with Cloud that for me, working has been a good thing for me. Takes a little juggling sometimes but all in all..a good move for me and my family.Of course, I also have a husband who has a flexible job and he’s very hands on. I’m not sure it would work nearly so well if he traveled a lot or worked long hours.

  55. No slag at teachers intended, but sorry, I nearly spilled my coffe at summer being “only” six weeks long. It’s April and I’ve already blown most of my year’s holidays when my caregiver couldn’t work.

  56. @anon- a teacher’s pay is adjusted accordingly. And getting time off mid year is harder- my Mom was a teacher, and when I was a kid, it was almost always my Dad who stayed home with us when we were sick. He didn’t have to plan for a sub, etc.No job is perfect.
    And yeah, I use almost all of my “paid time off” for sick days, too. So does Hubby. It got better this year, our second cold/flu season in day care- we were sick A LOT less often.

  57. I wanted to suggest another way after-school could be approached, depending on your social network. When I was 10 and had 7 and 4 year old siblings my mother paid the SAHM neighbor to keep my sibs after school and keep an eye on me (I felt like I was latchkey – I would go home and read and play and start dinner – and only later realized I was being supervised! I should also note that I don’t feel like being latchkey was a bad thing in my life). There were three houses in a row with kids mostly the same age (I was older) and the kids were in and out of the houses and yards all the time. Two of the families had SAHMs – my mother was divorced – and the family being paid was happy to have the extra income & didn’t seem to mind the chaos.I now live in a really great neighborly neighborhood, and I can see something like this developing over time here. As kids get older, carpooling to activities can be an option too.

  58. Please don’t look at teaching as the “best” job to have if you have kids. Sure, the summers are great. But I don’t get a paycheck for 2 1/2 months – which is longer than the actual summer vacation. It is truly a vacation – from work, but also from an income. The time off is nice, but we are no-joke-broke by my first check which comes on Sept. 20th. Many teachers work summer school AND/or other jobs (St*rbucks, book store clerks, etc) just to be able to eat and pay rent during the summer.Also, if my kids are sick and need to be picked up, I can’t go get them. I have to find someone else to do that – my husband luckily works a very flexible job, and we are fortunate to have my mom close who can also fill in the slack. I am stuck at school in my classroom with 30 kids who are not my sick baby, and as a mom that is really hard at times.
    In many districts you do not get traditional maternity leave. In mine I have to use my sick days. If I don’t have enough sick days I get a “difference of pay” – the difference between what they are paying my sub and what I make. It’s not much. Only after I exhaust both of those avenues do I get disability, which is even less. So having had a baby recently, I have ZERO sick days for the remainder of the school year. So if either of my kids gets sick (or if I get sick myself) I am out of luck without impacting my paycheck significantly. And BTW, I was only able to take 10 weeks. My sister works for a large company and she got 5 months paid maternity leave. There is a huge trade-off.
    I think the most ideal time to be a teacher and a parent is when your kids are in elementary school or higher – because they have the same schedule you have, and in middle school/high school I think it will be pretty handy to be able to have them come to my classroom after school to do their homework, or for me to be able to pick them up so they are not unsupervised.
    So for those who are thinking it is an ideal profession for when you have kids….there are certain trade-offs that come along with the schedule and vacations.
    For those who work until 5-6 PM and have upper elementary/middle school kids I think what my mom did worked well – she forged some really close friendships with the moms of some of my close friends who did not work. I would go home with a friend every day. It was really no trouble for them, since we were at an age where we didn’t want to be entertained by the adults – just the opposite. We would disappear into the tv room, the bedroom, do our homework or goof off and except for some loud shrieking/laughing the moms wouldn’t even really know I was there.
    The moms were more than happy to help my (single) mom out, and I have a lot of great memories and a lot of other moms out there who are like mothers to me.

  59. Co-parenting works for us. We’re both university professors so we are able to work with flexible schedules. Like Nicola (i think that’s her user name), we only technically have to be on campus to teach and hold office hours, which averages about 6 hours/week, but we choose to have our son in daycare (on campus preschool) for the stimulation and structured activities (all total, he’s there about 20-25 hours/week). The rest of the week is all about co-parenting: finding a way for one of us to be home (without *working* at home, so we can really *be* there), so that the other one can work. It’s an ideal situation, one that this profession (at least in the humanities) enables, so if you can find a job that allows this flexibility — that would work.

  60. To handle the summers: we have got a tax refund for the past few years reliably, so I always immediately set aside a certain amount to cover several weeks of summer camp. If I can, I add to it before the summer and if not, then at least I have something. If I didn’t get the tax refund I don’t know what we’d do but it’s something I’d probably funnel money to somehow just to save my sanity. For the record also, my child loves summer camp and needs the stimulation/friendships but I do know not every child has the same needs.For the remaining weeks of the summer, this year will be interesting with a just walking baby and a very spirited 6 yr old.

  61. Thank you Slim for commenting on the “get a teaching degree” suggestion. Teaching is not for everyone and I would be suspect of anyone teaching my child who was there for the hours. Trust me, teaching is NOT a 8:30-3:30 job.I teach middle school and I have hours of work at home every night. I sometimes think that I would rather a 9-5 job that I can just leave at the end of the day and not worry about until I get back the next morning. Instead I have to plan in advance for my day, mark assignments on my own time and am expected to volunteer for extra curricular activities. Yes, I get to spend my whole summer with my child, but darn it, I worked hard for that summer.
    Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t never leave the profession because I love being in the classroom!
    Sorry, a little touchy when it comes to this subject!!

  62. This is fascinating reading.I came to parenting via teenaged stepkids, and quickly found that working full-time, even with 3 parents (including me as the step, and dad, and mom) was just … problematic, as our work schedules (though fairly flexible) conflicted with the kids having supervision/support even on a good day, and then there were issues like someone being sick, etc. And that was with kids who really were old enough to stay home alone, etc., and basically good kids, neither troubled nor trouble-makers (and divorced parents + stepparent who basically worked together pretty well albeit not perfectly).
    As a mom to a 2 y.o. myself now, I’m grateful that DH will be retired from his full-time work by the time DS is in school, simplifying my situation if I want to work FT by a whole bunch. But meanwhile we’re both working close to FT (I’m only at 35 hours/week) and honestly, I think I prefer that at this stage … I am looking forward more to being able to “do stuff” with DS when he’s older (not that we don’t spend time together now!), and the money I can sock into retirement/college savings now will have longer to mature than if I were out of the workforce now and re-joined it later. But we’re lucky to have flexible work schedules and good childcare and without those I’m sure I’d be singing a different song.
    Though I really need *some* time for myself, and it would be hard to justify paying for childcare if I weren’t working.
    @Laura, unless your partner’s willing to (at least) split the responsibilities for all aspects of parenting (driving, doctor’s appointments, clothes shopping…) without making an issue of it (i.e. you don’t constantly have to negotiate particulars), I think what you’re seeking is going to be hard either way, particularly if, as is true of most of the scientists I know, that role requires travel to conferences, etc.
    And @Rbelle, I’m so sorry about your cousin … but I also read the Freerange site, and as I interpret it, the point isn’t just that something terrible isn’t likely to happen because, as you say, the whole point about something terrible is once it happens, it’s too late, and even if you are one in a million, who cares. Rather, as I read it, the key point of the site is that there are (significant) costs/downsides to restricting kids’ independence in order to “keep them safe.” And I do agree with that basic supposition, though I recognize that where exactly the line should be drawn is a difficult question and one that will vary by family and situation.

  63. Quickly… I have three kids (one wrapping up 3rd grade, one wrapping up 1st grade, and one who will be 2 in two weeks). I have a full-time faculty position which affords me flexibility, so I get a long break at xmas, and summer, can drop off and pick up on school days, attend class parties, etc. Here’s my experience: It’s HARD!!! I pick the kids up as soon as school is over and head home. There’s a snack, some clothes changing, some using the bathroom, a discussion of homework (both the school-aged children needs lots of hands-on with this… usually individually b/c they can’t concentrate [read, “are jealous of the other one”] when I’m helping the other one), dad comes home, dinner is contemplated, homework is actually started… you get the picture. When the oldest plays football in the fall, things around our house get truly crazy. Then my daughter wanted to add ice skating to the mix this past January, and I went with a Saturday class to save our sanity on school nights. But now our Saturdays are compromised. Seriously, sometimes that deserted island is looking pretty good.I guess my point is… yes, it is super hard. I enjoy my job and would hate to try to start my career yet again (I was a SAHM when the older two were younger), but there’s a lot of running around and snuggling to cram into an increasingly shorter day.

  64. Oh no, we’re slaggin’ teachers??? Unacceptable!! Seriously, it’s the most vital job in our society and we treat it like it’s the most expendable. Teaching is HARD work. “Summers off!!” Are you serious?? Do you know how many hours a week a teacher works? When you factor that compared to another profession’s regular 40 hour work week, trust me, the teacher does NOT come out ahead. And the pay. And the “clients”. Teaching is a calling, and we should reward our best and brightest and discourage anyone who chooses the career b/c of the hours. Yes, my college spot affords me serious flexibility, but I was a high school teacher once upon a time and my family took the hit.

  65. OP here again. @Cloud–thanks for your follow-up suggestions. Industry isn’t really an option (I’m in ecology) but agency or non-profit work is and they have some of the same advantages vs. academia. My husband is a physician, so with patients there’s a limit to his ability to flex his schedule. We’re a good team though, and I know he can and will step up if/when I’m working more.@Julie, way back– I was really interested in your comments re: what it is I’m really looking for. Very astute and made me re-read my own post and think about it. I do want all those things for our family, for my kids, but I also want to re-engage with a career I enjoy. I didn’t spell that out initially, but the career part is important. I do want it for me, and not just because I feel that returning to a career is expected of me once my kids are older. Excellent point though, it was worth re-thinking it.
    I just didn’t expect this whole thing to be so hard to negotiate. Of parenting older kids, everyone always says, “It doesn’t get easier, it’s just different.” I guess that’s true for the work-life balance too.
    Lastly, I feel I must add that I realize how lucky I am to have this “problem” in the first place. A career to which I want to return, the financial ability to be choosy about jobs, a supportive partner. I hesitated even sending the question because, hello! I should just be thankful for how great I have it, right?! So, my heart goes out to all you ladies who are just struggling to make ends meet and I really appreciate all the thoughtful comments!

  66. My daughters are 11 and 14, and I have always worked part time. I absolutely agree that in some ways they need you around more when they get older. My 14 year old is a very emotional, needy person, who gets terribly worked up about things and needs to talk about them. When she was two, as long as she was with someone I trusted and whom she knew, it didn’t matter too much if it was me or not, as long as I was around a good part of the time. Now, she comes home from school worked up about friendships or her appearance, and she needs to talk to me – another adult just wouldn’t work in the same way. (Of course she has friendships with a variety of adults, but there’s lots of stuff she’ll only discuss with me.) If I were working full time, I would be desperately worried because I don’t think I’d be with her enough to support her through adolescence, and I think I’d have to alter my working pattern somehow if I possibly could, just because she needs me so much. My younger daughter takes everything in her stride, and just doesn’t have the same need to discuss everything. So I think it varies hugely with life stage, as well as with the individual, but it doesn’t necessarily get easier as they get older – it just changes. I get more sleep now than when I was rocking the 14 year old for five hours straight with colic, but at least things were simpler then..

  67. @AmyinTexas – if you read anon’s post, s/he said NO slag intended at teachers. I read it as envy for a summer off.

  68. Just wanted to challenge this common well-meant but mistaken misconception, that: “teaching is the perfect parent profession.”My mom taught(still teaches) highschool English. She did an amazing job, and we rarely saw her.
    She’d get up at 5, grade papers, leave at 6:30 to be there by 7(classes started at 7:45), and wouldn’t get home until after 5 after doing still more lesson planning and the obligatory after-school activities(think teachers “just” have to teach?) she sponsored, not to mention meetings.
    She’d make dinner, and would typically do a few more hours of work before collapsing into bed by 8:30. She worked on weekends, both days. Whenever she assigned a paper(the only way students can really learn to write) she’d have 150 to grade– and then there were re-writes. The only way our family could really work out is that my father stayed home with us before and after school and free-lanced during the day.
    The summers were spent working towards her masters, continuing ed requirements, etc. She began working waaayyy before kids were required to be back in class. all of this for pay that is shamefully low, parents calling about everything, and elected officials constantly blaming you for society’s ills, for dropping test scores.
    Not to mention the emotional exhaustion– all the kids in foster care, kids not eating, unplanned pregnancies(or worse, planned), sexual assault.
    It WAS lovely when she was not in school over breaks– she was the first to say she appreciated them. But she was so burned out by that time, by the time she started “recovering” it was time to start planning to start back again. It was also very financially tight by the end of the summer.
    Granted, my mom obviously works very hard at her job– but I wouldn’t say she was any great exception to the hours teachers REALLY keep. Not to mention, during the day she had no down time. She wasn’t spending working hours sitting at a computer, mostly alone. she was dealing with hundreds of different people a day, all with her public face on.
    Actually, when she had cancer and had to take a semester off for surgery and treatment, she laughed and laughed at people asking her how she was doing with radiation and drugs, etc. “Cancer?” she’d say. “Cancer’s a piece of cake compared to teaching highschool!” And I can testify that there were a few times we came home to cookies after school while she was sick. 🙂
    Everyone is working hard, I know. Everyone is exhausted. But for Mom’s sake, I had to post to be wary of teaching being presented as this easy thing. She already gets way too little credit.

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