I feel like it's been too long since I've done a proper post here (intermittent ramblings about Emily Dickinson notwithstanding). Partly, this is because I feel like no one is really reading this blog anymore, though I know this isn't entirely true since people in my real life occasionally comment on what I've written. Partly, it's also because I started MadtownMama when Daniel was a baby and I suddenly felt cut off from much of the social and professional world I was accustomed to interacting with on a daily basis, and writing about my life online, however trivial, made me feel more significant somehow. Since then, the world progressed (with or without me), and Big Things happened on the internet that I have chosen not to join (Facebook and Twitter, mainly), and I've more or less found contentment with what I'm doing, which is mostly parenting and housework and some freelance work on the side.

I'm not always totally satisfied. I am uncomfortable with the notion that I am not financially independent, that if my husband didn't earn a regular salary with benefits, I would be uninsured and possibly homeless. If something were to happen to us or to him (perish the thought) I would be totally screwed.

But on the other hand...

Recently, a local job posting caught my attention. I won't go into specifics, but I am certainly qualified, I am sure I would be good at it, and I think I'd like it. The problem? It's full time: 40 hrs/wk all year round. My first thought when I saw the job description and requirements was, "Wow, this is an opportunity I shouldn't pass up," and my second thought was, "Wait, what on earth would I do about childcare?"

Because here's the reality of having kids. They take a lot of time. A LOT. Anya's in her last year of preschool, which is only part time, so there are already extra hours for her, but even so, this doesn't change when they are in public school full time, either. There are weeks off for winter break and spring break and all kinds of days off for teacher conferences and postal holidays, not to mention all the random early release days at the end of every quarter and whatnot. Plus 2 1/2 months for summer vacay.

I want to be clear that I hold absolutely no grudge against the school district's calendar; it is my philosophy that the role of public schools is to educate our children, not babysit them. But what do parents who work full-time jobs outside of the academic calendar do about childcare??

Were I to apply for this potential job (and I might...), I have no idea who would cover all those hours with my kids when they aren't in school. Stuart's job has no options for flex time. None. Sometimes he even has to take sick time for doctor's appointments (and, to be fair, sometimes not.) I've postponed dental appointments for myself so he doesn't have to spend the extra hours at home...though I have to admit it doesn't take much for me to put off going to the dentist. I mean, my teeth are fine. Great, in fact. They don't need more of my money to tell me my teeth are still fine.

Thinking about applying for this job has made me realize just how far I've come with my philosophy of parenting and family life. If I were working until 5:00 or later, I don't know how we'd eat as well as we do now, or how I could spend time in the classroom, or how I would make sure we spend as much time as possible outside during non-school hours, or who would listen to Daniel practice the piano and help Anya read because yes, she's not yet five years old and she can read.

And summer break. No idea how that would work. At all.

I don't mean to diminish parents who work for wages full time. If I had to, I would, and I fully acknowledge that I'm in a position of economic privilege that this is even a choice for me (though I want to point out if I applied for and got this job and we had to rely on it to support the family, we'd be close to or under the federal poverty line - and this is considered a really good opportunity for a musician. Just saying.) I've talked to many mothers who have told me they are better parents when they are working and I get that.

I guess I didn't quite realize how important this really is to me until the chance came up to think otherwise.


Jessi said…
It's hard. Every bit of what you said is true. Childcare is a pain, dinners are sometimes popcorn and fruit (although very rarely) and you'll be surprised how little opportunity there is for kids with working parents for things like art classes, library events, etc.

To me, it's not a question - I have to. But even if I didn't, I still think I'd work at least part time. My sanity relies on it. And you have other opportunities, too. Like talking to your kids about work ethic and take your kids to work days.

I know whatever decision you make will be the right decision for you. I wish you the best. These are the toughest choices.
Claire said…
I go through this every spring when teacher positions open up for the following year. You pretty much spelled out how I'm thinking/feeling, too.

Kathy said…
Yes, I too, cannot quite imagine two parents working 40+hour jobs with little schedule flexibility... the only way we get through is having extremely flexible schedules, working some hours from home and employers who embrace the concept that 35-ish hours counts as full time. Because of all these reasons, I have been able be home one day a week and to figure out an hour or two to spend in the classroom and feel connected to school life. We have found that an in-home babysitter has worked really well, but will probably move towards after-school care and day camps as the kids get older. It is a delicate balance which doesn't always feel balanced, but works for the most part. PS, I do read your blog and always thing... we should really talk more in real life :)

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