Another School Year, Another School Shooting

Every morning, we rush our little guy out the door with pleading voices to brush your teeth, grab your back pack, get dressed, don’t miss the bus. We breathe a sigh of relief after he boards the bus for another day of learning in the first grade, confident we’ve provided him with a healthy breakfast, a hug and kiss, a treat tucked away in the lunch box.

Then, one day, I get in the car to breaking news. Another school shooting. This one just 10 short miles down the road. Confusion about who fired shots. A suspect in custody. An AK-47.

During kindergarten last year, my son would excitedly tell me about what drill they had that day – fire drills being the favorite, as they were during my school tenure, since he got to go outside during the drill. Fire and tornado drills I could relate to. I’d crouched in many a cinder block hallway with a my hands over my head myself and was pleased that his teacher was imparting these drills in a way that made them not scary, but still very important.

Then one day he told me about soft lockdown drill. After investigating, I realized my little guy practices  five drills multiple times each year: Fire, tornado, soft lockdown, hard lockdown and evacuation.

My heart broke.

Yes, I’m pleased that the school has a plan and that they are practicing it with my child. They would be negligent not to, in this day and age, and I want to know that my child will be safe when I send him into their care.

But so much of me is saddened to know he has to do this, that this nonchalant recognition of the different between a hard and soft lockdown will simply be a part of my child’s school experience. That one day, he may be faced with having to speak up about something scary he sees in his school. That potentially he would huddle in the corner on the brightly colored mat by the bookcase with the lights off and the doors locked and the teacher whispering she loves him while pops explode in the hallway.

Right now, soft and hard lockdowns are just practice for him and understanding why they happen are outside his current reality. I hope they stay that way.

But someone else making their way into a school with a weapon of mass or self-destruction scares the shit out of me.

When did our schools become the battleground?

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Flexing Frustrations

Most days, my flex schedule is great. I get a few mornings in an office setting with adult conversation, thought-provoking challenges and a kid-free zone to work. I am able to be home to play, meet the school bus and make a family dinner. Appointments for the kids can be made for times when I’m at home and meetings can, most often, be scheduled for times when I’m in the office.

But not every day/week/month lives up to the ideal it is on paper.

For instance, elementary school started last week and the now 7 year old is back to a full school schedule. The 3 year old, however, doesn’t go back to preschool for two more weeks. The babysitter I had for the summer has gone back to school and I’m officially without dedicated child care for two weeks.

I have a very understanding husband who, even during the school year, will make it a point to handle preschool pick-ups during his lunch hour so I can manage an extra 45 minutes in the office. He has had a fantastic flex schedule of his own this summer that allows for some half-day Fridays. And overall, he’s been very supportive of helping me get that coveted office time when he can.

But, it’s weeks like these that bring the same old tired argument we always have about two work schedules back to the surface. The fact of the matter is, when he goes to work each morning, he doesn’t have to worry about where the kids are. So when I’m stuck with no sitter, he doesn’t have to think twice about where he will be from nine to six, five days a week, but I have to jump through hoops of fire to figure out how to manage eight to 12 hours a week in the office on top of the extra at home hours I already have to finagle.

The fact of the matter is that there are just not that many reliable, easy, part-time daycare options available. Daycare centers don’t really offer part-time care, nannies most often want a full-time position and relying on babysitters means that you have to find the sweet spot in scheduling between their other commitments and yours. It can be a full-time job in itself to find this kind of part-time care. And who has time for that? Many part-timers and flex schedule folks I know tend to cobble together the same sort of piecemeal care that I do: shared pick-ups, strategic play dates, occasional sitters, preschool.

I spend a great deal of time being available via email and cell so that nothing falls through the cracks whether I’m at the office or the zoo with two stir-crazy kids. Sure, sometimes I have to be that mom who is talking to a reporter the day of a big company announcement from the parking lot of my kids’ science camp watching him launch rockets. And sometimes I have to park the 3 year old in front of a movie to get work done when there isn’t a babysitter and pitching a reporter after they go to bed is not an option. But it means that my colleagues don’t doubt my work ethic and ensures that the work gets done, while at the same time, being there for my kids.

I don’t know what the answer is, but until part time child care is a reliable and easy option for families, it will be harder and harder for families (and let’s face it, mostly women) to create and fight for these flexible working situations. 
Even weeks like this when I struggle with the guilt of not being in the right place at the right time, I count myself lucky. I am lucky to have a situation that is truly flexible. I am lucky to have supportive family. I am lucky my kids are self-sufficient enough to build a race track through my living room as I push press releases to 13 different states. I am lucky that when the work is done, I can pack a picnic and play at the park with a very precocious little 3 year old. 
But it frustrates me that I have to count myself lucky. We need to look at how to make flexible work more widely available and accepted. We need companies to understand the mutual benefit of creating these types of arrangements to keep the right kind of people benefiting their bottom line. We need the child care industry to recognize there is a market for flexible care. We need to take advantage of the technology we have available to us to allow us to work whenever, wherever. 
Of course there are jobs that will never be flexible, but for those that can be, we need to start fighting for flexibility. 
The saying goes that luck is where preparation meets opportunity. It’s time we start making our own luck in the workplace.