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.