I want to preface this by saying I don’t want to cast dispersions toward mothers who returned to full time work with young babies, in fact I am in awe of people who can manage to get everything done.
I picture the family that used to live over the road from us. They had 3 boys, the older 2 were the ages of my guys. Both parents worked almost full time and the kids were in long day care or before and after school care. They would all be dressed and out the door on the way to school by 7.30 every morning, often before my kids were even awake. They would arrive home after 6 each day as my guys were trudging upstairs for the bath, book and bed routine. Simply by the proximity of our homes I knew that they didn’t go to bed before 8 each night. I was/am in awe of the family. The kids were amazing; well balanced, intelligent, involved in music and sport. Each weekend involved swimming lessons, sport and music lessons or recitals. They still managed to spend quality family time together. How do they and other families manage? I could ask them directly but they have moved overseas for a few years (did I mention that studying languages together was another family activity they shared).
I know this family isn’t unique, many families work long hours and use extended child care, how do they do it?
I have recently returned to full time work but have had heaps and heaps of time off work using up my tremendous stockpile of annual leave so full time hasn’t really been full time. That said, the days that I have been at work have been long days and I am struggling to balance my load.
Until now I have been really lucky working different shifts and being part-time has meant that I have always had the flexibility to either be about for school drop off or pick up but now things are changing. I truly want to know how parents who work full time out of the home actually get anything done and spend any quality time with their family. You see the dynamics of our family really don’t cater for long days and before and after school care, particularly at this time of the year. Reasons that extended days don’t work for us are often the reasons that other families think we are either lucky, too strict/controlling or just downright insane. Since our kids started sleeping through the night they have slept or been in bed from 7.30 or 8pm until around 7am. Now if I worked a traditional office based job we would be required to work, I am guessing from 9 until 5. Add on travel time and the inevitable hiccups that happen when one is in a hurry, we are looking at a day that goes from 8 until 6. That would mean that kids would be in before and after school care. To get to work by 9 I can avoid before school care and drop the kids at 8.45 giving us time to do reading, music and forgotten homework of a morning before school but often it is a rush if the kids sleep in.
By starting late there really is no way I can finish work early every day. If we imagine that the kids were in care after school and were collected at the end of the day, at 6pm what would we do for dinner? Would it require me getting up even earlier to check that readers were done and homework completed as I prepared something for dinner to throw in the crockpot? Assuming that I had pre-prepared dinner – crockpot surprise, dragged something from the freezer, made a simple pasta or steamed a pile of pre-chopped vegies , you can’t just walk in the door and just have dinner, there are always finishing touches that need doing. Before I have even had a chance to sit down, 6pm becomes 6.30pm. Now normally, on days that I don’t work until 6, we eat dinner at 6, sometimes even earlier if the kids are tired. They are in the shower or hot tub by 6.30 on the nights that they do bathe. I admit that there are nights that they don’t have a shower because they are both ready to fall asleep as they are eating! On a night now that we have an activity after school or the kids are dragged in to work with me after school the kids eat a mini-dinner in a lunchbox after school – a toasted sandwich, a couple of pieces of fruit and a packet of rice crackers. This will tide them over until the real dinner is ready. It is these nights that a shower is most likely to be skipped in favour of sanity or they jump in the hot tub as I clean up the dinner mess. This usually allows them to get to bed before a melt down.
I really don’t know where I was going with this. I think it was to find out what other people do to manage their time and still have time to stay sane?
Currently, with flexible work hours and an abundance of leave I can almost manage. We generally have healthy dinners, we usually have clean clothes (but often don’t wear them) and generally make it to each commitment on time but it is getting harder and harder to do. Add homework into the mix and time is really short or f we do have time we are all so tired and frazzled that we seem to annoy each other instead of appreciating being together. Any suggestions on how we can survive this full-time work gig without going completely insane?