I went back to full-time work after having my first child, and while I missed him terribly, at the time, it was the right decision for me and my family. But once I had my now 2-year-old twin daughters, I realized that going back to full-time work would not only be logistically difficult, but practically useless from a financial standpoint. Given the cost of daycare and commuting, it just didn’t pay to go back to a day job.
Instead, I figured I’d look for a part-time work arrangement once my girls got past the newborn stage (during which I barely had time to pee, let alone work). Fast forward a couple of years, and I’m now extremely fortunate to have a situation where I get to be home with my kids and work part-time out of my house.
Of course, working from home is easier said than done when you have rambunctious, attention-seeking kids running about, and so I rely on a babysitter to come in several times a week. I also count on working during periods when my kids are otherwise occupied—such as while my son is at school and my younger daughters are napping. Furthermore, I do a lot of my work on Sundays when we don’t have plans, and after hours once the kids are in bed.
It’s tiring, but it’s a better solution than working full-time, never seeing my kids, and losing the bulk of my earnings to daycare.
Still, sometimes, my situation just doesn’t work.
Case in point: The other week, I had to be at my computer for something work-related at the precise moment my son’s preschool seder was set to begin. When I told his teacher I’d be late, she was understanding, but also expressed her concern that my son would be upset if I wasn’t there at the start of the program.
Now fortunately, my work took less time than expected, and the seder started late. Since I’m right down the road, I was able to get to the school right on time. But the incident frustrated me, because while some of the people I talked to about it were sympathetic, many refused to understand why I couldn’t blow off work and get there at the same time as everyone else.
Obviously, full-time working parents face similar challenges—probably more so than me. But what I struggle with is the perception factor. When you have a part-time job like the one I do—a job you can do from home and, when needed, at 3:00 in the morning in your pajamas—other people don’t always take your job seriously, or respect the fact that you can’t just show up to every play date or preschool event if they happen to conflict with a work obligation or deadline.
And look, I get it. Since I am home with my kids, and I do have the luxury to send my son to half-day preschool (as opposed to putting him, and all of my kids for that matter, into an actual daycare center), a lot of people might assume that my work assignments are more optional than obligatory.
But it’s frustrating that people think I’m being rude when I decline invitations during the week, or don’t stick around to shoot the breeze after morning drop-off, not realizing I have a fairly compartmentalized schedule I need to stick to if I want to meet my work obligations as well as my parenting ones. And while I know working full-time would be far more difficult, sometimes I can’t help but think it would be easier in some ways.
After all, if I worked full-time, I wouldn’t have to explain why I can’t come to so-and-so’s Wednesday afternoon book club, or why I groan every time I see a notice in my son’s backpack inviting the parents to yet another preschool event. It’s not that I don’t want to be there—especially the school events, which are always wonderfully done. It’s that I’m trying to balance an almost ridiculous set of responsibilities and I’m barely hanging on, and sometimes, throwing even the tiniest wrench in the works effectively sentences me to a minimum of one night without sleep, sometimes more.
I know that I chose this arrangement, and, again, it’s much less taxing than working full-time. I just wish I had a little more of the support and understanding I used to get in my former life, when I dropped my son off at daycare first-thing in the morning and picked up far too many hours later. Every parent, no matter what their choices, is still making sacrifices and struggling to do it all and we deserve to have that acknowledged.