My daughters love being around other children. They enjoy doing activities and participating in group settings. I try to encourage this by signing them up for various extracurricular activities, like swimming, story time at the library, music class and soccer. One thing I quickly learned as a new mom is that enrolling your child in these activities is difficult. It is not difficult in the sense that you are a busy working mom with limited time and a task list a mile long. It is difficult in the sense that, in my personal experience, the majority of the activities offered are held during what I would consider to be normal working hours.
One warm spring day when my daughter was six months old we went to the playground. While we were sitting near the sandbox I overheard two mothers discussing the highly coveted, parent-child swim classes at the Y. I casually asked them about the class, if their children enjoyed it, and when and where I could sign up. They asked me if I worked (surprise, surprise, it was the first question they asked), I replied “yes”, and they literally looked at me and laughed. “Oh, it’s impossible to get into one of the Saturday classes; they only offer two classes on Saturday.”
That evening I did some research and found out that the women were indeed correct, only two Saturday classes. The other parent-child classes offered during the week took place between the hours of 10 AM and 1 PM, really not convenient for working mothers. The next day I went to the Y to sign up. I already had a gym membership at another facility in town, so all I was looking for was the program membership. I approached the receptionist and explained my situation. She hastily informed me that the program member’s registration period began one week after full members, and if I was trying to sign up for Saturday parent-child swim classes, there was “no way I would get a spot as a program member”. So, channeling all my working-mommy guilt, I signed up for the full membership.
Four weeks later, on the evening before registration opened for full members, I set my alarm for 5:15 AM the following morning, so I could begin calling promptly at 5:30 AM to ensure my daughter a spot in the Saturday parent-child class. That night I tossed and turned worrying that I would sleep through my alarm and forever ruin my daughter’s chances of becoming an Olympic swimmer! The next morning my alarm went off at 5:15 AM, I hurried down stairs and began calling the Y, busy signal, busy signal, busy signal. You would have thought, based on the number of times and the speed with which I hit redial, that I was calling into the Elvis Duran Morning Show trying to win free round trip tickets to the I Heart Radio concert in Las Vegas.
In the end, we got into the class and had a wonderful time. Both of my daughters love the parent-child classes, but our family is still signed up for the full membership, paying almost double the monthly fee to ensure spots in the Saturday sessions. Doesn’t it seem that if there is such high demand for Saturday programs the Y would choose to offer more?
In addition to swim lessons, the Y offers other programs for children between the ages of three and six months. However, many of the programs and special activities are offered during normal weekday working hours. Our newest activity, parent-child soccer, is held on Wednesday evenings at 5 PM. In order for my oldest daughter to participate my husband has to leave work early to meet me at the field to pick up my youngest daughter. I can’t help but feel that the Y is out to punish working families, or add undue stress to our already hectic lives. I do realize that it is my choice to participate in these activities, but my children love them, so I can’t help but feeling that there are other working families out there who feel crunched, angry and insulted that these fabulous extracurricular activities are held at such inconvenient times.
This narrative isn’t intended to be a criticism of only the Y. They are a wonderful organization that provides many services to the communities they serve.
The public library is another offender. None of the regular child story times or parent-child groups, for children under three, are held on weekends, or after work. They are held from 9 AM to 12 PM, Monday through Friday. Occasionally, the library will hold a special Saturday activity, when all the working parents will pass up grocery shopping, mowing the lawn, or other various family related functions, to bring the kids to the library.
There are other offenders along with the Y and the public library, including the private music organization that up until this fall never once offered weekend or evening classes, and after receiving complaints and suggestions, is finally offering one Wednesday evening class. Or how about the local women’s organization that claims to provide spectacular volunteer opportunities to better the community, and the chance to meet other women and form a great sense of camaraderie, but only if you can do it between the hours of 10 AM and 2 PM Monday through Thursday.
Lastly, the biggest, and the only non-extracurricular offender, is the public school system, who seems to be under the impression that the average adult work day is six hours long. Are you worried about what will happen when your child transitions from daycare to kindergarten, which in most Connecticut towns is three hours long? How about when your child transitions to first grade, when the bus picks them up at 8:30 AM and drops them off at 3:30 PM? Worrying is deserved, because, in my opinion, none of these organizations take into account the schedules of working parents. Even the most basic of public institutions, schools, seem to ignore the schedules of working parents. Why?
Perhaps we should show up at our town’s next school board meeting, or next Y board member meeting, or at the next library event, playing Dolly Parton’s, Working Nine to Five, so we can help remind people what a real work day consists of.