I have had a reality check recently – I switched my kids to a preschool which follows an academic year calendar. This means that the hours are 8:30 to 2:30, there are school holidays like winter break, spring break and (gasp!) summer break. We are really lucky in that our school offers extended care both before and after school so at the very least I can drop my kids off and make it into the office at a normal time, and if I really need to, I can leave my kids there until the end of my work day.
But holy crap…I didn’t realize that the mommy/school mambo is TOUGH…much tougher than I anticipated.
When we changed my kids to their new school, my husband and I had to work hard to figure out our vacation schedules. We are very lucky in that my husband has a flexible enough schedule that he can pick the kids up from school before I have to leave the office, so that they don’t have to stay in extended care for too long after the school day ends. On scheduled days off, including staff development, teacher conference, and school holidays that are not scheduled company holidays, one of us has to take a vacation day from work. Before we even started, I cross referenced all of the school holidays and actually SCHEDULED (in Google calendar) who takes what day off. I even scheduled in days in camp, family vacation days, and “scramble days” (when we will probably need to get a sitter)…with as much planning as I did, I forgot to really plan for sick days.
I just put a deposit down on the ENTIRE SUMMER worth of summer camp for both kids. Usually, I’d hesitate to put that much money down at once, but I needed to ensure that my kids’ spots were secured for the summer; otherwise, we’d be totally screwed. The consolation for putting that much money down at once is that I get an early bird discount. At least that’s worth something, right?
All this is preparation for what will be the ultimate juggling act…public school. In our town, while there are afterschool care options available, they are not the easiest arrangements – there is some form of extended care in the school but spots are very limited and fill up right away, kids can take the bus to the YMCA on their own to participate in activities and be part of the Y’s extended care program, or there are a few other private activity options for which parents have to pre-arrange transportation. At the beginning of the school year (and scattered throughout the year), it is not uncommon to hear about kids who took the wrong bus, kids who forgot to get off the bus, kids who went home instead of to their next activity, or kids left stranded because their rides never showed up…all things to give a mom a virtual heart attack.
I still have a little while to figure things out but it’s already giving me stress – enough that it makes me want to reconsider what I will be doing, work-wise, when the time comes. Some working moms in town use au pairs but we are not the type of family that will do well with another person in the house, and I know that if I constantly have to worry about my kids being in the right place a the right time, my work WILL suffer.
I know that this all comes with the territory, and I hear everyone who tells me to offload whatever I can to my husband (believe me, I am)…it doesn’t make this any less stressful than it is and does NOTHING to remove the guilt of being a working mom. So please…any words of wisdom from moms and stories (good and bad!) to help me decide what path to take would be greatly appreciated!