5 Institutions Screwing Working Families


As a working parent do you sometimes get the feeling that there are forces intrinsically working against you?

I agree, and here are five institutions, in my opinion, who are screwing working parents:

#1- The Post Office.

Yes, the ever so inefficient United States Postal Service. While I appreciate the hard-working and valiant men and women who deliver mail through horrible weather conditions, and while I appreciate the founding principal of the USPS: “that every person in the United States – no matter who, no matter where – has the right to equal access to secure, efficient, and affordable mail service,” have you ever tried to send a certified package or pick up a package that you need to sign for, after 5pm? Good luck! I once had someone send me a baby gift through the mail, and for some reason I had to sign for the package. My local post office closes at 5PM everyday and are only open on Saturday mornings for a hot second, so by the time that I actually ended up being able to get the package (on one of my days off) my daughter had outgrown the cute little outfit inside! No wonder the USPS runs a $2 billion deficit annually, try being more efficient and accommodating working people!

#2- Federal, state and municipal offices.

Remember all the annoying times that you needed a certified copy of your child’s birth certificate? Well, plan on using some vacation time or taking time off from work, because you certainly are not going to get one after 5PM or on the weekends. And watch out, when summer rolls around, most of these types of offices close before 4PM. I would like to thank the CT Department of Motor Vehicles for opening select offices on Saturday morning. Now, if you need to renew your license, or have other motor vehicle related business that cannot be completed on-line, you have the option of missing your child’s soccer practice on Saturday morning and standing in line for two hours with all the other working parents desperately rushing to get their bureaucratic shit taken care of.

#3- Businesses, and places of work that are not family friendly.

As working parents you have no doubt used countless amounts of sick and vacation time to care for sick children or to bring them to doctor’s appointments. As a hard-working employee you have committed several years to the betterment of an organization, and during your tenure you have used up time to have a baby and care for that baby. What happens to your family if you want to have a second baby, but your place of work does not provide any paid maternity leave, you’re screwed, that’s what. What happens during the summer when your summer camp ends at 4:15PM and you need to pick up you children? If your place of employment does not provide flex-time, you’re screwed! Over my career I look back at the amount of time that I have devoted to my job, I recall the hours of work I did from home and received no compensation, and to think that with the birth of three children, I never once received a single hour of paid maternity time. Now, I was fortunate to be covered my the Family Medical Leave Act, so my job was protected. As amazingly progressive as FMLA is, it doesn’t pay the mortgage or buy groceries.

#4- Banks.

This one is a no brainer. “Banker’s hours,” right? But still, it pisses me off that institutions like banks, have yet to evolve with the needs of their customers. I do appreciate the progress in on-line banking and the use of ATM machines, but alas, there is certain banking business that must be completed in person, at the branch. My local branch is open from 9:30-4:30 and from 9-noon on Saturday. During the week, the only way I’m going to get any bank business completed is by using vacation time…sorry, but I think that is completely unreasonable. Plus, how stupid would I look saying to my boss, “Hi, could I leave early today, I need to open a savings account for my daughter to deposit the gifts she received from her baptism, before she reaches high school.” The Saturday hours are a bit more convenient, but 9-noon on Saturday mornings are filled with soccer, swimming and the occasional trip to the pediatrician, so I didn’t have to take off MORE time during the week to have that weird rash on my daughter looked at.

#5- Public schools.

Yup, I went there. The state constitution provides for free elementary and secondary education for all residents. Free, so long as you can put your child on the  bus as late as 8:45 and be home to pick them up by 2:15. If you are unable to make those hours work for your family, forget about free and pull out your check book, because it is going to cost you…lots! Now, I clearly understand that there are fiscal and political limitations for extending the school day, and I’m not advocating that children should be in school for nine hours a day…or wait, maybe I am? But either way, the underlying premise of our public school systems are not supportive of working families.

Now before you jump ugly on my choice to call out various institutions, stop. give.it.some.thought.

Why, at a time when working families are dominating our society, and by dominating, I mean by numbers, not by awesomeness, are basic institutions such as schools, banks, and the post office, still making us jump through hoops? It is time that they modernize and it is time for progress to be made.

14 comments on “5 Institutions Screwing Working Families”

  1. SERIOUSLY. I’ve definitely had the “damn it, it’s closed!” moments in all of these places as I’m rushing to get something done before/after work with and without my child. And although my daughter is barely one I have started thinking about how we will deal with school hours and daytime performances/activities. I realize we’ve made a choice as a family to live where we live and work where we work, but it stinks to think about what things like that will cost us…literally in $$s and missed special moments.

  2. While I agree with the frustration of not being able to get to some of these places that aren’t open after 5, you also have to consider that the employees of these institutions are also working parents. Often times employers are not willing to pay the premium benefits (whether it is a pay differential or overtime) that working non-traditional hours would cost them to have that mom or dad work from 1-9pm, causing them to miss out on their own kid-time or have to pay for child-care (not many daycare centers offer “off-hours” care and unless you have family to take care of your kids, your babysitter will be retiring comfortably on the millions you will give her!). I agree that the folks at the top need to consider that their customer/constituent base is more in the working world than not, but they also have to be willing to compensate their working parent employees to make it happen 🙂

    1. As a worker who does not receive ANY monetary compensation for working additional hours, you make a great point. Folks at the top need to (as Jillian already noted) ‘put their money where their mouth is.’ However, my office has researched various employee preferences at state, local and federal places of employment…there is high demand for shifts or jobs that are outside of traditional hours. I often have wondered if this is due to the fact that for some households with two working parents, if one works traditional hours, and one works non-traditional hours, it actually makes coverage for child care easier? Also, if you look at the ACTUAL fiscal implications of opening a few extra DMV branches for a few late hours during the week, or on weekends, the cost is not very significant, this would be similar for municipal offices.

  3. I too agree with your post. I’m lucky because my bank is People’s and is open seven days a week at the local Stop and Shop store. In regards to public schools, the reason why primary schools start late is because the school buses are shared. First the high school and middle school kids get to school, then elementary kids. Also, I believe the before and after school care is tax deductible.

    1. before and after care is deductible up to 5K a year. 5K a year goes by really fast when you also have to manage full-day care for summer, and school vacation care.. But even if it were free, the point of the matter is that I want to have a bigger role in my daughter’s education. I want to be able to drop her off in the morning and talk to her teacher once in a while. The primary years is when this possible and desirable, but when school starts at 8:45 or 9:30 (depending on which magnet you go to), it’s not possible. And it has never EVER made sense to have high school start earliest in the day. Teens are happy to sleep later–and also teens are capable of putting themselves on the bus.

  4. I totally agree with this, too. My kids aren’t in school yet but I’ve heard other parents complain that all assemblies, programs, etc. are right in the middle of the day, which is the hardest for working parents. If it was first thing in the morning they could go in late or if it was at the end of the day they could leave early, but having a program at 1:00 is difficult. I’m lucky to work from home but I still have set hours that I’m working.

    1. Ugh–so frustrating isn’t it. Tomorrow I will be using some of my much coveted vacation time to participate in a music program at my daughters school, which starts at 12:45!

  5. I am fortunate enough to work in a downtown area, so I can manage many of these things on lunch break (except the DMV–oy the DMV), but the school one is brutal. I understand that school is not day care, and I get having to pay for after school care, but why can’t schools start early enough to not have to pay for before-school care, too? It’s not like the kids aren’t awake!

    1. Great point Susan. I think that schools should examine traditional school hours and modernize with the needs and demands of modern families and children.

  6. Love it. I agree. If we’re going to talk about results and efficiency, then we better start putting our money where our mouth is! Thanks for speaking your mind.

    1. Thanks Jillian. There is a definietly a fiscal aspect, but other efficiencies can be achieved, and policy changes accomplished with few additional resources. The tougher battle is changing the culture!

Leave a Reply to jilchrest Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s