Thursday, September 13, 2007

A juggling act

With school starting recently, I've been thinking a lot about work-life balance lately. The other night at Parent's Night for Hannah's class, the usual clipboards went around where parents could sign up to chaperone the annual field trips or to help out in the classroom. Abby's teacher has asked for parent volunteers in the classroom as well.

This is one thing I feel that I really miss out on by working full-time out of the house. Although I would love to be more involved in the girls' classes, I just can't take so much time off from work. As much as possible, I need to save my time off for days when any of us are sick or we have appointments. Last year I tried to make it to at least one event at each of their schools. I attended most of Hannah's preschool Christmas party, and I helped out with Beach Day at Abby's kindergarten class last spring. But I couldn't make it to VIP day at Hannah's class - and neither could Ron. In fact, we couldn't find anyone who could go and I felt so horrible that she had to miss out on that special activity.

It's all about balance. And juggling. All parents learn to juggle, no matter what their work or home situation. And it gets more complicated with the more children you have - more school commitments, activities, etc. Something you don't necessarily consider when deciding whether to have another baby! I certainly don't remember thinking, "this will mean a third classroom to try to find time to volunteer in" or "how am I going to manage 3 kids in soccer at the same time someday?". I'm probably naive in that way, but I'm getting a crash course now.

I'm very lucky in some ways - my work has been flexible so far, unlike a few previous job situations. I know that many other parents struggle more than I do. Ron's job offers much less flexibility in fact - basically none. He was lucky to get Tuesday off, but we can't count on him being available to help with any school or other activities or to be able to stay home with the girls when they're sick or take them to appointments. That all falls to me - so I'm very glad that my job allows me to do those things, so far.

There are two things that my company offers which really help. The first is that we can actually 'go negative' in our paid leave bank - up to a full week. Since we accrue more paid time with every pay period, it's possible to catch back up unless you're constantly taking days off. The only time it ever becomes an issue is if you leave the company - and then all they do is take whatever you owe the leave bank out of your last paycheck. I'm currently still catching back up from taking four days off over the July 4th week when we couldn't find backup daycare (our daycare provider was on vacation that week). I've had to take some additional time off since too when I was sick.

My company also allows us to purchase up to a week of additional leave time. Since I didn't start permanently until February, I couldn't take advantage of it for this year, but I plan to next year if we can afford it. The cost for the extra days is taken directly out of your paycheck so it's money you never see anyway. And I think it's very worth it to be able to have a few extra days home with my kids or to help me be able to do things like volunteer in their classrooms or on field trips a little more often.

I still wish I could attend PTO meetings (held in the mornings) or work in their classrooms on a regular basis. I feel like I'm very out of touch with who my kids are at school and what's going on in their school lives. I just have to trust that everything is going ok and that we'd hear about it if not. And I know that there are other parents who are able to donate their time to help out and I'm very grateful for that.

How do you manage with balancing all of the commitments you have?

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7 wonderful people said...:

Anonymous said...

This is the hardest thing for me. When I was younger I tooks much more time off then, I would try to take an hour, plus my lunch or a half day there and a half day there but all to quickly those sick days and personal days disappeared. To me you only get one shot at this motherhood thing and you should make every effort to get to all you can. It does mean so much to them..However, I do need to work not just for financial reasons, but the benfits are so good. That is crucial.Just do the best you can and DON'T BEAT YOURSELF UP!!!! Remember you are a wonderful mom.

Anna said...

I have been blessed to be able to stay home with my kids. Especially when they were in elementary school, I volunteered as much as possible. I felt like that was part of my job and something I could do that other parents couldn't. Besides, I really enjoyed it. I liked being in the school and getting to know the kids' teachers and their friends.

It sounds like you do as much as you can. Hopefully you can get a class schedule as far ahead of time as possible so you can arrange to be there for the most important things.

It's a shame PTO meetings are in the mornings. That seems wrong because they are automatically excluding a lot of parents. As hard as it is to get people to come and participate, at least in our school, you'd think they'd hold them in the evenings to give more parents a chance to be there.

kailani said...

I'm very fortunate to have a flexible job. I can work as much or as little as I want. Right now I'm only working 2 days a week. Those 2 days are like my mini-vacations! hee hee

Jen@BigBinder said...

This is a subject that gives me knots in my stomach. When we first had kids, the plan was that I would stay home with them for a year. That turned into "when they start preschool" and then "when they start kindergarten".

I would be happy to work part time when they start school, but I was a pretty good earner and my husband is looking forward to not being 'poor' (his word; I think anyone who can buy groceries and live in a house isn't poor) anymore which involves working full time usually.

I'm like you; I didn't think about school stuff and activities when they were infants; it just didn't occur to me then.

Right now; I'm good at balancing the checkbook on one not so big income. I am still trying to figure out a way to balance work and family when the day comes - I know it will be a much bigger challenge.

~Amber~ said...

I am so sorry Deb. But I am always here for back up it daycare or if they need someone to go to school with them for somthing and you can't make it. Keep me in mind! HUGS!!!

crazy working mom said...

It's difficult, but it's what we signed up for as parents. So, we have to trek on and keep our chins up. Great post!

Jean said...

Im right there with ya. With 3 you just wish you could clone yourself to be there for all 3.
My job is fairly flexible on "scheduled" time off but not so much on "unscheduled". We have a strict occurance policy- 6 strikes for the year and your out. Knock on wood so far Im ok. When the kids are sick of course I'm the one that has to stay home. Somehow someway we've made it through the year with out to many sick days.