You know those people who have mothers and sisters around to provide childcare, or at least pinch-hit when you get that 10 a.m. call from school telling you your daughter has vomited into the ficus plant and you need to pick her up ASAP?
That’s not me.
So most days, I am just the teensiest bit stressed out. On top of my logistical stress, I am quivering under the weight of financial stress.
Did I mention I get no child support no child support? From my very rich ex-husband? I like to bandy this fact about on occasion so people will inhale sharply and exclaim, “What an asshole!” and look at me like I’m Superwoman. Not, perhaps, the healthiest motivation on my part, but satisfying nonetheless.
Because I get no child support, and the only person I have to fall back on is middle-aged me, I frequently lie wide-eyed at 2 a.m. wondering how I’ll keep a roof over my kids’ heads if I lose my job. I think to myself: You should look for a job that pays more (as if there is an excess of high-paying jobs these days). And then I think to myself: Are you crazy? In what other job universe will you have a boss as single-mom friendly as Sharon?
Sharon’s kids are grown now, but when they were young she was a single mom. And before she was a single mom, she had a husband who worked sporadically. She also had no family around to help out. Which is why she cuts me a stunning amount of slack. Here are some of the things she lets me do, as long as they’re on the down-low:
Image: USDA.gov via Flickr
- Arrive 45 minutes late every day (after dropping off my daughter at school, it takes me an hour to drive to work).
- Sneak out for a few hours if my kid vomits into a ficus plant, or has a school performance, or my babysitter’s car breaks down and I need to pick up my son from school, or take my daughter to the orthodontist, or, or, or.
- Take vacation days at inconvenient times so I could visit my son when he was in an out-of-state residential treatment center. He’s better now and is back home.
- Leave work a half-hour early every day so I can get home at some semblance of a reasonable hour and eat dinner with my kids.
Two things would make my working single-mom life easier. Besides Xanax.
- Affordable and dependable childcare. When my kids were younger, I paid sitters as much as my mortgage. Now that they’re older, and I’m able to scale down childcare hours, I still pay a lot: around $400 a month. And don’t get me started on the topic of flaky, even unhinged babysitters. I don’t know a way around the childcare conundrum, other than to move to Sweden.
- A Work From Home Arrangement. Sorry, Marissa Mayer, but working moms who don’t make a zillion dollars a year could really benefit from this arrangement. My quality of life would increase exponentially if I could work from home at least a couple of days a week. My childcare costs would be lower, I could pick up my kids from school, and not have to sweat rush hour traffic to get home in time for dinner.
All working moms struggle with these challenges, but the challenges are more profound when you don’t have a partner. I am very, very fortunate to have a been-there-done-that boss who makes my job as kid-friendly as possible.
Because if I didn’t have a boss who knew what it was like to be a single mom, I would be toast.
This post is part of BlogHer's Women@Work editorial series, made possible by AFL-CIO
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