I was listening to NPR's Tell Me More the other morning and there was a segment discussing "The Kid Card." What prompted this conversation was this letter and this follow-up article. It got me thinking a lot about how being a parent and how that impacts how I work and how my husband works.
I'll be honest, being a parent has made me re-evaluate how I work. It has made me look closely at what I am willing to do and what I am not. I don't think I play "the kid card," but when I became a parent, I changed my own expectations of "work." I was fortunate enough to be able to leave my teaching job (thanks small mortgage and credit cards) to stay home for 3 years. Then when it was time for Noah to start school at 3 (full-time, 5 days a week).
I considered the type of job I wanted. My first choice was to return to the high school classroom to teach. But getting a teaching job is not easy as the market is saturated (especially if you are a humanities teacher; I teach English). I did not get a teaching job then and ended up applying for a graduate assistantship that would pay for my part of the Ph.D. program. It allowed me to work 20 hours per week, which were flexible hours, and allowed me to keep teaching classes at the community college and the university where I also had my assistantship.
I was able to take and pick my son up from school and my daughter from day-care. I could volunteer at school and go on field trips. I began to realize how important flexibility was as a parent. My assistantship eventually turned into a full-time job with flexibility as I was able to negotiate a faculty appointment (which meant I didn't punch a clock and didn't have a certain # of hours to log each day). I know that there were people in the office with staff appointments that resented my flexibility, but I realized that what I got paid for was to do my job -- not to sit at my desk for 8 hours.
That is when I realized my husband was right -- my salary was tied to getting my job done and not dependent on the number of hours I worked. If I needed to stay late, I would. If I needed to do work at night, I would. But if I didn't have work that needed to be completed, it meant that I could leave early to pick the kids up and go to the pool.
This flexibility is important to me and my family. I had to really evaluate that recently as I was faced with a choice -- keep my current, extremely flexible job (that also requires travel two times per month) or take a teaching job. While the teaching job will allow me to spend my summers with my kids, it doesn't offer me the ability to volunteer at school and go on field trips, but it does keep me home every week.
But it isn't just mothers who need/want flexibility. My husband is very fortunate to have a job that affords him a huge amount of flexibility. He works at home. He is able to take the kids to school and pick them up every day. He can take care of them when they are sick and off school. The idea that someone has to be sitting at their desk for exactly 8 hours a day seems ludicrous to me. I understand there might be jobs where that is the expectation or even the need, but for many jobs it isn't.
Shouldn't we be looking for ways to ensure that everyone has the work/life balance they need? Whether it is to care for elderly parents, a sick spouse, children, a sick pet, etc.? Shouldn't our workplaces be as flexible as they can be? Shouldn't our bosses, supervisors, directors, etc., recognize the work we do and not necessarily the time we spend in the office?
Just as our schools haven't changed much in the last 150 years (that is for another post), neither have our work places changed much. It is important to start realizing that technology changes many things. It is also important to accept that not all of us have jobs that can afford us flexibility. But shouldn't those that do, offer it -- regardless of reason. Taking time off or leaving early because my child has a game or a parent teacher conference shouldn't be seen as more legitimate than my coworker who wants to go to the doctor or get a pedicure.
We all need to understand that we all have a life outside of our jobs and that we are each entitled to that life equally.
More from parenting