Monday, July 16, 2007

Working moms feeling untethered by our summer schedules

I have been linked to the school year schedule almost my whole life. Since entering kindergarten myself I have timed my life to summer and back-to-school for my daughter or myself almost every year: 32 of my 39 summers total.

This summer I feel that I have become unmoored, unglued. Half the time I don't know what day of the week it is, what date it is. My daughter is generally in day camp but I have to leave at 2:30 each afternoon to pick her up. Is it my imagination, or is my "vertical information storage system," aka the stack of work on my desk, only growing and never shrinking? I managed to start a new job on the first day of summer break (not my choice of timing!) and it's all been downhill since then. Today my daughter is home "sick," and I am not sure if it's really a mental health day or what, but I told her she needs to rest and entertain herself. I believed that she felt off her game this morning but now she's back to normal and bouncing off the walls.

My friend PunditMom wrote about her Mommycamp schedule with her daughter--so if you want to hear from someone who can make that work, I recommend her blog. More power to her, but it is so not working for me.

I am feeling a lot more in tune with Judith Warner this week, who writes in her blog Domestic Disturbances about her resentment about the myriad school and camp events that ask parents to drop their work to come visit or volunteer during the day.

Judith's rant was cathartic for me. She said:

"Conversations about parents who break promises or let their kids down or generally make them feel less important than work shouldn’t be common. But they are. I hear snippets of them every time I attend a school event during the workday. And I’m fed up. I’ve just about had it.

"But not with the ill-accused parents.

"I’ve had it with a culture that willfully refuses to face up to the fact that almost 80 percent of mothers with children beyond pre-school age – and, of course, a much greater percentage of fathers – work. This refusal to face facts, coupled with the ideology of 'parental involvement' as a panacea for all social ills, has created a situation in which not only guilt-ridden parents, but children are needlessly suffering.

"It doesn’t need to be this way. It only takes a quick look across the Atlantic to see that many other countries have done what’s necessary to grow up and embrace the 21st century. They provide kids with a longer school year, a longer school day and subsidized summer activities. And they consider that a parent’s place is in the home – not in the classroom."

Add in the uber-competitive nature of parenting in some affluent communities and working parents can really feel left out of it all.

Interestingly, Judith's post got over 160 comments and of the ones that I've read, the vast majority of those who wrote in supported her point of view.

And yes, both Judith and I realize how lucky we are to have jobs that allow us to flexibly break away when needed, even at the cost to our work. It's important to remember that as Judith points out, 50% of Americans have no right to sick leave and 25% have no vacation.

Life calls me away from my desk at the moment, so I will leave you with one more link to an article that says that parents shouldn't have to feel that they are their kids' playmates and entertainers: "Leave those kids alone" from the Boston Globe. The tide may be turning away from child-centric rearing and back to a more sustainable approach.

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Blogger PunditMom said...

I wish it was as easy as my post makes it sound. Yes, PunditGirl is ecstatic with that schedule, but with work commitments, my new blogging commitment at PunditMom's Spin Cycle, and other work things, I'm not sure I'll be able to keep it up. I also read Judy's column (our daughters go to school together), and also share some of that angst.

My attempt at humor wasn't meant to portray that I have the summer under control ... only that we had one good day. When the editors come knocking, it will be a different story.

8:21 PM  
Blogger MojoMom said...

I appreciated that you still had your sense of humor while I have completely run out of Mojo for the time being!

Tomorrow is another day....

8:27 PM  
Blogger Mamacita said...

I'd be curious to know exactly how your hours change in the summer versus the fall. I'm already dreading the fall when my daughters schools are over at 2:30. They're too old for a babysitter, afterschool care, too (and VERY expensive) Maybe I should rent office space!

12:38 PM  

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