Today is the first day of summer for kids here in Leon County. Which means it’s one of the hardest days of the year for working parents.
On the one hand, our kids want to do what they feel most kids do – sleep in, watch cartoons with a bowl of cereal, and make a bonfire out of leftover pencils and papers.
On the other hand, I have to go to work, and there are no “official” child care options. Every working parent I know is scrambling to find babysitters or taking the day off.
Last Saturday, at Reunion, I had the honor of being invited to be part of a panel discussion on juggling work and motherhood. And I said that when people hear the phrase “work-life balance” they imagine a zen-like state where everything flows like a gentle stream and the transition from work to home is seamless and everyone does yoga.
In reality, work-life balance is more like the old vaudeville plate-spinning act, where the plates are up on sticks and the performer below scrambles to keep them all in the air.
Finding work-life balance is really just deciding the absolute maximum number of plates you can manage before the whole thing comes crashing down.
This is one of those days when there seem to be too many plates. I found a babysitter from 8-12, but for the afternoon Tyler will be sitting in my office with a laptop and some DVDs. And I feel horribly, horribly guilty – it’s the first day of summer, we have a pool in our backyard, we should both be in it.
When I was a child, my parents worked, but both my grandmothers lived in town and watched us in the summers, on holidays, and when we were sick. Now, none of Tyler’s grandparents live in-town, and all of them still work.
And so this summer, like every other summer, Tyler will be shipped off to day camps every week between now and August. This is a feat which requires a lot of coordination and planning, inter-parental cooperation, and a large chunk of change. But all my careful planning can’t conceal the fact that it’s still day care.
“The summer is just like school,” Tyler remarked. “I still have to get up at the same time, I still have to take a backpack, I still have to eat lunch from a lunchbox every day.”
Ouch. Because it’s true.
It blows my mind that Tyler would rather be at home with me than at camp with other kids his age; he still prefers my company. That might not be true for much longer. I fear I am missing these last few golden months when he’s my little boy.
I have made many choices, many trade-offs, to be in my position. I have a job, rather than a career, but I work close to home, close to Tyler’s school, and I leave work every day at 5:00. If Tyler gets sick, I can go get him. If he forgets his lunch, I can take it to him. My bosses never bother me after hours, or on the weekend.
The downside, of course, is that I make just enough money to turn around and spend it on child care.
And I realize that I am lucky, that some working mothers have long commutes and longer hours. But on days like today, my choices still seem insufficient.
I just want to go home.