Wednesday, September 05, 2007


The other day I was talking to a neighbor whose son just started kindergarten. This boy has been in preschool for years, but now that he is starting school, his mother is cutting back on her work hours so that she can be home when he gets out of school. The school provides after-school care/play, but she didn't want him to do that.

I thought it was interesting that she was decreasing her work hours now -- don't more moms go back to work or increase their work hours once their kids start school? What she is doing makes a lot of sense though. The local excellent preschool has full-day, full-year programs. Elementary school has a shorter day, LOTS of weekdays off (at least 1-2 per month, with no child care provided), and no classes in summer. It is much more challenging to balance family and work once your child starts elementary school.

I certainly didn't question her decision to start working part-time now. I consider those kinds of decisions intensely personal -- only she and her family know what works best for them, and I have no basis (or inclination) to judge. She volunteered the information, however, that her main motivation is that she hates her job. In that case, what she is doing makes perfect sense, but it is sad that she has a job she hates.


Anonymous said...


I'm a frequent reader of your blog, but this is the first time I'm leaving a comment. (I'm an FSP too, and my husband is an MSP.)

I had much longer work hours when my kids were in pre-school day care. As you say, the hours there are longer, and it's through the year. Once they moved to school, they weren't happy going to after-school care, so my husband and I decided to exploit the flexi-time nature of a theoretical research job. One of us is at home when the kids get home. They need some time and attention from us, and then they get into their groove playing / fooling around. And that's when we get back to working, but at home.

It's not easy. We have to schedule all classes, meetings with students / collaborators, seminars, during school hours. We're incredibly lucky - we have highly supportive colleagues, and most of the time it works out fine. Also, it leaves virtually no time for individual work (reading / working out details / writing) while at office; all that has to be done at home, where potential distraction lurks around every corner.
But we're managing so far, and it's still better than all the alternatives I can see.

Also, unlike your neighbour, we love our jobs. Which drives us more to make it work.


Anonymous said...

De-lurking to agree with your post.
However, like the previous comment, while it's necessary to spend more time with the kids at home, it's a lot easier to do so.
Specifically, they need less attention and it's possible to work at home while they are around.

I save "low-quality" work for these times: editorial work, writing letters, preparing for committee work, preparing slides.

I make an effort to save quiet time for thinking and writing proofs (my research is mostly theoretical).

It would be harder to keep this style with experimental-style research and a laboratory.

P.S. You write a very nice blog, and your topics and experiences often resonate with me.

Anonymous said...

Financially, pre-school is a lot more expensive than after-school too (unless you're going private).

I've heard of parents cutting back to be home with teenagers. For although they're capable of feeding themselves and dialling 911, unless you're round a lot you aren't there to listen to them and spot the minor changes.

Anonymous said...

Your comment about the school schedule came right on cue, just after I had opened an email from our afterschool program that talked about an early dismissal and teacher work days next week. We both work full time and have two daughters (now 4th and 9th grade). Once they hit middle school and the after school program essentially disappears things get even more fun. We were thus pleased for a number of reasons when my older daughter chose to join the cross country and track teams in eight grade, as that provided her with a pseudo-afterschool program for many days. I admire the diiscipline of the previous commenter--I don't think I am together enough to arrange my school/research tasks to fit that bill, though with my older daughter starting high school this year I may find out that I don't have a choice. Both of my daughters have become connoisseurs of the many things to do in Mommy and Daddy's respective offices (which luckily are only 100 yards apart--stuffing pipette tips was good for a few years when they were younger--a quater in payment went a long way) and, now that they are older, of the many attractions of the campus and college town.

If you love your kids and they know it that goes a long way--all the rest is details.

Mark P

Anonymous said...

The other difference is that school-age children notice that their class mates are being collected by their parents (mums, usually) when they are not, and tell you so. And so do some of the parents, for that matter!

Shay said...

" is sad that she has a job she hates.

Most of us do.

Anonymous said...

Another benefit of being there for the kids after they get out of school is that right after they get home, they are full of information for you about their school day. It can include something like "It's the worst day of my life!" when another child embarrassed them, or "It's the best day of my life!" when they got extra time at recess. (These extremes were separated by 4 days for my son!) There are a lot of mental/emotional things that are going on throughout their school career that parents can help with.

Anonymous said...

No, this is absolutely standard. The whole society makes work and raising kids hard. Every school holiday our halls are filled with bored kids waiting while the parents work. Preschool is possible to pay for. After school care is spotty, low quality, and usually only available when school is in session.

Being home when the kids are home is kind of nice - particularly if you can work a bit while they feed and veg out.... Just wait until they get into a serious sport (swimming, hockey, skiing) THEN it really is a nightmare! Thank goodness for ski lodges and hockey rinks with WiFi!