This week I head back to classes after a year-long sabbatical, my daughter begins kindergarten, and my husband reduces his hours to part-time. It is a time of transition for all of us, and although we’re all a bit stressed and cranky, I’m looking forward to this new stage for our family.
Since my daughter has been in daycare more or less since she was 5 months old, kindergarten didn’t really seem like a huge event. Yet as we walked down our tree-lined street we were joined by three other families who were also taking their children to school for the first time --the fathers going in late to work in order to experience this milestone-- it hit me that a big change was occurring. With our children in school now, the divide between me and my stay-at-home mother friends no longer exists in the same way. I no longer have to apologetically admit that my daughter is not with me all day, that she is cared for my strangers.
As I watched two of my friends wipe away tears, I realized that this is their first separation from their children, a separation that I experienced (tearfully) 4 ½ years ago. While they speak of having more free time, I face the crammed schedule of a mother trying to work full time and pick up my daughter by 3 pm.
Thankfully, my husband begins working part-time this week. In fact, after today, he will join the neighborhood moms and walk out daughter to school each day. We’ve thought about this change for years, but it never seemed the right time. Of course, the time is not perfect now: both of us were forced to take unpaid furloughs and pay cuts this year. In addition, he is paying (undiminished) child support for our daughter who will be attending college in two years. In these tough economic times, there are many reasons we need two salaries. However, in addition to my husband’s own need for a change, I really want more support at home. I’ve dreaded the double-shift that many working women face: working full time while also being the primary caretaker and person in charge of the household. Since my academic schedule is more flexible, I’ve been the one who kept our daughter from being in daycare fulltime, I’ve generally taken her to doctors, stayed home when she was sick, and tended to the multitude of household tasks.
Now that my daughter is five and in kindergarten, I feel myself drawn to my work more. After a productive sabbatical, I have a book almost finished and a new project I’m excited to start.
I’ve been grateful for a profession that’s given me the flexibility to spend a lot of time with my daughter before she begins school. Now I’m grateful for a marriage that’s giving me the necessary time to devote to work.