The Puzzle: Single parenthood, work/career, childcare
"How do other working single parents balance the demands of work with childcare?" asks a friend. She goes on:
My lack of ability to network and attend as many after work and out of work functions sometimes leaves me feeling outside of building strong relationships and opportunities professionally. A lot of events and functions happen before daycare opens or after it closes. Even if I could find a sitter, which most nights I can't, it is hard to justify spending the $12-15/hour plus any drinks and dinner at the function when I already pay $11k per year for full time daycare on a single income.
I also tend to feel squeezed between daycare and work. The professional world expects that I should be able to meet the workloads and time demands typical of most in a 9-5 professional environment. Most of the time this works fine; however, when an end of day client call goes too late I find myself rushing like a maniac to get to daycare on time. Who am I kidding? Most days I struggle to get all of my work done and make it to daycare on time.
All of the other children at the daycare where my daughter goes have coupled parents. Typically the parents alternate pickup and dropoff so that their kids get more home time and the parents have more flexibility in their working hours. My daughter is almost always the last kid to daycare (it is hard to get ready when I also have to prepare her meals, etc) and the last kid to be picked up. Whenever I can pick her up earlier I do, but often it is just at the closing bell and the daycare staff who would like to leave earlier make it clear that they are annoyed.
On the flip side, the narrow window means that my actual work product and thinking about work tends to be much more focused. I get less distracted by email, any personal Web surfing or really any non essential work since I am clear that I have much less time to get work done. I also have learned that I have to clearly delineate work and family. By the time I work all day, pick up my daughter, get ready for the next day, do laundry, clean up and shower I am so exhausted that there is no chance I could muster the mental energy to do any more work. Home has become a mostly work free environment for me which actually allows me to focus on my daughter and do things that take very little mental energy, but that are fulfilling such as: sewing, reading, or playing music when a moment allows.
Has single parenthood made you more efficient at work? Does it mean your child is in the minority, spending upwards of 9 hours at daycare? Does it get any better than this or is this reality your balance?