In my area, the Jewish population is large enough that our local public schools are off for Jewish holidays. So because of Rosh Hashanah, the kids are out of school today! And because the main (read: cheapest) daycare in the area is at the local Jewish center, the kids in our neighborhood were all at home today. In my sunrise exercise class, the responses were firmly divided between working moms and at-home moms. To the working moms, it was a burden to find extra childcare today, especially since we’re also getting next Monday off for Columbus Day. All of the moms who are part-to-full-time at home were celebrating our chance to just get to hang out with the kids today. One mom was taking her kids down to La Brea tar pits, another one mentioned the pool, and even though my kids are homeschooled and thus technically had schoolwork to do today, we did some fun projects and had all the neighbor boys over all afternoon.
I mention this situation on the blog (after weeks of silence!) because it struck me forcibly that we as a society don’t tell young women about days like this when we’re assuring them that of course they can have it all, family and career. A lot assume that once kids are school-age, the childcare dilemma will be over. Maybe they have a vague sense that there’s this thing called summer vacation, but there are so many camps and summer programs nowadays that it’s not a big deal, planning-wise. It’s days like today, unexpected holidays in the midst of a work week, that can throw working parents for a loop. This morning’s conversation among a bunch of sweaty mom friends exemplified the down side of “having it all.” Even in the relatively flexible field of academia, college courses and office hours are still happening today for my working friends. When you have a career, you give up the freedom to enjoy these brief vacation days with your children. Maybe most working moms don’t mind, and maybe those of us who get to spend vacation days at home with our kids don’t appreciate it enough. My husband had to work today, after all, much as he would have liked eating chocolate chip pancakes and playing board games with us today. Regardless of how you or I feel about it, this is part of the parenting/working equation. Young women planning their futures should know about days like today!
(And in the spirit of full disclosure, I had typed up this much when my potty training toddler had an accident all over the bathroom. It did cross my mind as I mopped up pee that the privilege of staying home and playing with my kids on vacation days also means I have the “privilege” of cleaning up their messes!)