I am currently working part-time, 3 days a week as a software engineer. The other two weekdays, I stay home with my kids. In theory, this is supposed to help free me (and my husband) to get things done that we’d be taking off of work for anyway—kids sick days, doctor appointments, errands, deliveries, etc. In reality, it seems much more difficult than that.
The sick day problem has probably given me the most headaches so far. I’m theoretically working Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and you’d think that the kids would have at least some of their sick days on Thursdays or Fridays. So far, I don’ t think that’s been the case for a single illness since I went back to work. My job is flexible enough that I can just go in on different days, without anyone blinking. The problem is daycare. If I work a Thursday or Friday, then I have to call and OK that ahead of time, so that they will have enough staff (obviously, I also have to pay more if one kid will be going 4 days that week instead of 3). I do still earn sick days, as does my husband, plus he has the flexibility to do some work from home. But I’ve earned like 2 total since returning from maternity leave (the leave consumed the rest), and we’re both also planning for known hospital stays.
Doctors, also, seem to want us to schedule appointments on other days of the week besides Thursday and Friday, so I get into the same issue as with sick days. In theory, I can be somewhat flexible with my hours, but it’s been difficult to impossible to make up hours with getting kids ready and/or picked up from daycare at decent hours, and managing break time to pump milk for Trystan. (Before you even suggest giving that up, the answer is No, that is non-negotiable for me. I breastfeed. Period.). Working from home is not an option for my job (protest all you like about my being a software engineer, but truly it is impossible).
As for errands, some can be done with the kids, and some just cannot. Unfortunately, until Trystan is walking and/or Charlotte is walking better, the number of things is more than the number I can do. Grocery shopping: by the time I strap Charlotte into the seat, and put Trystan’s carseat in the cart, there’s no where left for the food. The sling is an option, but that makes it rather difficult to pick up some things (and he’s putting his hands into everything). Doctor appointments for me: maybe if the case were severe enough, but Charlotte’s not patient enough. Picking up a package from the post office: I would need one hand to carry Trystan’s carseat (or push the stroller) and one to keep track of Charlotte. Where do I put the package? The sling is just plain out, because there’s no way to balance a box with a baby strapped to your chest (unless you have superior arm strength I suppose). Usually, my home days are spent doing kid-focused things: story time at the library, walks to the park, playing around the house. I sometimes get lucky and get some housework done when the stars align and both kids nap at the same time (I try to let Charlotte be involved in taking care of the house so that she learns, but some things are just not kid-safe). For anyone who thinks I have time “to myself” on my “days off”, I laugh.
Oddly enough, there are two possibilities for how to address my time issue: quit work altogether, or work more hours. The former has issues with money and health insurance, and is not realistic right now. The latter option seems counterintuitive, but might accidentally work. I’ve been kicking around going back 4 days a week instead of 3 after Trystan’s next surgery. That would still allow me one day off a week with the kids. We would actually have to pay for full-time at daycare, but that means that we have guaranteed childcare on any of the 5 weekdays with no special phone calls to make. Within a 2-week payperiod, it is also much more likely that I can flex a couple of hours here and there if I have to (my job allows flexible hours, but not partial sick days for appointments). Actually, within a 2-week payperiod, it becomes plausible to actually flex an entire day off so I could work 7 9-10 hour days and have 3 off days. Note I say “plausible” not “possible” or even “probable”. The other benefit is that at 32 hours/week I earn full-time pay for holidays (currently, only paid half for holidays), contribute less (none actually) for health insurance, and earn vacation and sick time faster. Obviously I would also take home more pay to start with (80% of my “regular” salary instead of my current 60%), but that’s actually at the bottom of my list of pro’s right now
If/when I make a switch, I will likely follow up this post with one about how difficult things are when working 4 days a week. I wish there were a better solution, but winning lottery tickets aren’t often found laying around where I can pick them up, and other creative financial plans haven’t been well-received by all stakeholders.