Next week you'll hear half a sigh of relief from me.
The sigh of relief half is because public school begins next week, and thus ends my ridiculous attempt to juggle working from home with caring for children (or at least for one of them; preschool starts on September 5, after Labor Day...a mixed blessing since it means one week of still juggling, but also one week of adjusting to public school before adding in two schools each day).
If you wonder why I tried to juggle working with childcare, I'll be honest: it's because I can't afford to do otherwise. It's been an enormous strain on my entire family and has strung me practically to the breaking point. Taking the summer off isn't an option for me. But my earnings don't accommodate paying for childcare.
You might reasonably ask why not forget working right now, in that case. It's because my career is important to me, not as important as my children, but nevertheless, valuable and something I've invested heavily in as a person. I ultimately hope it increases in earnings so that I can provide better for my family, take us out of this hand-to-mouth, paycheck-to-paycheck strained budget way of life. But first, I have to build up from the bottom. I know that upfront this can mean some compromise and sacrifice. My big plan was to split my schedule: mommy by day, professional by night. However, this plan relied on a 50/50 two parent family.
Unfortunately compounding this summer as difficult was my husband's work schedule, which has him working evenings and weekend, frequently.
At play here are some of the major conflicts of interest modern families have to deal with: increasing work demands, increasing cost of living that more and more requires two salaries to remain middle class (despite a strong economy), and decreasing public assistance and sense of responsibility.
This week in my about-houstontx.com column I'm exploring the effect recent legislation has for students in the 2007-8 public school year. In Texas, there are some interesting changes, including a new stipulation that sets a boundary for the earliest date school may begin and a controversial addition to the state pledge: the words "one state under God."
I'm extensively researching educational issues such as these to better understand what my child and I will encounter as she begins public school this year.
And that's the other half, the not sighing in relief half.
I am quaking in my boots as we prepare to start Patience in Big School next week. I know I won't be in Kansas (so to speak) any longer as of next Monday. My small, private school that is "touchy feely and responsive to every parent and child" experience is finished.
If I had any doubt, the vice principal of the elementary school laid it to rest after a curt conversation with me the other week. After seeking much advice, I took the unanimous suggestion to call the school and alert them to my child's experience being bullied by a student entering kindergarten with her next year. The vice principal quickly told me that the classes were already assigned (even though open enrollment had only begun that day), and parents were not allowed to make requests for class assignments. She was uninterested in learning anything about the situation, and hung up quickly. This isn't the reception I expected, based on what the teachers and parents who had advised me to call had told me. But it confirmed my worst fears that my child and I are entering a big pond where we are merely one number among many, and her individual needs pale in comparison to the greater need of the whole.
As glad as I am that soon school will be back in session and our family can resume a schedule that will balance out better than the summer has, I also anticipate at least one month of intense transition.
I look forward to and dread in equal measure the start of school and the month of September. I know Patience will be equally thrilled and happily challenged by kindergarten as well as stressed by it. I know it will be the same for us, her parents. This is the first time we'll have two children in two different schools, which will also be an adjustment. We'll all have new schedules and responsibilities as well.
I think...wake me when it's October.
Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
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