Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Work during children's school hours

Here is a question I recently got by email:

"I am wondering what your thoughts are on women who work outside the home when their children are in school. In particular, women whose work hours do not interfere with their ability to be home when their children are home. Is this still a result of feminism?"

Thank you for taking the time to write! To say it simply, I don't think your question has a clear-cut answer. It's too complex, human lives and family relationships are comprised of too many elements, to make it possible to say "all women who work outside the home are like that" or "it's OK to work 20 hours a week, but not 40 hours a week". 

All I can do is try to put myself in the shoes of a woman who works a part-time job during the hours her children are at school. Suppose she is there in the morning to see her children off, and comes home before they do, which means that as far as the children are concerned, their mother is always home when they are. 

Of course working a part-time job that allows a wife and mother to spend more time with her family is better than working full-time. For some it might look like an ideal arrangement; however, time is a precious resource, and using it up always come with a price. It is not up to me to decide what price of her time each and every woman is able to pay. Only you can decide how much time you can spare, at this season of your life, for activities outside your duties at the home and within your family. Only you can be a judge of whether you are stretched too thin by social obligations, volunteer projects, relationships with various people, or workng outside the home. 

I know women who don't work outside the home, yet they are always out and about, and it shows in the hasty, haphazard style of living they set within their family. I know women who work outside the home, for various reasons which they can't always help, but do their best to spend the lion's share of their free time with their family, in their peaceful homes, and their loved ones feel their devotion. 

Personally, if I had children who were at school, say, from 8 AM to 2 PM, and someone told me, "hey, there's a great opportunity for you to work and earn some money while your children are gone!", I'd think twice about how badly I really want/need it. Because it would still come with a price.

First, my mornings would be much more hectic. I'd be in a hurry to get my children to leave home in the morning so I can get ready for work. In my pressure over time, I'd be prone to snap at them and be irritable and angry, and grumble without good reason. We all know it's not a good way to start a day.

Suppose I leave home soon after my children do. I hurry to work without having time to clear the breakfast mess (I do hope everyone at least had time to have breakfast), and my morning is spent away, and nothing is done at home. By lunch time, when I leave work to pick up my children or meet them at home, I'm fairly tired, and nothing is done. With good planning it might be that I have lunch ready to be re-heated and eaten, but the housework has accumulated and I must tackle it now. My children are at home, but I have no time to spare for them at the moment. I have no peace of mind in such a messy house. I must do the laundry, clean, perhaps cook tomorrow's meals or run some errands. 

Knowing myself, I'd be much happier to use the hours my children are away to clear off the housework, so that I don't have to worry about the bulk of it during the time the whole family is together. But again, I am not you and you are not me. We cannot sit in judgemmt; all we can do is look on, with interest and friendship, and challenge each other by presenting considerations we might not have thought of. 


Mrs. H said...

Such excellent points. Thank you, Mrs. T! I hope that I never have to consider this, but I shall never say never. Blessings!

Anonymous said...

Many people think the only time a woman should be at home is when there are young children around. Since I don't have children yet, people keep asking me why I don't volunteer full time. I do volunteer part time and from home. I don't want to be away from home volunteering all day as taking care of a home is worthy and time consuming!

I think society should take it easy on mothers, who have the most important job there is! It seems like a lot of churches are pushing mothers with young children to volunteer, which I think isn't fair. Good post, as always! And congratulations on your new home!

Lea said...


This was interesting. I don't think that every mother who works outside of the home (part or full time) has a messy, chaotic morning or family relationship, as you said yourself. Some mornings/days are - but then again, some mornings/days are more chaotic no matter what. A child who dawdles over dressing or eating or something unexpected that comes up (the clothes washer overflowing, a late bus or non-starting vehicle, etc.).

I have found that a definite perk of not having anyone home during the day (my husband and I both work full time and go to school and our children are in school from 845-3pm each day) is that the house is actually less messy because we aren't there to make the messes! We don't have a dishwasher and putting the breakfast dishes in the sink (rinsed!), making sure beds are made, bathroom tidied, and things are picked up means I come home to a fairly tidy house every day.

Just some things to think about...

Anonymous said...

My mom worked for one year (as a teachers aid) during my growing up. She left after we did and got home half an hour after us (we walked to my grandma's, who lived next door to us, after school.) I never noticed a difference in my mom's stress level, the housekeeping, or anything else. In fact, in an emergency we were more likely to be able to get her at her job than when she was home since my dad pastored our church and she often helped elderly parishioners with their shopping and doctor's appointments (pre-cell phone days).

My brother and I both hated her working.

I can't explain why, since all the logic said we weren't affected at all, but we both hated that time in our growing up.

We were both thrilled when she announced she wouldn't work the next year.

Sometimes mom being committed elsewhere affects the children even when all logic says it shouldn't.

Joluise said...

This does work for many women but not all. Some mothers then have difficulties when their child gets sick and needs to be at home or during school holidays. It all depends on the flexibility of your employer. It has nothing to do with feminism, it is what works for your family. What works for me, certainly doesn't work for others.

I have to say (as a working mother of now grown children) - I never leave my house in a mess. If that means spending a few mins longer I do, nothing worse than coming home to dishes and a messy kitchen. All dishes are done and the house is left neat. Meat is in the fridge defrosting and the nights meal is planned. When I come home the house is calm and peaceful!

Mrs. Tanya G. said...

Just wanted to pass along this article I read this morning~ I believe its along the same lines of what this post (and your other posts) are saying about parents needing to properly raise their children. This is from a Catholic perspective but I'm sure other Christians and the Jewish community would agree with its message too.

Harshika said...

Well said Maa'm. I am a former teacher now a stay home mother to a 3 yr old. All the time a lot of people around me keep telling me that it is easier to work as a teacher becauseof shorter hours. I dont think so! :) The hours maybe short by a mere 2 hours technicaly but the strain and stress of rushing around is a killer. Top of that a teacher is almost like a 2nd mother, imagine being available like that to say, 20 random kids at school! So draining. So no thank you, I am happy looking after one baby at a time. If at all a woman wants to work even after her children are at school she must really think hard and give herself a little break and not rush again to work outside! I am not judging but honestly, I simply fail to understand working moms, I really do!

Anonymous said...

How timely since I am planning to leave my part time job soon. I love my teaching job but I find working part time and taking care of my child too much. Maybe it is just me.. I see a lot of female friends and co-workers who manage just fine. I get grumpy and snap at my child, wishing he'd sleep earlier so that I can mark or prep lessons. On days when I decide to concentrate more on my child, I feel that my lessons could have been prepped more. Working has been a great experience but I'll be glad once Im done. Being a full time sahm is scary but we'll make it work. I breathe a sigh of relief when I visit blogs like yours :) Its one of the few places where ppl "get me".

Anonymous said...

i worked part time when my kids were in school(they are grown now) and i HATED it. I am very home centered and it was very difficult for me to be content and not depends on personality,how you were raised and what your spouse prefers. I wished now i would have stayed home and made do with a lot less $$$. The time slips way too fast.

Bethany Hudson said...

I absolutely agree with all of this. Couldn't agree more.

Birdie said...

When my daughter entered first grade, I began attending college full time. I thought it would be a piece of cake, but it has turned out to be a huge struggle for me. Not just because of the homework, but because my prime hours to get stuff done around the house or to run errands without my precious daughter underfoot is completely gone. Now I have gotten myself in to a situation where I have a federal loan that will need to be paid back if I quit school.

I'm not saying it would be this way for everyone, I'm just saying I wish I had been more careful. Being back in school has taken away from my family much more than I thought it could.

Anonymous said...

My you do seem to think an awful lot about what you would and wouldn't do if you were other people. To be honest, though your points are certainly valid, you clearly suffer from a real lack of experience in this area.

You paint a very dismal picture of mother's who work and I question just why. Are you preaching to the choir or patting yourself on the back? I can't really tell. But to those of us who most work outside our homes and feel the pull between family work, I wonder if you could stand to not look so pitifully on us? I mean really should we spend all our days in the office (or on the phone, or in the car...) weeping as we look at picture of our children? Should our days we full of sobs as we think of how neglected our children are? Of course not! We make the best of it we can. We work as hard as we can. And we do whatever we can. And we might even, if we dare, enjoy ourselves a little in the meantime. Because that's just life. That's how it rolls. Some of us have to work and pretend we don't like it, and others of us have to stay home and pretend we do like it.
I see you are blessed heavily by being the sort that both gets to stay home and really enjoy it. So, why not just enjoy your own life and let other's worry about theirs?

We should never fool ourselves into thinking that neither our characters, passions nor situations are completely of our own doing.

MarkyMark said...

Time is the great equalizer amongst us all. No matter how rich, how poor, how tall, how short, etc. one is, there is one, inescapable fact: each of us gets 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; that's 168 hours that each of us gets per week. Unlike money, time can NEVER be recovered, nor can we 'roll over' unused time; once a moment is gone, it's gone forever. For me, time is the most valuable commodity of all.

MarkyMark said...

One thing I forgot in my previous comment was this: opportunity cost. It's a term that originated in economics, but it's equally applicable to time-perhaps more so, since time is a finite, non-renewable resource. Anyway, opportunity cost means that, if I spend money on X, then I will forfeit the opportunity to spend it on Y or Z. Likewise, with time, if I spend an afternoon riding my motorcycle, then I cannot go kayaking, read a book, or do anything else during that time.

When you're working, then the time spent at work is time that CANNOT be spent at home; that time cannot be spent reviewing your food menu, cleaning, mending clothes, or even resting. As you said, working, even part time, comes with a price-especially for women.