Does My Flexible Job Schedule Make Me a Worse Parent?

Work-Life Balance on 07.07.11
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Lately when I rattle off the list of things I'm currently doing for work (writing on an almost daily basis for three local news web sites, compiling the weekly newsletter for a sailing magazine, trying to keep up with my own blog and business for which I just finished up a wedding for 200, and writing right here on Parentables) I tell everyone that even though it's a lot of work and a whole lot to keep track of, it's all great because it's flexible which means I get to save money on daycare, work around my kids' schedules when I need to, and spend some quality time with them during the day. I have finally managed to learn how to turn the computer off when they are not at daycare and truly spend that time with them. But last night when I was in what I like to call a knock down drag out battle of the wills with both of my children at bedtime and still had three stories to submit before I got to go to bed myself, working nine to five was looking pretty darn good. Not only that, but I started to wonder if I'm a worse parent because of my job "flexibility".

Giving In to Save Time

The battle with my son was over whether or not he could watch television after I had told him he needed to brush his teeth, get his pjs on, and stop talking back to me. My daughter got out of the tub and refused to put a diaper on. Every time I held my ground against them all I could think of was what was going to get the two of them to sleep the fastest and me back to work sooner, but I realized that I just had to suck it up and do what would hopefully teach them not to behave that way again. They are five and two so maybe (or most definitely) this should have been done a long time ago.

The fact is that I give in way too often and look for the easiest way to get the madness to stop rather than standing my ground like I should. Perhaps that's the reason we were having such an issue. But all the things I need to get done are always swirling around in the back of my head, and so I have a tendency to look for the easy answer rather than to let things turn into more of a production and a bigger lesson. I put my daughter in the crib with her diaper and told her until she was ready to put it on, she wasn't getting her bedtime milk and books. My son was just in a defiant mood after a long day of camp and completely exhausted so I gave him the option of choosing to get into my bed or his own, but that he needed to pick a bed and stop crying. Once we reached that point, I sat and read some books with him until my husband arrived home from his night out. My daughter eventually allowed me to put her diaper on and fell asleep. And at 9:20 p.m., almost two hours after I started the bedtime process, I went back to work to finish writing my three stories. 

Is the Grass Really Greener?

I was happy with myself for having done the right thing, but not so happy that I still had a long night ahead of me. I wondered if the grass really was greener on the other side, a.k.a. in a 9 to 5 office job. But I've tried that too, and I felt like I never could get the quality time in with my kids that I wanted. Is it better to get less time with them and be able to leave work behind at the end of the day? Will that make me a better disciplinarian and therefore make the time we do have together more peaceful because my children will be better behaved? It would also mean a big increase in daycare costs. The fact is that I was lucky for many years that I was able to set my work day to end at 3 p.m., and while I still had to get some work done in the evenings, it wasn't quite the same level of chaos that there is now. Of course, I had one less kid back then too.

I'm pretty sure there is no perfect balance between work and family when there are toddlers running around (but if you've found it, please share), but for the time being the all day chaos is where I'm going stay because I just got to read my daughter stories in the middle of the day before she went down for her nap and got to see her silly personality and smiling face when I picked her up from daycare after lunch. My son started all day camp this week, the first time he's done an activity that doesn't have a half day option and good preparation for him (and me) when he heads off to kindergarten in the fall. A point that I can't believe we're at already. They grow up and change so fast so I'll continue to let my head spin from time to time and soak up every moment I can of being home with them and cross my fingers that my parenting skills don't suffer as a result, but even if they do, hopefully there will be enough hugs and laughs throughout the day to offset it.

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