Saturday, May 7, 2011

5 reasons each way.

5 reasons I think you shouldn't return to the workforce after your kids have gone off to school.
1. Because it really sucks for a 5 year old to be in before and after school care 5 days a week.
2. Because I like you and I want you to come to my daytime bible study group.
3. Because I'm passionate about RE and I want you to teach RE at school. (Preferably at my school.)
4. Because I don't want you to be too exhausted to teach Sunday School on the weekend. (Also good if you've got some energy to put into your family.)
5. Because your daughter's year one class needs mums to help with reading groups on Tuesday mornings.

5 reasons I think you should return to the workforce after your kids have gone off to school.
1. Because if you do, you'll have more money to spend wisely.
2. Because you really enjoy your work and by doing it well, you contribute to our society.
3. Because there are heaps of people in your workplace that you'll bless by being there. The way you turn the conversation away from gossip and slander and nastiness is of great benefit to others, as are your prayers for your colleagues and your words about Jesus.
4. Because you are passionate about speaking the gospel to professional women. Go and hang out with them!
5. Because I know you and think you can manage to not neglect your kids and husband while you work.


  1. Yep. Really like those two lists.

  2. Yes, good lists Simone, things I'm thinking through as I plan to go back to work part-time when bub is one. Of course there are a whole bunch of other variables here - what if both parents choose to work part-time or hub stays home with the kids for a few years or both parents need to work in order to cover basic expenses (rare for middle-class professionals but much more common among semi-skilled or unskilled workers) or grandma is around to do all the childcare...
    And do you think most of these apply to fathers working full time too?

  3. Hi Jo.

    Yes. So many variables in play and the people who need to work in the early years (the poorest) are often those with the least support and fewest options for managing it well.

    I think Mum and Dad are a team and need to work out together what they want for their family and how to go about making it work. We've never had to use before or after school care because Andrew (is a legend) and was willing to do pick up and often drop offs on my work days. [Now that I teach at the kids' school, there are no issues with this.] Not every family can manage it but I've seen parents work all kinds of systems to limit the use of b/a school care or long hours day care. Some mums start work early then finish early and do pick ups and Dads start later and do drop offs. Some families can work it out for 3 afternoons a week and then on another the kids have a swimming lesson at school straight after one day, leaving only after school care for one afternoon. We have extra kids around each tues and wed while their parents work.

    Grandparent care doesn't lead to to great outcomes for kids if it's overused. This could be for all kinds of reasons - poor limit setting, confused roles, health of grandparents, the kind of people who tend to go for this in the first place... But I think that Noa would have only benefitted from the (one day a week) grandparent care he received while L worked.

    I've got no problems with stay at home dads. But it often doesn't work with professional men because they (perhaps rightly) fear they'd find it hard to get a job after they've been out of the workforce for a few years. Work won't take them seriously any more. This is a shame.

    There is the argument that mum stays at home to 'free dad up' for work or ministry or whatever it is that he does. If mum works, then dad can't be as obsessive and one eyed about his work. That's true. Oh well.

    To be honest, I have real concerns about long hour institutional day care for babies and toddlers. In some cases, it's better than the alternatives, but it seems a callous introduction to the world and the outcomes aren't great.

    .... [might write more later]

  4. I like the lists. Just a few random thoughts...should probably add that our context is that I have returned to work a couple of days a week after having all three of our kids...after 12-18months of maternity leave each time (18 months with our youngest) and have used after school care, family day care and long day care at different times.

    From your first the first half of the week I go to a daytime Bible study, I help out at RE, I teach Sunday School and help out with music at church, and help with reading etc at my older kids' school.

    And then in the second half of the week I go to work. From list two, I think I find 3. the hardest. It's easy to get sucked into the gossip and nasty stuff sometimes. But last week I had a good chat with some other people in my office about helping out at RE. It's getting easier to bring up going to church. My next goal is to tell someone I'm praying for them, I'm sure it will probably freak them out, but I am determined to do it!

    Funnily enough, my older kids love after school care. They were so excited to go back when I returned to work. And on the long day care front, yeah, I know the pros and cons for littlies. I used family day care for my older kids since they started going at 12 months of age. Read heaps about it as we were deciding what to do. This time around, starting at 18 months, we've gone the LDC road. But we know the centre (have been involved with it for four years now), we know the staff are consistent, and because it's a community based child care centre, I am on the parent committee so can be involved in what happens (and this is another opportunity to be around women who aren't Christians as well).

    The decision to work (or not) isn't an easy one. I constantly feel like the (unspoken) message from many other Christian women is that it's not the right thing for me to be doing. But I think your point about Mum and Dad being a team who work together to make it happen is the most important one. It works for us because we share what happens at home, who cooks dinner, who cleans and does the laundry etc etc.

  5. Thanks Simone and Karen. Karen, I'd be interested in your experience of family day care vs. long day care. We're hoping to use family day care for a couple of days a week, with either Andrew or I at home the rest of the week.
    Simone, I've read a few different things about the outcomes of long day care, have you got any suggestions for good reading on that? I guess I'm a bit uncomfortable with the way the discussion seems to polarize between mums working (full time) and mums staying at home, when in fact the options are a bit more varied than that. Part-time work for both parents is the option we're thinking about at present, I'd love to hear from anyone who has tried it. I agree that this is something for parents to work out together.

  6. Lois and I both worked part-time for quite a few years when our kids were in upper primary and then high school. She worked Monday, Tue, Wed and I worked Wed, Thur, Fri and we arranged our hours so that we took turns finishing by 3.00 on Wednesdays. Occasionally that didn't work out and my mum would pick up the kids but we managed to do it rarely enough that time with Grandma was a treat. We tried to use after-school care occasionally but our kids hated it - can't remember exactly why now.

    Lois would have to tell you how she found it but for me it was great to actually be there for the kids when they were bright and sparky, not getting home at 6.30 for dinner and bed-time, and it also meant I could be there a fair bit for both of them in their teenage years which was great fun. Dads (or mums) who work long hours miss out on that stuff I think. Looking back now that they are both adults I'm super glad I did it because you only get one chance at parenting.

    It did require tolerant employers though and a secure financial position so not for everyone - I found that at times I had to be flexible work-wise and work on my days off. Career progression was out of the question but by then I'd already decided I wasn't the high flying manager type.

  7. Jo - I read up on long day care a few years ago. I'll try and hunt up what I found. Micah went to a day care centre one and then two days a week for the two years before he went to school. The other boys went to a 'kindy' that just ran a 9-2.30 program. The difference between the older boys experience and Micah's was significant. Micah had about 8 different carers in his two years. The boys had one teacher each year. Micah's carers knew very little about him and nothing about us. They didn't read him interesting stories and what they did read, they didn't read well. His little body was well looked after, but the experience as a whole was not stimulating. They were just filling the day - even though it was advertised as a kindy program.

    I don't think he was there enough to be badly affected by it. He was only there for school hours. He never enjoyed it, though, which was sad.

    I think if you can make part time work work for both of you, go for it.

    Jon - thanks for that. Was helpful.

  8. Thanks, Jon, Simone. Yes, it's a privilege to be in jobs with that kind of flexibility (thank you public service and tertiary education sector!). But it certainly means giving up on the idea of promotion etc.
    We have two couples at my church, who each have 2 kids of almost exactly the same age. One couple put the kids in full-time childcare from 12 months, one has taken the sahm route. Both sets of parents invest heaps and heaps of time and energy in their kids. It has been interesting to see that decision-making process and watch the kids grow up. While I agree there are definitely pros and cons and I have my reservations about full-time childcare for littlies, I think I'm glad that I go to a church where those decisions are not scrutinized and judged, rather the parents are supported and the kids are welcomed and loved.

  9. Hi again Jo...I meant to reply earlier but our internet was down for part of the day today. Pros of family day care were the smaller more home-like environment and consistency of having the same carer. The main down-side was if the carer (or their child) was sick, we were often left having to have the day off too...the carer would tell us they could organise relief if necessary but more often than not it didn't happen and one of us would have to take time off work even if no-one in our house actually was sick (we tried to take turns doing this when it happened). So that was tricky. Other than that, all of our carers were pretty good and I think our kids enjoyed seeing how other families did things. We probably weren't with any of them long enough to be "friends" or to feel "part of the family," but that didn't bother me, they were kind and loving towards our kids and that was the important thing to me.

    With the long day care centre we go to, if one of the carers is sick, the centre organises relief so obviously we find that much better. As I said earlier, the centre we use has had the same staff for a long time (I'm talking many many years) so we know them well, they know us and they have made a fantastic effort to help Rosie settle in and accommodate her temperament (she tends to be a little slow to warm up but now she has a routine of starting the day with a cuddle from one of the carers she is pretty good when she is dropped off). So I think that if you are considering LDC, checking out the centre itself is the way to go, see how they feel about you staying there to help your child settle in, look at the environment (ours has real grass, a herb and vegie garden, and they keep chickens, so I really like the "natural" feel of all that) and their approach to getting to know your little one. The director of ours is a pretty common sense type who is well respected both locally and also has worked at executive level in Australia wide early childhood organisations, so we know the staff are using high quality programs with the kids. We found that the waiting list to get into good centres is pretty long, we waited twelve months to get in with the boys and used family day care and community preschool while we waited, but it was certainly worth waiting for!

    We have also been pretty lucky in that my various workplaces (three public health settings since we started having kids) have been reasonably flexible in terms of me being able to work part time. We did contemplate both of us working part time for a while, but Chris was in a management position at the time when we were organising child care so it wasn't really an option for him to drop a day unfortunately. He still works in a public service management position now (but is most definitely not the high flying type, Jon!) so I can't see us being able to manage without using some kind of child care in the foreseeable future. If we could do it all again, probably the option of both of us working part time would be the only change I'd make. But overall we are happy with how the choices we've made have worked for our family.

  10. My brother and sister-in-law use FDC for their youngest (age 3) and also did for the older one who's now 11. They've found it varies widely with the carer. Adam recently switched carers and went from crying whenever he had to go to being excited about it - because the new person provides a stimulating environment while the previous just basically left the kids to themselves. I think you can be assertive, though, and ask for a change of carer if you're not happy.