Parents Perspective

Thanks, School, for Dictating Our Lives

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Two related emails hit my inbox this week: In one, our manager reminded the staff that we can't all take the same days off; in the other was our city's school calendar for the 2015-2016 year outlining the many days our schools will be closed.

I know that districts nationwide have different calendars, but I feel like the way working parents of school-age children must hoard precious vacation days and then vie with coworkers for time off is universal. When my children were babies I could take a vacation in any old month. Then school ruined everything. Now I want to be excused from work on the same days as a couple dozen other people in the office. Namely: as much of the summer as possible, winter and spring break, random days like Election Day, the first day of school, the last day of school, if possible those crazy half-days they throw in for parent-teacher conferences, and many religious holidays. (We even have a Brooklyn-Queens day off in June that, I've been told, "is just a tradition.") It goes without saying that the kids' free days far outnumber the vacation time I have at my disposal.

I don't have a solution here. This is just a lament. When I had babies and had to pay for all-day childcare, I couldn't wait for school to begin so they'd be somewhere for free. But now I know that school gives just enough days off to be a real problem, and not enough for it to make sense to employ a fulltime nanny. (Not that I could afford that anyway!)

I am thankful that I have a husband who shares the juggling, a sitter who is flexible, and grandparents who, while they can't rush in at the drop of a hat, are willing to play camp counselor with some advanced planning. And I guess that is what parenting school-age children has really done to me: I am now the kind of adult who plans things a year out. I pretty much know where we will be every day from now until December 31st. It's just a short hop before I become the lady who buys all of her holiday gifts by the end of August, and packs for a trip a month ahead of time. In other words, I'll be like my own mom. Because, come to think of it, she had to deal with this crap too.

Jessica Hartshorn, Senior Lifestyle Editor of American Baby and Parents, is taking the week of her kids' April break off; she arranged that on January 5. She cleared her time off for July at the same time. And booked summer camps.

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