So last Thursday, I went into my high school to discuss my schedule for September with a colleague. My problem is that I no longer have a room – I will be travelling between two classrooms during the day to teach.
To non-teachers, that probably sounds like no biggie – and yes, there are worse things. But it is a bummer. It means I will not be able to set up my lessons for the day on a Smartboard, like I have been doing (that’s an interactive whiteboard, for those who haven’t been in a classroom for 20 years). It means I will not have a private, quiet space to complete my work each day. It means I have nowhere to put up book lists or display my favorite poetry or even make a private phone call, barring a bathroom.
But that’s not actually the part that makes me angry. What makes me angry is that my loss of a room is just another tax I pay for having a child. Yes, it is really that simple. I will break it down for you.
See, the problem is that high school starts at 7:00. We have to BE THERE at 7:00. And guess when all daycares open? 7:00. Do you see the problem yet? Let’s go a little further. Of my department, three of us have young children, which means three of us teach part time. And as my friend and colleague, who took over for me as Department Chair on my leave of absence, blithely informed me: The problem is that we all want the same schedule.
And it’s that tiny little word there – the ‘want’ – that makes me angry. Because I don’t WANT to teach part time just so I can get my kid to daycare. I don’t WANT to lose my classroom, and spend the day carting around stacks of papers, a computer and my personal belongings. I don’t WANT to lose out on a significant chunk of my paycheck because some idiot decided to make high school start at 7 bloody a.m.
And when people say, “Well, it was your choice,” I want to stab them. In all honesty, I had no idea what I was getting into, or how many choices would be taken away from me by my choice to have a baby. Parents should not have to choose between procreation and a career. And a society that sets up such an absurd choice needs reforming.
It is all part of the tax one must pay for being a parent. A tax that starts at conception and doesn’t appear to end until your child can find their own way to and from school. And what age is that? When will I feel comfortable allowing my son to wake himself up, nourish himself and get himself to school so that I can get to work on time? Age 8? 10? 12?
The solution is simple: Start high school, and all other employment where possible, at 9 am. Keep elementary and middle school start times at 8:30.
This would allow the great majority of us to wake our children, feed them, and get them to school or daycare so we can arrive at work without stress and without having to employ a morning nanny. It will also allow high school kids – who can get themselves to school, for the most part – to get much needed sleep, which is more in line with their natural circadian rhythms.
We could also simply be more understanding, as a nation, that parents are not being lazy when we go part-time or arrive to work a little late. We are making the best of a difficult situation for which there is no resolution in sight. And for those of us who do not have grandparents at the ready, or spare cash to pay for nannies, or for those of us whose spouses travel or who have no spouse at all, we are barely hanging on. And for what? So school can end at the bizarre hour of 2:30?
Fellow parents or soon-to-be parents reading: What sort of “parent tax” do you have to pay in your job? And what can we do to take a collective stand? Considering the absolutely vast quantity of people this continuing problem affects, shouldn’t we be able to make a change if we really want to make one?