The Question Every Working Parent Dreads
A couple of weeks into summer, I was feeling pretty good. My children’s summer camp schedules were set. Our family vacation was booked. We had fun activities planned for “free” weekends – think carefree days at the beach, hiking, and enjoying some much-needed family time. Then, my daughter hit me with the question every working parent dreads hearing, “Why do you have to work this summer?”
“Well, honey…” pause. Where do I start? The list of reasons is long. I know because I’ve been telling them to myself for years when working parent guilt creeps in. But I got the sense this time that she was tired of hearing my standard reasons, having listened to them every time she interrupts a conference call or wonders why I can’t always volunteer at her school. And, sadly, I sensed this question was more about this friend getting to go on vacation and this other friend getting to play all day at the pool – based on some recent conversations.
I decided it best to take a different approach. “Honey, do you know the phrase ‘the grass is always greener’?” is where I started and continued by reminding her about all the fun and cool things that she was doing this summer. “Maybe this friend is wishing she could go to pony camp or theater camp with you?” Luckily, this approach seemed to pacify her (or confuse her enough to give up).
As I often do, however, I began to wonder if there were a way to take a participatory role in her summer – outside of the planned family activities – and get a little sense of what it’s like to be on her side of the “yard.”
That opportunity came knocking on my door less than a week later. I was invited to volunteer as a cooking teacher at her summer camp for a week. The next week. At first, I shut the the idea down. How could I prepare my work for a week off? I have this project due and that deadline. But I thought about my daughter’s question and considered another option. Could I get flex time – working early mornings and late nights? I reminded myself that it’s those special, one-on-one times that kids remember later in life rather than the details of a fancy trip.
I decided to go for it and…my flex work schedule plan was accepted. We’re now a couple days into our camp experience and we’re having a great time making memories. And now I can say for certain that the grass on her side is very green and she’s going to have an amazing summer during all those weeks when I’ll be working.