We forgot about Earth Hour on Saturday night—well, technically I knew about it but JB and I were out watching a sustainably-harvested organic movie, Hot Tub Time Machine, so it’s not like we weren’t doing our part—but we did get all post-apocalyptic on Sunday and cooked an entire meal in the fireplace. It consisted of two gourmet courses, hot dogs and marshmallows, with a tangy mustard sorbet as a palate cleanser (which is to say I accidentally doused myself with a bunch of disgusting French’s pee while upending the bottle).

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It was so much fun, and the boys loved it, even though Dylan would only eat the bun and Riley managed to coat every inch of his body with sticky melted marshmallow and then promptly got stuck to a sofa cushion.

There are some less-than-quality times when the hours crawl by too slowly and I’m counting down (and counting to 10) until bedtime and we use the TV as a Hail Mary, but I think (hope?) there are many more hotdog-in-the-fireplace times when we’re all just . . . truly enjoying each other’s company. It seems like a newish sort of dynamic, now that Dylan’s old enough to actively participate and hold up his weird little end of the conversation. Like we’re not just two flailing adults trying to keep small children alive, we’re a foursome.

It feels more important than ever to have dinner together as often as possible, no matter how chaotic and messy and short-lived it is. It’s the one time during the week when we can all sit down and eat a meal as a family, and it rarely happens because I can’t get home soon enough.

Almost every day, JB picks the boys up from school. He’s the one that greets them, that drives them home, that talks to them about their day. He takes care of their meals. By the time I get home, they’ve been fed and they’re happy, but I wasn’t there for it.

I can’t adjust my hours and I can’t work from home. I can’t move my workplace closer to me or change where I live. Right now, it is what it is: I have to work, I have attendance requirements I have to meet (whether I have sick kids or not), I have a long traffic-choked commute.

Today there’s a White House forum on workplace flexibility, and while I can’t watch it live I hope I have the chance to learn what was discussed because this is an issue that means a lot to me. I don’t know what the answers are, and maybe there are none, maybe it’s enough for now that people are asking the questions.

I know I’ve talked about this before, the commute thing, the coming home late thing, and yet everything’s stayed the same. For years. Here is what I’m committing to in this little space of mine: I’m going to change this crappy situation.

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I want to be home in time for dinner.

Comments

84 Responses to “If it is to be, it is up to me”

  1. kootnygirl on April 1st, 2010 4:13 am

    Good luck! It sounds like you are determined to change your lifestyle so you are bound to succeed.

    I’m on both ends of that stick. I work ridiculously early in the morning, and so my husband is the one who gets to (has to? it’s all about perspective, I suppose) get the girls dressed, do their hair and take them to school in the morning. I wish I was there to do braids and bows and matching outfits, but I need to work early so that I can beat the traffic.

    On the flip side, my husband works a lot of evenings so supper time is often just me and my girls. You’re so right – it is SOOO important, and as they get older it is starting to be more of a pleasure and less of a struggle, but there are still days when I dread that second shift.

  2. Cheryl S. on April 1st, 2010 6:07 am

    I can SO relate to this. I pick up my daughter adn get home at around 6pm. Sometimes my husband is home, sometimes not.
    We rarely eat dinner as a family. Hell, I’m happy that we eat dinner at all some days!

    My company REFUSES to allow telecommuting. I asked after I had my daughter. I was told that the head honcho believes that if you’re home, you’re not working. Nice.

    I hope you have better luck!

  3. jonniker on April 1st, 2010 6:14 am

    I want you to be home for dinner, too. You deserve that.

  4. Jessica on April 1st, 2010 6:29 am

    Do you still work 3 days a week?

  5. Jessica on April 1st, 2010 6:41 am

    Whoops! The previous question sounded snarky and I didn’t mean for it to. I’m a teacher and am personally sick of being congratulated on All That Time Off (that I don’t get paid for and spend raising my children). I was just curious about your work schedule.

  6. CP on April 1st, 2010 6:55 am

    I totally agree on the importance of eating together as a family, and my soon-to-be-4 son loves it when we can do it (he even suggested we do laundry together “as a family” at which my husband did some fast talking to get out of the request).

    The only reason we’re eating dinner more as a family these days is that my husband got laid off a month ago. He was the one that was home maybe two nights a week for dinner, maybe one more night before B’s bedtime. A new job will inevitably mean a move for us – I’m hoping a more sane commute (mine is an hour by subway) and family life comes along with it!

  7. Sundry on April 1st, 2010 7:13 am

    Jessica: no, I’m at 4 days/week now.

  8. Fay on April 1st, 2010 7:48 am

    I too am curious about the “late dinner” idea. I grew up having dinner at around 7:30, because my dad generally got home at 7. Is that a possibility?

    I hope you can find a solution that makes you happier, whatever that may be.

  9. Katie on April 1st, 2010 7:57 am

    I work in a crappy dead end job that I hate because it allows me to come in at 7:30 and leave at 4:00. I get to pick my son up from daycare and we are ALL home by 4:30, and it is priceless. Priceless. My husband is a fledgling artist and is just building up his career, and MAYBE one day I’ll have the chance to stay home, but for now this is what works for us and I am grateful for my shitty job for this one singular thing that it allows me: Time with my family. Seems backwards, no? Hugs to you and I hope you find that perfect balance.

  10. Ashley on April 1st, 2010 8:39 am

    Good for you Linda! :)

  11. H on April 1st, 2010 8:59 am

    I just can’t believe how few people/companies are willing to think outside the box. This isn’t the 50’s anymore! Good luck – you’ll make a difference!

  12. Ellen M on April 1st, 2010 9:02 am

    I took the job I currently have because I knew I could work just 9-5, which would give me the flexibility I needed for a life, which grew to include a husband and child. So I’m lucky; technically, I could eat dinner with my son, though my husband is rarely home in time.

    But I feel trapped. After six years, I’m really frustrated and there’s no room for growth at my job. We need almost all of my income. I could take a job that I liked better that pays slightly less, but what are the odds I’ll find one that guarantees I can work a strict 40-hour week?

    Workplace flexibility is not unlike the health insurance debate — if people are stuck in their jobs for whatever reason, new economic activity suffers.

  13. Maria on April 1st, 2010 9:49 am

    When we started the chain reaction that eventually led to our crazy house-losing process that luckily ended in short sale and not forclosure, it was over that commitment. I wanted to be home before 6:45.

    I have NO regrets about it. We live in a rental now, we cut costs and we moved to live near my parents (child care.) I work from home and after two years working 50 hour weeks starting when my first child was 6 weeks old, I do NOT take this flexibility for granted.

    When I read about your commute, I get a knot in the pit of my stomach because I remember that and it makes me NUTCAKES that you’re in a less-than-ideal situation.

    It’s hard, man.

  14. Kami on April 1st, 2010 11:01 am

    Why did this post make me cry? OY! Workplace flexibility is an issue close to my heart as well. I’m working with a bunch of awesome and dedicated women (see #worklife hashtag on Twitter) to help push through some useful legislation. 40 hours exists beyond 9-5. We can all figure out how to work 40 hours in a way that makes sense in our lives. I like to be home for dinner too.

  15. Philos on April 1st, 2010 11:32 am

    You make me feel bad (again) for snarking at you on Twitter last week when traffic was especially crazy. Sorry about that.

  16. Katherine on April 1st, 2010 11:59 am

    Workplace flexibility is an issue for us non-parents too. I am fortunate enough to work for a company that supports workplace flexibility. It does seem more heavily accepted for parents than us singles, but not overtly so. I seem to get more cred by being open about having a dog at home that can’t be stuck in the house more than 9-10 hours (and even then I have a dogwalker 4 days a week).

    But the point I want to make is that there is a downside (that for most wouldn’t outweigh the upside) to working at home. There gets to be an expectation that you’re always on. The blackberry has to be monitored almost constantly. I work at home only one day a week but I feel like I never really get to be off from work. Part of that comes from a team culture that is so flexible that people are working all hours of the day and night (especially when you factor in global team members), everyone working according to their own schedule. Part of that is that feeling we women seem to share–that we can never really do enough, be good enough, etc. UGH.

    That said, Linda, you have tons of support out here for pursuing a change in mindset with your employer. The work world is changing and eventually employers who want to keep top talent are going to have to change with it.

  17. Lena on April 1st, 2010 12:50 pm

    No advice, just sympathy. This morning, when my 3 year old daughter asked me where I was going and I told her work, she said, “but I NEED you”. The look on her face almost killed me.

  18. SKL on April 1st, 2010 1:20 pm

    My kids asked me the other day: Mom, will you be with us on Easter? Ah, the joys of a 7-day workweek. We do spend time together every day, but we also have to part ways every day. Yet as a result, that rare “actual day off” is such a treat for all of us – at least we don’t take it for granted.

    To me, it’s important to build a sense of “normalcy” even if your normal isn’t what the Internet calls ideal. Figure out what you can & can’t change, and act in a positive, proactive way regarding both. My kids like my attention like most kids like ice cream – the more the better – but I’m not about to be guilted by that. First I make the most of the time we do have together. Next I work on the changes needed to get more time together, until it’s objectively enough. Next, I approach our time apart as a good thing too – the kids have valuable experiences at school, I make a difference at work, and we all come together in the evenings with new perspectives to share. Hooray!

    Whatever you do, don’t fall into the trap of blaming your employer for your personal issues, e.g., the length of your commute, the time of your family dinner and bedtimes, the fact that you may not feel chipper enough to have quality time in the mornings before work.

  19. MRW on April 1st, 2010 3:12 pm

    monkeyinasuit I read your comment and thought the same thing. My friends and family seem to think working for the Feds has great benefits and flexibility blah blah, but not that I’ve seen so far and I’ve been here 12 years.

  20. Karen on April 1st, 2010 9:14 pm

    You are so very clear on your priorities, I just have no difficulty believing you will find a solution.

    One interim idea until then: my little ones could never wait for dad to get home for dinner… if we had made them wait that long for food, they would hardly have been cheerful children greeting him after a long day at the hospital. BUT… family dessert (or bedtime snack) can work when the later parent gets home… Even if they are bathed, and PJ’ed, they can look forward to 20 minutes of table time to talk and laugh as a family … especially if YOUR arrival is the cause for celebration and ice-cream! You’ll spend a few years eating dinner in reverse.

  21. marilyn on April 2nd, 2010 7:06 am

    I wish you all the luck in the world in making this happen. As amazing as your company can be at times with the chef and the massages, if they can’t help you mitigate the daily hell that your commute brings, I don’t know how they can expect you to work productively and happily there. Have they given you any chance to telecommute? I think if there’s any chance that you could gain more flexibility at some point, this book is great for examples of so many cases where flexibility/trust/understanding/buzzwords made everything better for the company and the workers. I loved it, anyway: Unbending Gender: Why Family and Work Conflict and What to Do About It, by Joan Williams. Maybe it’ll be good for having confidence in negotiating a better situation with Workplace or maybe straightening out in your head what gets priority when looking somewhere else. (Not a million miles away!?)

  22. marilyn on April 2nd, 2010 7:07 am

    AND I love Karen’s idea of sitting together for bedtime snack/dessert. Warm milk and cookies before dinner gets a yes please from me.

  23. Marci on April 2nd, 2010 7:09 am

    Comforting to know so many of us are in the same..boat (or car, stuck in traffic, waiting to get home to see our little ones). Like many of you, I am the breadwinner & my husband is the primary caregiver. I do feel like I’m missing out. I often work through lunch just so I can come in a little later & leave a little earlier, to spend some time with my pookie in the morning & so we can have dinner together. But that has been bad for me, as I used to exercise on my lunch hour. Such a conundrum.

  24. marilyn on April 2nd, 2010 7:42 am

    Ahhh, one more thing that reminded me of you: “The daily activities most associated with happiness are sex, socializing after work and having dinner with others. The daily activity most injurious to happiness is commuting.” Quote from David Brooks NYT op-ed, about Sandra Bulloch of all things. He makes lame points about how she supposedly was giving up her personal relationships for her work, but that fact above was a nice relevant tidbit.

  25. scantee on April 2nd, 2010 10:25 am

    This it completely off topic but can I just say I think you’ve handled the whole Dooce/work flexibility wonderfully, and, like an actual adult? You are one of just a couple of “mom blogs” I read anymore and it because of fake ass drama like this. It is so much like high school it is truly unbelievable to me that grown people are still acting like this.

    Has it seriously gotten to the point that you can’t even question whether Dooce is the the appropriate representative for, well, everything? I guess she is the stand in for all women at this point.

    Anyway, just want to say, YOU are coming off as the grown-up here and, yes, as a working mother Dooce does not represent me, as successful, and talented, as she might be.

  26. Courtney on April 2nd, 2010 10:48 am

    My fiance and I don’t have any kids yet, and are lucky enough to work a quick 10 minutes from where we live (at the most). We both work in local government, although in different departments. We’ve made the concious decision to make less money (like my engineer FI makes 75% of his market value) in exchange for a 40 hour workweek max, comp time, and flexibility that isn’t an option in the private sector. THere are days that I wish we had the cash to go to Mexico, but I remind myself that I’ve made choices that my daily sanity is more valuable than one week in the surf.

    Unfortunately, my boss retired at Christmas, and I’m terrified that the new guy won’t have the same viewpoint of work flexibility for my department. We’ll see.

    I only post this to say that the flip side is good, but there are decisions to be made. I think once we have kids, we can afford to stay working in these flexible jobs, but not afford to save for college educations for them. So which is the better choice?

    Hell. Neither. It’s a pitfall on both sides.

  27. Amanda on April 2nd, 2010 8:30 pm

    Great post. And I just want to say that you have the best, most articulate, clear-headed commenters I’ve ever seen on any blog EVER (along with the fabulous folks at askmoxie)–that says a lot. And I think you know what I mean. Thank you for your writing, your perspective, and your inspiration.

  28. Vicki Worthing on April 3rd, 2010 5:36 am

    Okay, I’d like to begin by saying I love you, so this is not meant to be one of those mean, random comments, although it is definitely off topic. But I just noticed something interesting in the fireplace picture. Are the books in your bookshelf arranged by the colors of their spines?

  29. JillLeslie on April 3rd, 2010 5:45 am

    I see you starting a fitness bootcamp near your house. You use the outdoors so it’s practically no cost to you. You are a great motivator and it seems to be what you are going towards with your degree. I did 18 weeks (3 session) and I loved it. Some of the people in my class did it year round. If you can get enough people to pay you, you could do really well. $300 for a six week session, times say 50? That’s pretty good money. Depending on if you have a morning and an afternoon class, how many days a week you do it, etc. Just a thought.

  30. Heather B. on April 4th, 2010 12:56 pm

    You just gave me a pretty fantastic idea and I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner. I’ll email you later but leaving a comment because I’m thinking of the unfairness of your predicament and what I would do in your position (if-God willing-I become a parent). And it makes me a little annoyed. I’m really fucking lucky but not everyone is and I really don’t get why not.

  31. Jean on April 5th, 2010 10:36 am

    I would just like to state publicly how lucky I feel that I work for an institution that promotes flexible schedules and a boss that has allowed me, after the birth of my daughter, to change my schedule numerous times (with a reduction of hours)based on the nuances of her child care. She’s in preschool now, and he did not bat an eyelash when I proposed, yet another change, and agreed to my 8-3:30PM request. In return, I work hard. When I leave at 3:30 each day, my work is done, and done well. I believe that when given respect and flexibilty, people are much more productive, and eager to please.

  32. Jean on April 5th, 2010 10:37 am

    PS. Dinner with preschoolers is over-rated.

  33. Lisa on April 5th, 2010 11:25 am

    Ugh…I just can’t believe that there are STILL so many companies out there that refuse to let their employees work flexible hours. I’m not even talking about telecommuting, just giving a range of start times so that people can adjust their schedule to whatever works best for them.

    EVERY company I have worked for in the last 20 years has offered this, and there is absolutely NO reason for companies not to, unless the job involves some sort of customer interaction when specific hours must be covered. Even then there are ways to make flextime work!

    I know you will make something work for you, it just sucks that companies make it so hard!

  34. MizzM on April 21st, 2010 10:55 pm

    Well, all I can say is that once My Workplace gave me a Laptop, it initially eased my Maternal Guilt, until I realized that while I was physically “present” when my kids came home from school, it was sometimes 8:00 pm before I fed them dinner (and they could have set the house on fire before then and I probably would not have noticed because I was too busy WORKING.)

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