Friday, February 10, 2012

Christmas in February: The Gift of Time

I have been given the greatest gift.

Last Thursday, I began working an altered schedule – albeit temporary – on Tuesdays and Thursdays so that I am able to be more involved in my son Shane’s education.
When Shane was three-years-old, I began working full-time.  It was a blessing for both of us. After staying at home with him since birth, I was ready to re-enter the corporate world and bring home the bacon again; Being an only child, Shane was ready for the socialization of pre-school. It was a win-win situation.

We found an amazing pre-school that also offered an accredited Kindergarten program.  So, for four years, Shane progressed along with the program. Small classroom sizes and a nurturing staff did all the hard work and Shane excelled.
However, almost five years later, Shane is mid-way through First Grade in our local public school district.  He is doing well but, unlike private school, there is much more parent accountability and participation required at Hermosa View.

For the first month, Jason and I found ourselves scrambling almost every week to figure out which Saxon Math worksheets were completed and which needed to be turned in, due dates for special projects, lunch money, yearbooks, and so on.
This was a whole new ball game.

Luckily for us, Shane had built a great educational foundation at Journey so he was doing very well.  But Jason and I felt like we were playing Wack a Mole: Feeling successful only when we were able to actually make contact.  And, I must admit that we had quite a few misses.
A few weeks ago, Shane came home and revealed that it bothered him that he was so behind on his Accelerated Reader tests while the rest of his classmates had thousands and thousands of points.  The AR program is a daily assessment software that monitors the practice of reading. 

In Shane’s school, it is the parent’s responsibility to find the time for the student to take the test at the school library before or after school hours.  Since both Jason and I work full-time, the after school time slot was not feasible.  Jason attempted the before school time-slot but 15 minutes just wasn't enough time.  So, we had dropped the ball on the AR program.
In addition, homework has also been getting the best of us.  Each Monday, Shane receives a packet of homework to be turned in Friday mornings.  The work – which is right on track for a 7-year-old – is realistic.  And, if each days work is completed on schedule, it isn’t too overwhelming; but that doesn’t always happen and we are usually squeezing it all into two or three nights -- which certainly raised the anxiety level in our home

Not to mention that getting home at 6pm wasn’t always conducive to a stress-free evening. 
But, we have done our best to turn it into a positive experience.  Homework is actually called Homefun in our house.  Whenever it seems that things are getting a wee bit stressful, we really try to turn the pressure into positivity.  Not always easy at 7pm, when our little guy has been on the go since 8:30am and just wants to kick it.  Can you blame him?

This is why the new work schedule is so amazing. 
Each Tuesday and Thursday, I pick Shane up from school which, in itself, is a special treat for my boy.  His face just lights up when he sees me waiting outside his classroom and this makes my heart sing.

Then we head to the school library and take at least one – if not two – AR tests.  Then it is home for snack and a quick break before we head to the library to get started on our homework.  We are home at 6pm but then have the whole evening ahead of us, which usually entails me going to bed with Shane by 9pm.
The only sacrifice of this whole arrangement is that I am off to work at 5am on those two days.  This allows me to get a head start at work, in which our clientele is mostly on the east coast and overseas.  I am out of the office by 2pm, but still working virtually for the rest of the day.

In my role as a Marine Analyst, I am 24/7 regardless so this is no big change.  If I need to work on an urgent request, I’ve got my Blackberry and laptop to take care of business.
Back in 2009, I read an article in Working Mother magazine.  It was about the top 100 family-friendly companies out there.  The article discussed the flexibility that some companies offer to working mothers out there.  I only dreamed that I could attain that motherly support in the workplace.
I always felt that I was lucky enough to land a role that I loved with a reputable company and was complacent with my status.

Two years ago, I was transferred into a different department at my company. The gentleman that I work for is only a few years older than me and a very open-minded and forward-thinking intellectual. 
Having his own family, I believe he understands the constraints a full-time job can have on a working mother.  Don’t get me wrong, I have worked hard since being promoted to my division and proven to my team that I am dependable.  I will continue to work hard to make sure that this temporary situation doesn’t compromise my role in the office.

But when it came to my family and helping Shane get up-to-speed on his studies, I was blown away by the support of my colleagues. I never dreamed that all I had to do was ask. 
This whole arrangement feels like Christmas morning to me and I've received the best gift ever.

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