Why don’t schools support working parents better?

This isn’t the post I’d originally planned to post.

My first draft of this, written two days ago – the evening after I registered dd for Kindergarten – was far more cranky. Now, I’m not sure how I feel. Numb? Frustrated? Resigned to it all?

The long and the short of it is that I’m dealing with the emotional aftermath of realizing how much about our lives will change once dd starts Kindergarten. Of course, there’s a financial toll, but we’ve been paying such enormous sums of money to our day care center for so long that I’m just not as sensitive to that anymore. You could say that I’ve been broken down by it all.

What I’m trying to get past now is the fact that so many things need to be cobbled together in order to ensure that dh and I can continue to work.

Let me say that again: so that dh and I can continue to work.

Why should putting our dd in Kindergarten, in a public school – no less – have any kind of impact on whether or not we have jobs? After all, public schools are free and that should be an enormous help, right?

Well…not quite.

We live in a town with excellent schools, so private schools aren’t a consideration. I’m perfectly at peace with that; the quality of the school district was part of our decision to move here, and we’re both the product of public schools. Of course, our property taxes are through the roof, but that’s a function of the high quality schools and a NIMBY streak a whole town wide.

So, it kinda hurt when we found out that we have to pay for full-time Kindergarten. The half-day is free, because that’s a requirement set by the state, but full-time Kindergarten comes at a cost of nearly $4K before you get to any before and after care.

Why on earth would you need before and after care, you ask? Well, school only runs from about 9am-3pm. With both of us working full-time and still having commutes to contend with, that schedule is impossible to match. We typically leave the house around 7am to get both of us to work on time (with a day care drop-off by *somebody*), and I’m the first one to the kids at 5:15pm, if I’m running on-time. So, that leaves us in the unenviable position of needing both “before-care” and “after-care”. If we’re okay with paying for the before and after care offered at school, we can pay more than $5K on top of the Kindergarten tuition. As it is, we’re only on the hook for an additional $4K because of a before-care arrangement I struck up with a friend who lives up the street.

Now, that’ll cover us from the start of school (around Labor Day) to end of the school year (late June), not including various holidays, Christmas vacation, and two school vacation weeks in the spring term. There’s still a gap of however many weeks (9-12) during the summer where we need to have a better plan than leaving dd in the house with a window cracked. She’s pretty nearly outgrown her daycare, so next summer (and maybe even this summer) we need a camp. That’s another $4K-ish, with hours running from about 9am-3pm/4pm. BUT, you can pay for before- and after-care! Sigh.

I’ve started to price out camps, and the timeframes they offer span anywhere from 6 weeks to 12 weeks, in costs ranging from around $200/week to nearly $500/week. It’s all mind-boggling.

I feel like I have to pull together this patchwork quilt of solutions so that dd will be in an educational and engaging environment year-around, since quitting a job simply isn’t an option. The cost of living in the eastern portion of Massachusetts rivals that of New York City or San Francisco – I know only a handful of families with stay at home parents. I don’t feel like I can take out this frustration on any of the nice people at the school; they are all awfully nice and they could easily tell that most of us were deer in headlights: unsure of what questions to ask because we’re not even sure what all we’re getting ourselves into.

I suppose that, as long as I’m willing to open my checkbook and do far more homework than dd will have to do anytime soon, I can get all of these resources lined up. It’s just more than a bit overwhelming and I only hope that I don’t let anything slip through the cracks. The room for error, when you can’t just spend days at home to cover gaps that you didn’t plan appropriately for, is just miniscule.


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