With My Son in School, I've Less Time for Work I'm learning to adjust, to assure that Zachary remains my top priority.
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My son Zachary, 5 1/2 , started kindergarten on Sept. 7. I started kindergarten 44 years ago (that's not a typo) in September of 1966. So this transition is truly a whole new world for me as an entrepreneur mom, both personally and as a businessperson.
Here are some of my observations about how I'm adapting to the start of school:
- More or less time? The answer: different. People have been telling me that when Zachary is in school, I will have more time for myself. The truth is that I have less time. Or maybe it's the same amount of time, divided differently. When Zachary was in preschool, we had the option to use his day-care center anytime from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. I usually dropped him off at about 9 a.m. and picked him up at about 6 p.m. Now the school bus picks Zachary up at 9 a.m. and delivers him home at 4:20 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday (that's an hour and 40 minutes I've lost) and around 1:45 p.m. to accommodate early release on Monday (4 hours and 15 minutes lost).
It's a priority for me to see Zachary off for his school day and to be with him when he gets home. I could use our area's School Age Child Care, which is in our Fairfax County Public School or use a private "before and after" service to give me a longer work day. I've made the choice not to. I'm living according to what is important to me and my family. I am trying to adjust so that I can get done what I need to get done and feel good about our lives, too.
- What has happened with my work hours? Because of my altered schedule, I've had to find alternative ways to make it work. I've been taking occasional coaching calls early on Saturday mornings. That helps clients who have work schedules I can't accommodate and allows me to work before my family awakens. I can also work from 6 to 7 a.m. on weekdays. I'm really fresh then and my child is still asleep. So, like many of you, I've had to find different pockets of time to fill in the gaps so I can do what needs to be done.
- Adjusting to someone else's schedule. The public school schedule is inflexible, and I really work best beating my own drum. Having my son in preschool was perfect for me. If I wanted to work earlier or later, I had 12 hours in the day I could use as I wanted. Public school is not like that. It's not just the walk back and forth to the bus stop; it's the prep for the walk and then standing out there and waiting. It's the old "Tortoise and the Hare" fable: I'm the hare. I don't wait very well. I'm pushing through my natural behavior as a hare, committed to living my values as a mom. So I'll be walking to and from the bus stop many, many more times this school year.
- Bus stop activities. As we're all standing out there together waiting for the bus, I can't help being myself. So I've started to get the kids involved in an activity each morning. I ask them a question. The kids can answer my question right away or at the end of the day. Last week we played "What is the bus driver's name?" (answer: Ms. Chrissy) and "Who are the safety guards?" Based on a suggestion from my neighbor Kate, I started the "Get to Know Your Neighbors" game. First week: Meet the Brown family. Question today: "What is the Brown family's last name?" All of the kids got this one correct. So we pass the time getting to know each other a little better. I bring the networking capability from my business down to a basic level for my son. It's a good thing to know people's names, and I want him to learn this at his age so he will have a good foundation for his current and future relationships.
- Habits. Finding opportunity in the structure (my nice way of saying "accommodating someone else's schedule"). I am learning that I can stop working to go and meet the bus. It is a new habit for me. I am also making lunch for Zachary, another new habit. Zachary is like me. He is extroverted and very passionate without a lot of consistency. Therefore, I have instituted "homework" even before the teachers have made an assignment. It's a commitment to overcome the tendency toward inconsistency. Every day after school for 15 minutes we do "homework." We set the timer. My goal is to get him to establish the habit of studying. I want him to be ready when the real homework starts. I'm coaching Zachary as I coach myself to adapt to a new, important chapter in our lives.
As you can see, it has been a rich time in our home. I can only imagine what else we will all learn as the year unfolds. Who knows? Maybe he'll even make a friend for life, like my friend Mary Kay. I'm not using her last name because she doesn't want anyone to know about 1966.