As a working parent, do you sometimes get the feeling there are forces intrinsically working against you?
I agree, and here are five institutions, in my opinion, who are jamming up working parents:
#1- The Post Office.
Yes, the ever so inefficient United States Postal Service. While I appreciate the hard-working and valiant men and women who deliver mail through horrible weather conditions, and while I appreciate the founding principal of the USPS: “that every person in the United States – no matter who, no matter where – has the right to equal access to secure, efficient, and affordable mail service,” have you ever tried to send a certified package or pick up a package that you need to sign for, after 5pm? Good luck! I once had someone send me a baby gift through the mail, and for some reason I had to sign for the package. My local post office closes at 5PM everyday and is only open on Saturday mornings for a hot second, so by the time I actually ended up being able to get the package (on one of my days off) my daughter had outgrown the cute little outfit inside! No wonder the USPS runs a $2 billion deficit annually, try being more efficient and accommodating working families!
#2- Federal, state and municipal offices.
Remember all the annoying times you needed a certified copy of your child’s birth certificate? Well, plan on using some vacation time or taking time off from work, because you certainly are not going to get one after 5PM or on the weekends. And watch out, when summer rolls around, most of these offices close before 4PM. I would like to thank the CT Department of Motor Vehicles for opening select offices on Saturday morning. Now, if you need to renew your license, or have other motor vehicle related business that cannot be completed on-line, you have the option of missing your child’s soccer practice on Saturday morning and standing in line for two hours with all the other working parents desperately rushing to get their bureaucratic shit taken care of.
#3- Businesses, and places of work that are not family friendly.
As working parents, you have no doubt used countless amounts of sick and vacation time to care for sick children or to bring them to doctor’s appointments. As a hard-working employee, you have committed several years to the betterment of an organization, and during your tenure you have used up time to have a baby and care for that baby. What happens to your family if you want to have a second baby, but your place of work does not provide any paid maternity leave, you’re screwed, that’s what. What happens during the summer when your summer camp ends at 4:15 PM and you need to pick up you children? If your place of employment does not provide flex-time, you’re screwed! Over my career, I look back at the amount of time I have devoted to my job and I recall the hours of work I did from home and received no compensation, and to think that with the birth of three children, I never once received a single hour of paid maternity time. Now, I was fortunate to be covered by the Family Medical Leave Act, so my job was protected. As amazingly progressive as FMLA is, it doesn’t pay the mortgage or buy groceries.
This one is a no brainer. “Banker’s hours,” right? But still, it pisses me off that institutions like banks, have yet to evolve with the needs of their customers. I do appreciate the progress in on-line banking and the use of ATM machines, but alas, there is certain banking business that must be completed in person, at the branch. My local branch is open from 9:30-4:30 and from 9-noon on Saturday. During the week, the only way I’m going to get any bank business completed is by using vacation time…sorry, but I think that is completely unreasonable. Plus, how stupid would I look saying to my boss, “Hi, could I leave early today, I need to open a savings account for my daughter to deposit the gifts she received from her baptism, before she reaches high school.” The Saturday hours are a bit more convenient, but 9-noon on Saturday mornings are filled with soccer, swimming and the occasional trip to the pediatrician, so I didn’t have to take off MORE time during the week to have that weird rash on my daughter looked at.
#5- Public schools.
Yup, I went there. The state constitution provides for free elementary and secondary education for all residents. Free, so long as you can put your child on the bus as late as 8:45 and be home to pick them up by 2:15. If you are unable to make those hours work for your family, forget about free and pull out your check book, because it is going to cost you…lots! Now, I clearly understand there are fiscal and political limitations for extending the school day, and I’m not advocating that children should be in school for nine hours a day…or wait, maybe I am? But either way, the underlying premise of our public school systems is not supportive of working families.
Now before you jump ugly on my choice to call out various institutions, stop. give.it.some.thought.
Why, at a time when working families are dominating our society, and by dominating I mean by numbers not by awesomeness, are basic institutions such as schools, banks, and the post office still making us jump through hoops? It is time to modernize and it is time for progress to be made. Any other offenders I should add to my list?
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