There seems to be an influx of new employees at my current job. This is quite noticeable to me for the following reasons, I work for a small business, I don't seem to know any one's name anymore, and these new people are so damn young, I mean just out of college young. The other day I was checking my personal e-mail in our shared computer area (I work in health care, we don't have our own computers unless you bring your own from home) and I found myself reflexively commenting out loud about some commitment I had made and than promptly forgot about for one of my children. My very young co-worker, seated at the computer next to me, asked me to elaborate and I found myself trying to explain my life as if she could really even understand. I found this to be impossible, so I just gave up and mumbled something about "kid responsibilities."
I didn't used to be one of the oldest people at my place of employment. I also used to work more hours than I currently do and be more involved in office politics, socializing, and drama. The socializing is pretty impossible. Most people want to meet after work for drinks and appetizers. That time frame doesn't work for me, that is the time when I am meeting my children for homework and macaroni and cheese. Drinks after 9:00pm, preferably on a weekend evening fit into my schedule just fine. Therefore I do not have any outside of work opportunities to get to know any of these new people.
Recently I have noticed longing stares from these newbies when I exit the office to end my day at 2:00 or 3:00pm. Now these glances are punctuated with comments, "It must be nice to get off so early" or "Go and enjoy the beautiful day!" Now I don't want to seem negative in regards to my children, but picking them up from school, playing soccer, ballet, Girl Scout, playdate, play rehearsal, school meeting, bell ringers shuttle services, trying to prepare some manner of healthy dinner, doing two or three loads of laundry, helping with homework, getting baths/showers done, breaking up arguments, taking phone calls, and answering e-mail (which is about all I do between the hours of 3:00pm-9:00pm everyday) is not exactly my version of relaxing and enjoying my "time off." Not to mention the fact that the only reason I don't work more hours is that there is no such thing as quality childcare and anything that comes close costs more than what I make per hour.
This is perhaps one of the single most difficult things for people without children to understand. Childcare is challenging to find. My oldest child has ADD. She cannot do homework in a group childcare environment after school. She can barely get homework done working in a quiet bedroom by herself. This was the single biggest reason that I cut my hours in the first place. It would help if she weren't a smart child. Most childminders that I have been able to find are not as smart as my daughter is in the 4th grade and homework quickly becomes a battle between them that they lose, so it doesn't get done. I did look for two years for a child minder who could do all of the things that I do, for less money than I make per hour, and came up empty-handed. I have decided that my job must just be impossible to fill.
I am not sure that it would do much good to try and explain myself to this younger crowd. I remember being the same way all those years ago when I was childless and single and didn't have to plan time for myself. Then again maybe I should try and explain it. It is the only time in your life (unless you remain childless and single) that your free time is not dictated by the schedule of others, when you can really just spontaneously go out and enjoy the beautiful day without having to worry about school pick-up times or paying the babysitter. I realize that I wish someone had tried to tell me those things, maybe I would have appreciated that freedom more when I had it. As for now, my ten minutes at the computer are up. I am going to go finish folding the laundry and think about what we are going to have for dinner.