A Plea From Working Parents to the World’s Planners

Look at my calendar and you might think my wife and I were playing a game of Tetris. Colors stack on top of each other, some overlap, and the grid that’s created is intelligible only to other working parents. School, her work, my work, family events, activities, doctors, fun, travel, all color coded. It’s all about efficiency.

But efficiency in an inefficient world can turn that Tetris stack into a game of Jenga. Sometimes you pull out a line, nothing happens, and you breathe a sigh of relief. (Think of the 30 minutes you get back when a meeting is canceled.) But sometimes you pull out one of those lines and the whole stack wobbles, maybe it even collapses down on you.

Earlier this week my wife and I thought our calendars were set. And then someone added a block: Our oldest daughter had a field hockey game put on the schedule – the day before. Problem was my wife had two work calls at the start and end of the game, and I had to be in New York for meetings with people who interested in helping The Company of Dads.

Why couldn’t my wife make those calls at our daughter’s game, you might ask? Well, we live in a town where a vocal minority harbor irrational fears about cellphone towers – brain cancer, reduced SAT scores, 21st century communication… So, there are huge areas with no cellphone coverage whatsoever. Like the field where my daughter plays field hockey. Or the top of my driveway. But that’s a subject for another post.

We not only couldn’t go to her game, but neither one of us could pick her up on time when it was over.

I was really bothered by this. It’s easy to say it’s just one game so no big deal. You’d be right. But as a kid my parents missed so many games that their presence was a surprise. I was so jealous of the kids who had their parents there. Now, the 1980s were a different time for work-life balance. But – no surprise, amateur psychologists – I arrange my Tetris-like calendar to be at games or any event that’s important to my daughters.

What riles me up are the planners, whether they’re school officials or the parents who volunteer their time. Working parents need schedules that they can rely on, schedules that get sent out at the start of a semester or a sports season and that are followed. If there’s going to be a change, it’s not too much to ask that a notice be sent way in advance.

Am I mad that my town doesn’t have better cellphone service so my wife could have taken her calls there? Of course. It’s pearl-clutching nonsense, and I voice my opinion whenever I can.

But the planning issue is a broader one for Lead Dads and Working Moms who are involved parents no matter where they live. If planners want to include all parents and not just at-home parents, then they need to be mindful that some people’s time is not their own – and those parents need to make plans way in advance to be there.

How does this issue play out where you live? Please tell me.