With school starting soon for some and already started for others, this is the time when many working parents struggle the most. There are many factors that escalate the turmoil during the school year that are not an issue during the summer months. The most common one is lack of time for dealing with school issues.
Even during the summer months, working parents may get called to his or her child’s care program for various emergency situation. During the school year, there are more frequent reasons for parents to visit this school.
From Parent/Teacher conferences, to ceremonies, to pageants, to science fairs, to just touching base with teachers, there seems to be something every week for which a parent needs to go to their child’s school. If a parent is working, this can be quite the juggle.
And that list is just for parents who have neurotypical children. Add in IEP meetings, disciplinary meetings, meetings with teachers at the start of the new school year as the child adjusts to the changes, and so on for a parent whose child has special needs.
More and more schools are not allowing children to take medicine during the school hours. This is in response to the drug crisis where kids are trading prescription medicines like candy in our schools. Well, if a child has a medical need to have his or her medicine during the school hours, the parents must bring it in and administer it to a child themselves.
Some schools do allow a waiver. In those cases, the parent must have a doctor sign a form saying that this medicine cannot be taken at any other time, and other forms must be filled out and returned and then the health aide or school nurse can administer the medicine. Either way, it’s another time consuming issue.
And if the working parent is the ONLY parent? Multiply these issues by two because there is no one else to pitch in.
Further, all this time off costs the parent money. If he or she are taking off a lot of time to attend to his or her kids’ needs, they are docked pay (because earned sick time is quickly used up), or they may even lose their job like yours truly did following her son’s near-fatal seizure.
The costs of care for special needs kids are already enormous and many parents need to work for the health care coverage, the income for basic needs, and to pay out-of-pocket expenses. What if he or she has Social Security Supplemental Income for his or her disabled child? Can he or she then afford to stay home?
No. According to a leading disability claims attorney, Ward Weizel, the average pay-out of benefits is $400 a month. Between mortgage/rent payments, food, electric bill, gas bill, clothes, gas, insurance, and all those other necessities, the money does not go far enough.
So, often times a parent has to juggle working with raising his or her special needs kids. What can a parent do? Time management is a skill that can be learned and can save money.
The first thing to do is to invest in a calendar. Agenda notebooks are nice, but if one cannot afford it, he or she can make his or her own out of a standard notebook. This would be a separate calendar from his or her work schedule.
All appointments and meetings should be scheduled in this calendar. The best option is to schedule as many as you can in a day, to save time off. Taking one whole day off to attend to these issues can save time later. One may be able to arrange a 4-day work week. If that is the case, schedule appointments for this one day off.
There are sometimes issues with that because some schools will only hold IEP meetings on certain days of the week. If a parent’s day off during the week does not match up, that could be a problem. Administrators will tell parents that he or she must come in on the day specified. This is not true. Parent’s Rights allow for the parents’ convenience, not the school’s benefit. Of course, one does want to be negotiable but if it comes down to it, the parents’ convenience should take precedence.
Next, group other type tasks together for the same effect. Trips into town to go grocery shopping and errand running can be done in the same go-round. Making a list of the stops one has to make in the up-coming week can help a parent make the most of the time. Again, spending two hours in the same day running errands will save time later.
Again, this may be a problem if the parent does not have two whole hours in which to run errands, or whatever time frame it takes. He or she may only have his or her lunch break in which to run to the bank or post office.
The advent of the internet can help. Online bill pay is offered by many banks, usually at a low cost or for free! You can set up the account to pay any bill (either with electronic transfers or the bank sends the check via mail) that you may have, from Aunt Betty to the electric company.
Stamps.com allows one to print postage from any computer at any time. Then one can just put his or her mail in the mail box and the postman will pick it up eliminating a trip to the post office. This even works for packages.
Look for these types of time-savers for your errand running. Perhaps you can afford to hire a local teenager to run for you to the store while you’re at work. The other thing is to analyze your schedule. What are the time-wasters? Spending ten minutes on Sunday night planning out your weekly tasks can save two hours, on average, during the week.
Also, if one owns a home computer and has internet access, trade email addresses with the children’s teachers. Instead of using a communications notebook, yours truly has changed to this process. No more worry about remembering to check the notebook, and since email is already a task being done, there is just a minimal added time for one more email.
Yours truly also does not attend Parent/Teacher conferences on a regular basis. The reason? If a parent is already in constant communication (either by phone, email or notebook), there really is not much more to be said at the conference that the parent does not already know. So when the slip comes home asking to sign up for a conference, opt out.
Let the teacher know that he or she can contact you if there is new knowledge to cover. The teachers here really appreciate this as it saves time for them and then they can use a double-slot if needed for another parent whose child needs the extra time.
Remember when scheduling which tasks to do first, the time involved in getting to and from the places one needs to go. If the grocery store is on the other side of town, and the bank is only two minutes away, and the post office is in the middle, and the school is between the bank and the post office, start at the grocery store and work your way back, stopping at the places as you come to them.
Of course, no matter how carefully one schedules these things, time will always be an issue as will money. This just allows for a little control of the chaos. It is also a stress-reliever because you are not worried about when and how you will get it all done. It’s already planned!
Make sure you plan some “me” time in there as well! Taking a half hour bubble bath will have re-energized you for tackling those every day battles. Yoga can help calm the mind and the body allowing one to handle stress more efficiently, as well. Make time for yourself. If the caretaker is not taken care of as well, he or she cannot care for others.