• Josina Miles

The Best Work Schedule for Single Mothers

Work/Life balance is the new buzzword in the past few years. That term never felt like it related to me because I couldn't imagine balancing my work and personal life with an inflexible work schedule such as a 9-5 and still be available for family whenever they need me. What sounds more normal is the extreme hours that people are clocking nowadays in the tune of 60, 70, and 80 hours a week.

It may be factual that we never clock out at the end the workday. Most jobs these days arm you with a smart phone or applications to install on your personal phone making you accessible 24/7. Recently a manager exclaimed why hadn't I responded to a text message they sent to my personal cell phone. I was actually on the clock working from home, but I replied that I didn't have it in front of me because it's a distraction while I'm working. They responded 'no wonder we can't get ahold of you.' My thought was, I'm definitely reachable during my scheduled work hours on work provided mediums of communication. However, I'm not obligated to respond to work related messages on my personal phone, on or off the clock.


7:00am – 3:30pm schedule

My children were still very young when I had this schedule. On this schedule, I needed at least two hours to get myself and the kids ready, drop them off at their respective daycares and have a least an hour to commute to work. It suited me for being able to drop them off and pick them up before 5pm on weekdays. I liked this schedule because by the time I left work it was right before rush hour, so traffic wasn’t a huge problem. Since most daycare centers and home daycares closed around 6pm, it gave me plenty of time to weave through traffic and pick them up on time each day.


Pros:

  • Able to drop off to school and daycare

  • Light traffic in AM and PM hours

  • Able to pick up before daycare closes

Cons:

  • Need to wake up very early in the mornings


2:00pm – 10:00pm schedule

I found a job as an Application Support Engineer and I was excited about the opportunity. They were not actually a 24-hour facility, but they needed someone to work late nights. I was the only woman on the team and the tech who worked the late shift. Since they were a software startup, they normally had a few programmers working late regularly. My little one was still a baby and the oldest in kindergarten. This schedule freed up my mornings so I could take my time getting them ready, dropping them off to school and daycare, then take a little time for myself before I needed to get ready for work. I could find a home daycare that picked up my oldest from school each day and I picked them up between 10:30 and 11:00pm at nights. One drawback for this schedule was that it was very expensive and the potential for emergencies made it impractical.


One horrific night I was on my way home from work and my car broke down. I had just left work, so I was literally walking distance from the office. There was no one left at the office so I couldn’t go back there for help. I walked about a mile to the local Walmart that was open. I went to customer service and explained what happened and asked if they had jumper cables. They said no and asked if I had AAA (Triple A). I didn’t, and they said that they couldn’t help. A man standing nearby overhead the conversation and said that it didn’t sound like a battery issue.

He offered to drive me back to my car to have a look. He was right. It wasn’t a battery issue. The car had stopped in the middle of the highway. It wasn’t very busy of night, but I was blocking traffic in one lane. A woman stopped to help and luckily an off-duty police officer pulled up was well. They all helped me push the car out of lane and onto the median. That’s when we discovered the flat tire besides the main problem. The police officer called a tow truck, and I called my little one’s dad. I was about 22 miles away from my kid’s daycare and I was already running late. He had to pick them up. I got a ride home with the tow truck about $100 and 2 hours later; we were all safe at home. I was charged an extra $25 for going over the grace period to pick up the kids..


Pros:

  • Wake up later and have time to relax before work

  • Able to drop off to school and pickup (depending on the daycare)

  • Light traffic in AM and PM hours

Cons:

  • More expensive due to the hours

  • Unforeseen emergencies late at night


8:00am – 4:30pm / 8:30am – 5:00pm / 9:00am- 5:30pm / 9:30 – 6:00pm schedule

A schedule between the hours of 8am and 6pm is a typical schedule for most people, otherwise known as the 9-5 shift. This schedule offers a typical workday, typical commute with typical heavy traffic from AM to PM hours. If I started at 8:00am, I normally needed at least an hour for commute, so dropping off to daycare worked, but dropping off to school was a no go. At 8:30, I still couldn’t drop them off to grade school, but daycares typically opened earlier. The 9am worked for dropping off because it gave me enough time to be at work on time, but I was always fighting the clock in the evenings. The rush hour traffic was unforgiving, and that was never a good excuse because everyone had to deal with it. The 9:30am to 6:00pm schedule was a sweet spot. I didn’t have to rush, rush, rush in the mornings and by the time I left work the traffic had died down a bit.


Fortunately, the daycare center I was going to for many years stayed opened 1 hour later to accommodate me. I paid them extra.


Since these are the core hours of most people when you finally got off work, the places you needed to get to, like the post office, doctors office, etc. where often closed. You needed to take time off and if there were any emergencies like your child suddenly coming down with something; it felt like a crisis. Since I prioritized my work as much as my children, I never made it to parent-teacher conferences and often sent them to school if they were feeling sick but didn’t have a fever. Correction, I’ve sent them to school with a fever and brought the medicine and instructions. Also, it always felt like I had no time for myself to decompress. I was always action mode and there was so little time to get anything done. Forget about a social life, I had no There was little to no time for myself, and I felt high anxiety, exhausted and stressed out most of the time.


Pros:

  • Normal Business Hours for most businesses

  • Able to drop off to school and pickup (depending on the daycare)

Cons:

  • Heavy Traffic during AM and PM hours

  • May have to pay extra to drop off early or pick up late

  • Extreme exhaustion

  • Little to no time for yourself


Weekend (Saturday/ Sunday) schedule

This is a great shift especially if you have very young children because it may allow you to save on daycare costs. I worked the weekend shift even before I became pregnant with my first child. I worked 12-hour shifts on Saturdays and Sundays, then 8-hour shifts on Mondays and Tuesdays. I was free on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays all day. My transition into motherhood was a little less bumpy because I had help and so he could be at home with the baby on Saturdays and Sundays. We still needed the daycare on Mondays and Tuesdays, but at a reduced cost. If you’re not married, having a family member willing to watch your kids for two days is not a bad deal. Shopping during the week is great because the stores are less crowded and it’s easier to catch store promotions and deals while they’re still available. You may miss out on a lot of things. Events, such as a birthday parties, weddings or family gatherings usually occur on the weekends.


Pros:

  • More time with children during the week

  • Reduced Daycare Costs

  • Children able to stay with family members and not strangers

  • Stores less busy and able to catch store deals

Cons:

  • Missed family events

  • Limited socialization with friends and family


Midnight - 8:30am

The game changer shift. Are you tired of being cooped up in the office all day, seeing only glimpses during the half hour or maybe an hour of reprieve during the day? Nothing compares to being able to go outside and enjoy all the daylight hours. You feel free because the sun is shining and not about to go down for the day. Even if it's raining, you still feel free. Nothing is more amazing than seeing your kids off to school every day, picking them up or waiting for them to come home and having them arrive to hot home cooked meal. Earlier in the day, you ran to the store and bought something fresh to cook. There's no stopping after work at fast-food places to grab something because you're too tired to cook and there's not in the house ready to eat. I find a reduction in stress because you don't have to deal with any traffic. There's almost none when commuting late at night. You still have the energy to help with homework and talk about their day, and you never have to miss or parent teacher conference. Another life changing benefit is that you can accept just about any doctor's appointment, anytime of the day. As beautiful as this sounds and is, there is one caveat, you still have to work an 8-hour shift and you may have to leave your kids at home to go to to work. It wouldn't be practical for mothers with very young children. Also, although you're working while they're sleeping, you still have to sleep during the day. The late afternoon is a good time if you want to get your 6-7-8 hours before you have to get ready for work, but it allows you to be up and energized even after you completed your work day.


Pros:

  • No traffic

  • Less fatigue and more energy

  • More available for your children during the day

  • Available for doctors appointment or emergencies

  • Never miss a parent teacher meeting

  • Able to cook a fresh meal everyday

  • Kids my start to complain that you're there too much ;)

Cons:

  • May not be suitable for mothers of babies or toddlers, if no babysitting options are available

  • Need to retire to bed earlier in the day



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