Many years ago when I was a brand-new mother, I was having a conversation with a friend. She was telling me how badly she hoped that her preschooler failed his kindergarten entrance evaluation so the school would allow him into the coveted all-day kindergarten program rather than the standard half day. I judged her mercilessly for it. I had a hard time hiding my disgust that another mom was rooting for her child to fail at something.
But years later, now I get it. At least part of it.
Half-days slay me. Three hours is not enough time to do anything. I don’t do half-day summer camp and I can’t do half days at school. It feels like I drop them off at school, drive all the way home, write five paragraphs and send an email, and it’s time to get them again. Why on earth would someone create a schedule like this and why do they hate me so much?
I’m half tempted to take my laptop and work in the school office on half days, just so they can get a sense of how much they’re inconveniencing me by letting out school at 11:30 in the freaking morning.
I have to say, though, I consider myself lucky. I write for a living and I can do that anywhere. But still, I have to write—and two bored children does not a productive workday make. So what do I do on these dreaded half days? It depends, but here are a few survival strategies I’ve discovered that work for me.
1. I trade off with another parent, taking each other’s kids every other half day. This only sucks every other time. But kids entertain each other pretty well, and I can usually get a lot done while they’re playing in the yard.
2. Grandma to the rescue. My mom will occasionally pick up my girls and take them to her house in the afternoon. She feeds them lunch, spoils them rotten, then I pick them up at four. I try not to take advantage of her, but it is a nice option.
3. I pay a sitter. I talk my sitter into a lower rate for a four-hour babysitting job. She takes them somewhere fun, I get things done, everybody wins. But it costs me money and I don’t like to do it frequently.
4. We play hooky. Sometimes it’s just not worth it to do all that driving. The girls play in the yard, maybe watch a movie, I work, then we spend some quality time together. They don’t watch a lot of TV so a day like this doesn’t make me feel too guilty. And because it’s a half day, they really don’t miss much at school. This is a last resort—I am not advocating missing school often.
I am a good mom. My kids eat healthy, they are well-behaved. They get a lot of fresh air and not too much screen time. They love reading and they are kind little people. I work hard to help support my family and full-time school gives me the time to do that. They are learning; I am working. It’s a win-win. Half days are the monkey wrenches in the well-oiled wheelworks of my life. But with a little planning, a bit of help, and a lot of flexibility, they won’t break me yet.