slideA show of hands, please: How many of you working moms out there work on a strict 9-to-5 schedule? Yeah, me neither. Seems like fewer and fewer of us working parents keep the kind of classic full-time day-job hours our parents' generation took for granted. Instead, we're working the night shift (as well as the day shift) just to get by, going to school in the evenings to improve ourselves and create opportunities for our families, or simply taking whatever work comes our way, at whatever time it's required. So how do we make sure our kids are cared for while we're working? It turns out more and more working parents with non-traditional schedules have an option that used to be only rarely available: day care … at night.

According to the New York Times, an increasing number of day care centers are now making care available for kids 24/7, in order to meet the round-the-clock childcare needs of today's working parents. That means kids are being dropped off and picked up late at night, or in the wee hours of the morning, as their parents head to and from work. That means some of them are not always eating dinner with their families or sleeping through the night in their own beds in their own homes. Or that they are spending long hours in day care, while their parents spend long hours at work.

Yes, in many cases, parents would rather have their children cared for, if not by themselves or a family member, than at least by a sitter at home while they work, but finances often make that scenario impossible, perhaps especially difficult in single-income households. That's just the reality of today's world.

Yes, in many ways, it's a sad reality – that so many of us moms are working low-paying jobs at all hours because we have no choice. But we do what we need to do to provide for our kids, and sometimes we get into a situation that seems as if it has no good answers: We need to work to feed and clothe our children, and keep a roof over their heads, but how can we provide for our children's emotional needs (tuck-in time feels so sacrosanct) if we're working? It's a quandary so many of us face.

Ultimately, one hopes, by seeing us work hard, our children will learn about the value of hard work. And though we may not spend the hours with them we might like, the time we do spend with them can still be high quality. (It's the quality, not the quantity of time we spend with our children that's important: How many of us repeat that to ourselves like a chant?) We just need to make sure our children know that, though we are sometimes away from them at the very times we would most like to be with them, we love them more than anything and are working to care for and provide for them – now and in the future.

It may be dispiriting to think of these young children being tucked in at night at a day care center – not by their own parents and not in their own beds – but extended day care hours are an important solution for a lot of working moms today, a key tool for their family's financial survival. It may not fulfill a want, but it does meet a need.

What do you think of daycare centers making their services available for parents with unconventional work schedules?

 

Image via mary mackinnon/Flickr