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  • Stay and Play: Balancing Life, Work, and Family

    I am employed at a university with a fairly structured work schedule: a 9-5 job. My wife is a full-time graduate student, which amounts to basically a full-time job with zero pay. I also have a 20-month-old daughter, someone I love to be around and only wish I could be around more. In Illinois, where we live, the median cost of child care per child is $12,697 for the whole year, one of the highest in the country.

    In our current situation, all this means that my annual income of $43,000—or $24,000 after taxes, health insurance, social security, retirement, etc.—must support rent, food, transportation, and, of course, child care. We live in the wealthiest county in the state, and so our extremely simple apartment costs $1000/month, leaving us with $12,000 to spend on food, transportation, and, of course, child care each year, or another $1000/month. Gratefully, our childcare costs are only $8000 a year. My gross income is too high to qualify for federal assistance, and so, what does any father do when trying to provide for his family? Get a second job.

    I have a Master’s degree in teaching and so recently picked up teaching classes in the evenings at local community college. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 7:00-9:50pm, I drive ten minutes to College of DuPage, the largest community college in the United States, and teach. Two semesters of teaching will give us enough to pay for childcare.

    But, this all came to a head last week when my 20-month-old ran to our front door at 6:40 as I was leaving for class, and screamed, “Stay! Play!” It was an entirely harmless request—a very genuine appeal from a daughter to her dad. But, it was also harmful…to me, at least. Working 9am-9:50pm means that I don’t see my family, don’t get to spend time with my daughter, and hardly eat. All so that my wife and daughter go to school. I realize that this is only a short season in life where we’re in this situation, I know there are other solutions out there, and I know other families have it much worse than we do, but seeing your daughter—who only has a 100 word vocabulary—muster up the two words whose combination could move mountains was devastating to me.

    My hope is that one day I will be able to find a balance between life, work, and family—the last of which ought to take primacy.

    Guest Blogger AJ