job-searching when you’re a single parent

Throwing this one to the readers to help with. A reader writes:

I’m a single mom of a 2-year-old and am currently looking for a full-time job. Normally I pick him up at 3 pm from school/daycare, which, if I find a typical 8 am – 5 pm job, would make me unavailable during part of those hours. I can still work from home later in the day after he goes to bed (~ 8 pm) so I can still put in an eight-hour-day, but I wonder several things about this arrangement:

Is this reasonable to ask from an employer who does not know me or my work ethic and who therefore does not, understandably, trust me? What are, if any, reasonable expectations to have for someone in my situation?

How do most people deal with this type of situation, given that a lot of employees have young children and/or are single parents?

And how do I bring this up tactfully and professionally, and when is the right time to bring it up? Is it appropriate to hint at it during the interview so that they know beforehand? Or after a job offer has been made?

Readers, what advice do you have in this situation?

{ 135 comments… read them below }

  1. AJ-in-Memphis*

    Do you have to pick him up at 3pm? I thought most daycares were open until 6pm.
    Does the school have an after school care program? Is this an option?

    I ask this because most employers will not like to break up the day in this manner. Unless you’re telecommuting, I would think it’s unlikely to find a white collar job that is willing to alter work hours for a new hire.

    1. Adam V*

      I came here to say this as well – if your current daycare/school won’t keep your child past 3, you should probably look for one that will.

      1. AJ-in-Memphis*

        Yeah, most daycares are setup for the working classes – Monday through Friday, from around 7am until around 6pm. I wouldn’t bring this up in an interview or otherwise unless you’ve run out of all options.

        1. BW*

          Yes, find a daycare/situation with early or late hours. Parents – single and otherwise, I work with often have an earlier work schedule – often coming in around 7 AM so they can leave earlier in the day to pick up children from school/daycare.

          You do want to generically ask about the work schedule in an interview. Some places have flexible about work hours and others do not. You want to have a sense of what your work hours would be so you know if they would work out with a child care situation.

          1. Adam V*

            Yes, bring this up during an interview. They should know that this is a must-have for you as early as possible; if it’s a deal-breaker for them, you don’t want to spring it on them after they’ve already made you an offer.

        2. Katie*

          I completely agree with trying to find a daycare with better hours, if there are not many daycares where you live I would look into home daycares. They are usually cheaper and tend to be more laid back and (obviously) homey, which can be good for a 2 year old who is in full day care.

          Also, if for some reason you truly have no other options for child care, I would suggest you start looking for a babysitter now. Find one who would be able to pick your son up and then watch him for a few hours. Have her watch him a few times while you are still looking for a job so that you all get comfortable with each other.

          Ask about the schedule, but don’t mention your child care arrangements.

          Good luck!

          1. Elizabeth*

            My sister worked for a family like this when she was in college. She enjoyed getting off-campus and spending some time with a baby instead of just 19-year-olds, and the family offered her some perks like letting her do her laundry at their house while the baby was napping.

            1. Katie*

              Yeah, a college student would be great, and if there aren’t any colleges where she is, she might be able to find a stay at home mom or someone else.

              I think that could be a good solution, since her son could stay in the same daycare and she would have a babysitter (or two) who might also be able to watch her son at occasional other times, which is a wonderful thing to have as a single parent.

    2. Kelly O*

      Just adding a +1 to this. My daycare is open from 6:00AM to 6:30PM, and provides bus service to and from school for the kids.

      The “school kid” rate is less than the kids who are there all day, and they have summer rates and programs for the kids during school breaks. I’m sure there are lots of places like that; it seems there would have to be, since so many people are trying to find care for their kids while still working.

      (Spirit of full disclosure, I’m not a single parent, and my husband works from home, but we are very very fortunate to have a fabulous place for our daughter. She was two in October, but we’re thinking ahead to school, and are very glad she’s in a place that has so many options for us.)

      I don’t want to sound discouraging, but it will probably be hard to find a job that gives you that kind of flexibility. I’m sure they are out there, but not at all easy to come by. Maybe if you could work a while and feel out the corporate culture, you might be able to bring it up down the road, but honestly I wouldn’t do it to start with.

  2. Esra*

    Like the above posters, I don’t think many places would be cool with you leaving partway through the day and working from home later unless you have a pretty specialized/in demand skill set.

    That pretty much boils your options down to finding 9-5 daycare or having a friend/family member help out with those two hours.

  3. AnotherAlison*

    To be honest, I wouldn’t be willing to offer you flexibility for this arrangement when you are a new, unknown quantity, and none of the other parents on staff have such arrangements.

    The issue isn’t that you’re a single mom. It’s that your daycare situation is no good. I have 2 kids who are past their daycare years, but when they were 2 years old, both attended daycare from around 7 am till 5 pm. The daycare was open from 7 – 6. Obviously none of us want to leave our kids in daycare 11 hours a day, but those facilities are available.

    Right now, I personally have enough flexibility to pick my school-age kid up at 3:40, but I’ve been here for 7 years and it’s a once every few weeks thing, not my normal, daily arrangement.

    That said, I don’t think you’re wrong to ask about flexible hours, but what you’re asking for is a little beyond normal flex time and even if they let you do it, they probably couldn’t promise that you could leave at 2:45 every single day (meetings???). You really shouldn’t been mentioning your kid or marital status in an interview, and it feels like you’re on the verge of doing that. You can’t make your problems their problems.

  4. Janet*

    Most normal office hours go until 4:30 or 5. I think the 3 p.m. pick-up is a little bit awkward. It’s not unheard of – there were a few people at past jobs who’d come in at 7 and leave at 3. However, they were mostly admins. Other job duties required 4 p.m. meetings or work that would butt up against the 4:30 or 5 p.m. official end of business time.

    My current job has hours that are 8:30 to 4:30, however, almost everyone works until 5ish. I leave at 4:30 to do daycare pick-up. But I come in at around 8 a.m. So no one has said anything about me leaving right on the dot.

    Asking to leave a little early every day seems less likely something that would be accepted off the bat. Especially since most schools have “adventure club” or other afterschool groups that are fairly inexpensive. I would find something like that for your child and then in time, once you’ve proved yourself and you have determined that there are a minimum of meetings that occur after 3, you can ask for a special flex schedule.

  5. girlreading*

    Most people have to send their kids to daycare all day and pick them up on the way home after leaving work at 5. Also, most daycares have a cut off pick up time, like 6 or 6:30 and start charging per a segment of time if you aren’t there by then (so consider the commute). This is what my mom always had to do.

    Depending on the type of job and specific company it may be ok or a big fat no. They may have flex hours, but that doesn’t necessarily include working from home, if you needed to leave 2.5 hours before 5, you might have to make that up in the mornings or by taking short lunches. Again, not all companies will be ok with that-some are strict 8-5 AIS type places (I’ve worked at them unfortunately). I’d say to expect that this won’t be a possibility and figure out your options for childcare.

    Having a child could restrict your ability to work OT and if your child is sick you’ll need to be able to take off- be honest if they ask this kind of question.

  6. Adam V*

    The only other idea I had is to look for part-time positions. Find a job that would allow you to leave at 2 (or whatever time you need to leave to pick up your child at 3). You’d get additional experience and have more job history for your resume.

    1. Adam V*

      Do daycares open up early enough for her to drop off her child before 6? (I don’t know one way or the other.)

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I actually know one that serves a manufacturing plant that does, but no, not usually. I had one with a 6:30 drop off once, but it was in a place where many people were commuting 45 minutes to work.

      2. Becky*

        Agreed; as a single parent, it’s not like she has someone else who could drop the child off later in the morning. It would be the same problem, but early AM instead of the afternoon.

        That being said, I agree with other posters that you should find daycare that is open past 3pm; all of the places I’m aware of (I have a 3 year old) have hours for working parents (so at least until 5:30). Finding a new daycare/school (especially if you like yours) is hard, but it is probably necessary unless you can work somewhere part time (also not feasible for most single parents I know).

    2. AnotherAlison*

      I’m betting she would be constrained by school/daycare on the a.m. side, too. Drop off at 8 + pick up at 3 = you can’t work an 8 hr day.

      Plus, many offices that offer 6-3 hrs (mine does), reserve the right to change your schedule permanently to “core” business hours ” or to ask you to work OT. I really don’t think the OP can make this her every day arrangement.

  7. Coelura*

    I agree with everyone’s comments so far. Asking for this kind of flex-time for your desired childcare (versus available childcare options) isn’t reasonable. And it is unreasonable enough that it just might remove you from consideration.

    1. AJ-in-Memphis*

      Agreed. It’s a red flag to bring this up in an interview especially after you’ve seen the work hours (as you’ve done your research on the company before you went into the interview and such information was available) or put on an application that you COULD work during normal work hours (8-5).

  8. KayDay*

    I’m going to second all the suggestions to find day care open later.

    Personally, I can imagine (but haven’t actually seen) someone who has worked at a company for a long time or in a really senior/specialized position being allowed to do something like leave early and work from home later, but not a rank-and-file employee and definitely not a new employee.

    However, you can find jobs that give you some flexibility–for example, working 7-4 (or something similar) tends to mesh better with school schedules than 9-6. We currently have a very senior person who arranged to work 9:45ish – 6:45ish so she can walk her young child to school in the morning (but she has the nanny pick the child up in the afternoon).

    How much flexibility is possible depends on a lot of factors, include your level, specialization, the industry environment, and the specific companies work style, so if you absolutely require flexibility it’s out there, but it can take a long time to find.

    1. Sascha*

      I work at a university, and we often get applicants that are in school (either at our university or somewhere else in the area). These applicants often ask about flex schedules and if they can be granted flexibility on days they have classes. We usually grant this flexibility for new employees if they prove that they are doing their best to schedule their classes around normal working hours. Sometimes a required class comes up that is only taught from 1pm-2:30pm, and we work around that, but it’s generally understood that the flexibility is privilege and shouldn’t be abused.

      This is just an example of a new employee being granted a flexible schedule. However my department is much more laid back about schedules than other departments. And while universities tend to be more lenient towards people who are in school IME, they may not be as lenient with child care. Like KayDay said, there are just a lot of factors. I’m thrilled that I have as much flexibility as I do with my job (7-4 schedule, 3 days telework), after only 3 years, but again, my department is very laid back and uses this as a benefit to compensate for the lower-than-market salaries. Also I busted my butt here and proved myself – so I didn’t get telework right off the bat. I did get 7-4 just because my position is not one that requires I be in the office for a certain period of time.

  9. Job seeker*

    My heart goes out to you. I am not a single-mom but my sister has been. Have you tried some churches in your area that may offer daycare? When my children were smaller our church offered different programs from pre-school to time for tots. I really hope you find a good place.:-)

  10. Cathy*

    What type of work are you looking for? I think this type of arrangement really depends on your field and what’s customary there.

    I’ve hired people who worked 7 AM to 3:30 PM or thereabouts, and I’ve also hired people who worked 10 AM to 7 PM. I’m pretty insistent on having the whole team available from 10 to 3 so people can collaborate during that time. It works for us, and most of my employees have commented that they like having the flexibility.

    One of the single parents I worked with (she didn’t work for me, just with me) had a “morning nanny” who came in and got her daughter out of bed, dressed, fed and off to school. The mom then picked her up in the afternoon. You might be able to find a college student to do this.

    1. Lynn*

      Yes, if you can’t find a daycare open later for a child that age, (and there *are* areas like this), maybe you could hire someone to pick him up and take him to your house and play with him there until you get home. If you can’t find anyone among people you know or friends of friends, advertise on,, and local colleges.

  11. The IT Manager*

    How do most people deal with this type of situation, given that a lot of employees have young children and/or are single parents?

    They use a childcare center that stays open later than 3pm. They use a childcare center that provides a means to get their child from the school to day-care or after-school care. What you are asking for is far outside of the norm. People who pick up their kids after school at 3pm generally do not work or do not work a standard office day shift. (Frankly wording your question like this is very naive. It’s not the ideal obviously, but how divorced from reality do you have to be to not know the answer?)

    And how do I bring this up tactfully and professionally, and when is the right time to bring it up? Is it appropriate to hint at it during the interview so that they know beforehand? Or after a job offer has been made?

    This is way outside the norm. If you don’t want to find an alternate day-care provider, you have the mention this upfront during your first interview because it’s probably a deal-breaker. Some jobs simply can’t be done from home and even for those companies that allow telework may not be amenable for you to stop working at 2:30 and start again after 8:00. (That’s pretty odd and calls into question if you would really be focused on work or maybe dealing with a child who doesn’t want to go to sleep or something like that.) That would mean you’re unavailable during part of the normal work hours and assumes that much of your job can be done without interaction with others. Plus as a new employee and unknown quantity they may simply require people to work in the office for their first six months or a year until they prove themselves trustworthy.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      how divorced from reality do you have to be to not know the answer?

      My thoughts exactly! I was thinking most people know this stuff, unless she’s a very young mom & newly divorced or something and from a stay-at-home mom family/neighborhood (or alternatively, a welfare neighborhood).

      I managed to solve this finding-full-time-daycare puzzle when I was 19. It’s not that complicated, but my mom had had my sister in daycare since she was a baby, so I knew the deal.

      1. bean*

        a welfare neighborhood? contrary to popular belief, people on welfare do work. many in i9-5 office jobs.

    2. JP*

      Ok really ? No need to get snappy here. People are not born knowing things. It doesn’t come automatically after you have children either. The OP obvisouly is asking because she didn’t know. It’s not like she said she asked for those accomodations and can’t understand why they were refused. She’s asking because she doesn’t know. Now just tell her nicely or let others do it ! Sheesh !

      1. Jenn*

        Seriously! IT Manager, you’re being just a BIT harsh here. The OP is asking for advice; if you think her question is stupid, then don’t bother to respond.

        1. The IT Manager*

          I was a BIT harsh, but I don’t think I was TOO harsh. You will also notice I did offer a good bit of actual advise with only two sentences of harsh reality.

          1. Esra*

            It’s a bit crummy to rag on someone writing to this blog for help about an issue like this though. Like making fun of someone who is really out of shape for learning stretches before they go to the gym.

        2. AJ-in-Memphis*

          This is how it is. No one is going to hold your hand when you’re interviewing or looking for a job. Employees are not there to be coddled by their employers. Companies are looking for people to do the work within their constraints, not the employees. It’s rare that a new, full time, not in college employee can dictate a schedule to company they want a job with. It’s just not like that for the majority of us. Daycare are made for the working class – people who work between 7am and 6pm during the week. This poster *clearly* doesn’t (or didn’t) understand that.

            1. AJ-in-Memphis*

              I know the difference, dear. You did what you complained about in the earlier posts – you belittled me – or at least tried to. Don’t complain about things that you’re willing to do others. This is a difference you want to look in to.

      2. Anonymous*

        I agree that it was a bit snappy, especially after 50 comments in a row stating she probably has to change her day care schedule. Naive maybe, but divorced from reality is really pushing it. Her question was how to approach it, not “how come I never get hired when I request to leave early to pick my kid up?”

    3. -X-*

      “how divorced from reality do you have to be to not know the answer?”

      This phrase is over-the-top harsh. A better way of saying it “unfamiliar with common business practices” or something like that. She doesn’t know. That’s all.

      1. Jill*

        I agree that this was a harsh comment. I think the OP’s question is reasonable. I mean, employers make accomodations for people all the time – for disabilities, medical appointments, telecomuniting and so on. It’s not unreasonable to wonder about the most professional way to seek an accomodation for a crappy daycare situation. Sheesh.

        1. fposte*

          It also sounds like she may be a bit isolated, and if she doesn’t actually know people who are working with kids in longer daycare, it may not be a solution she’s encountered. To be honest, while it was obvious to me once people said it, it’s not something most people I know do so it wouldn’t automatically have occurred to me.

          1. Katie*

            yeah, she sounded really isolated to me too. Because I mean, she is not talking to her friends about this? It really does sound like she doesn’t know many people at all actually. Which is sad and must be very scary.

            1. Apostrophina*

              I know when I split from my ex, he “acquired” most of the mutual friends in the separation.

              In my case, I’m child-free and fairly happy being alone, so while I sometimes get wistful about it, I don’t mind much. I can imagine it being a huge handicap for a new mom (assuming such a breakup was involved), though.

          2. Rana*

            Or it could be a situation where most of the families she knows have someone at home who takes care of the children full-time. If she were recently widowed, for example, in a small town community, the idea of all-day day care might not be all that familiar a thing.

            Or it might be a situation like the case for many of my friends in academia, where the parents trade off care during the day and over the course of the week, so there’s no need to have 8-5 day care for children too young to go to school.

            In other words, if it were as obvious as The IT Manager thinks, the OP wouldn’t have needed to ask the question in the first place.

          3. Lily*

            I used to live in a neighborhood of stay-at-home moms and working women without children. A divorced mom wouldn’t have anyone to ask.

    4. Hannah*

      OP, I honestly think this advice prepares you for what you’d hear from anyone hiring for a regular office job . It would be bizarre to apply for full time 9-5 job and ask if you can work part time in the office and part time from home outside of business hours. If a businesses realizes they have an open position that can be performed outside of regular business hours, and without physical presence, they are probably probably try to outsource it, not looking for employees with unique schedules.

      If you don’t want to arrange after school care like most posters are suggesting, then you should probably be looking for a job that is already designed for you to work remotely, a part time job, or a job for “mother’s hours” only. My single mom worked retail, so she could usually pick us up, or arrange friends/babysitters. It’s hard to increase your earning potential and build a career with jobs like this.

    5. Kou*

      How divorced from reality? This is exactly what my parents did when I was growing up, and they alternated every few years depending on what their work needs were. One would leave work in the middle of the afternoon to pick me up and either take me to one of two friends who babysat me, then go back to work. Which is even weirder than asking to telecommute afternoons, really, but between the two of them and being blue collar they still found something like five different workplaces that allowed this throughout my childhood.

      A lot of people have said “later day care” but where I grew up that wasn’t an option; the ones that stayed open late never had any availability, and after school programs didn’t run late enough.

    6. Rachel*

      I think your comments are right on. My first thought in reading this was,”seriously?” My mother was a single mother raising two kids. We went to daycare in the morning and after school while she was at work and then had various babysitters while she was taking night classes to get her masters. She worked hard to give us advantages she did not have and we never felt neglected. Op needs to stop using being a single mom as an excuse.

      1. Kou*

        Single mom as an excuse for what, exactly? That’s an awfully strong knee-jerk reaction to have to such a benign question. Did some single mom beat you up and take your lunch money?

          1. Jamie*

            Kou isn’t a troll – and I didn’t understand the excuse comment either.

            The OP is just asking a question in a totally appropriate forum.

            When I became a single mom I had three kids between 3-8 and I wouldn’t have been able to navigate all of this childcare stuff without someone knowledgeable to help.

            In fact, I didn’t. In the beginning I tried to get a traditional job, but I was in a small town with no support network and with three kids, one with special needs, it was absolutely impossible to find something that wouldn’t cost more in daycare than I would make.

            FWIW – I consider myself pretty resourceful and I’ve never used my kids as an excuse and I was struggled just as much as the OP with this.

            You read articles all the time about flex time and family friendly this or that…it’s totally reasonable that someone who has been out of the workforce for a while (or always – as was the case with me) wouldn’t necessarily know that those aren’t perks often granted coming in through the door.

            Which is totally understandable, I think you should have a track record before remote work is granted in a lot of cases – but it’s also ironic that at this stage in my career I would be able to flex a schedule and work from home when needed, etc. – when home doesn’t need me as much anymore.

            The other things with flex time – it needs to be structured properly. It’s never, ever, the answer in lieu of child care. Sure, home with the flu and mom or dad can remote work from home because it’s better than burning a sick day – but day to day child care is a job unto itself and working from home while watching your child(ren) – for most jobs something would be getting neglected, either the work or the kids. Flexing around pick-ups is another story.

            But just wanted to chime in to say I also didn’t see any excuses being made here – just a question.

      2. KellyK*

        Asking how people handle a situation is not “using it as an excuse.” This was really unnecessarily harsh, for no reason that I can see.

  12. Sarah*

    My cousin’s wife was a single mom for many years and worked 40-hour weeks with three long days every weekend while her son’s father had him – this meant that she was home with her son 24/7 for the time he was with her. Certainly this situation has its drawbacks, but it was what she preferred and she was very pleased with the setup. She’s a nurse; obviously this wouldn’t work for every career. But maybe it sparks some creative ideas for jobs with non-9-5 scheduling?

    1. Melissa*

      I have a lot of family members who are nurses and this is the way they set up their weeks – they work 3 12-hour days and arrange for childcare on those days, or they work on the days that their partners are off. Then they have 4 days off that they spend with their children. My mother is a nurse, and although by the time she started working we were old enough to take care of ourselves – I was 15, my youngest sister 11 – but she wanted to be home when we got home from school, so she took the night shift.

  13. Kirsten*

    I also agree with locating a daycare that is open later. One thing I always try to get a really clear picture of in the interview is if any overtime is expected. The job I have now requires overtime, but they were very clear on that upfront and I was able to make arrangements before accepting the job.

  14. Joey*

    Couple of suggestions:

    1. Look at pre-k programs at public and private schools. Public can be free or low cost and private, at least in my area are often cheaper, more flexible and better than daycare. Some don’t accept until age 3 but some do younger.

    2. Contact your city or county govt. offices to inquire about childcare assistance and subsidies. Frequently there are programs to help parents who are having a tough time.

  15. Anonymous Manager*

    Coming from another perspective, I’m finding this conversation really useful. I have an employee who recently married a single Dad and instantly became “Mom” to two teenage girls (one of whom has some severe behavioral/health problems). Our standard work hours are 8:30am – 5:00pm and she is now needing a 9/9:30 – 2:30/3pm schedule a couple days a week because of the kids’ chauffering needs (neither can drive or have cars). Due to a whole host of other family issues, she is the only person able to do this 2-3 days a week.

    I really like this employee. She’s been with the organization about 10 years and is the only person here who can do the highly technical work that is foundational to our operation (I’m fairly new and haven’t had time to master the system yet). I’ve been flexible with her so far because it seemed like it would be a temprary situation for a month or two. Now I’m starting to think it will be longer, and I really need her to start working regular hours again, but I really don’t know how to help her make that happen. Any suggestions?

    1. AnotherAlison*

      I’m wondering who was doing this before she came into the picture.

      I think you should give her a few weeks/month notice that you expect her to return to regular hours and let her work it out. Would you be willing to let her go to part-time hours, if that’s what it came down to? That would give her an option to work around her home life if she couldn’t find other arrangements, but to also give you some budget for someone who could pick up the slack. Surely someone could be trained. . .

      1. Anonymous Manager*

        I think their family situation has deteriorated a lot in the last couple of months, especially with the one daughter’s needs suddenly increasing and their biological mother going off the deep end herself.

        She actually has brought up going part time, but since she supervises a team of 5-10 additional part time staff this adds another level of complication. I would either need to promote somebody else to full time to take on this team, or give them to another manager who already has a team of 10. A new hire would take months to be fully trained, but might end up being the best solution.

        Ugh — no easy answers…

        1. Kelly O*

          It is really tough being a stepmom, especially when there are issues with the other parent (even if they’re out of state.) My heart goes out to your employee, because I could see me having a somewhat similar issue – not the behavioral problem necessarily, but sort of being dropped into something I couldn’t plan because of a difficult situation with the other parent.

          I really hope you are able to help her get through this time. She’s probably stressed about everything else, and adding work pressure on top of that makes it even harder.

    2. Joey*

      There’s only so much you can do. If you haven’t already have you analyzed her job duties to see if she can get the work done at different hours/days? Or can she still get the job done working less hours? Can you remove less critical duties from her and reassign them to free her up to work less? You can only control the aspects of her job. You just need to see how flexible you can be with them. Once you’ve done that the burden is on her.

    3. Malissa*

      Is she available for longer hours on the days when she doesn’t have to deal with the kids?
      I’d have a talk with her about this, see if she has any ideas.

    4. girlreading*

      The PT is a good idea, but depends on if she can afford it and how willing you are to risk losing her.
      She could probably hire a college student to drive the kids around to appointments-just do a background/driving record check. When I was in college I had friends who did nannying for kids after school.

    5. yasmara*

      Anonymous Manager, do you need her to work more *regular* hours or just *more* hours? This is an honest question & something you should evaluate. Also, if she is not working a full-time schedule right now, unless your company is pretty unusual, she will either need to formalize her new part-time schedule (why is she coming at 9:30 & leaving by 2:30 & getting paid for full time?), formalize a flexible schedule (maybe she’s making up those hours at night and that’s OK, but it doesn’t sound like she is from your question), go back to working full time hours on the acceptable schedule, or you need to let her go.

      But I do genuinely go back to my first question – is it possible she could go back to full time hours, but complete them in a flexible manner over the day? Is her technical job one that she could complete at home, out of the office?

      Regardless, once you’ve answered that question for yourself, you need to sit down with her and raise this issue directly. It sounds to me like you’ve let this go for a while, thinking it was temporary, while she’s probably thinking that since you’ve never brought it up, you don’t care that she’s working fewer hours/flexible hours.

    6. fposte*

      Can you be specific about what needs to happen? Is it that you need her onsite during official working hours, you need eight hours worth of work from her, or you need her to overlap with other employees for x hours a day? No blame to you if you do need her there 9-5 (and if she’s technically full time even though she’s now working as few as 32 hours some weeks, that wouldn’t work for me), but if it’s more a coverage/duration issue why not talk to her in those terms? Maybe 10-6 regularly would work for both of you, for instance, while her husband makes the morning run.

      I was going to say that if you can’t make it work, you can’t, but it also occurred to me that I don’t know if this might actually be an intermittent FMLA situation–I don’t know if stepchildren are included, but does your organization have at least 50 employees within a 75 mile radius?

      1. Anonymous Manager*

        To all of the status questions — she’s exempt so she gets paid her salary no matter what. The technical work is mostly back-of-house, but the staff she manages are interacting with the public during our open hours, so it is important that she’s here during those specific hours.

        1. Coelura*

          I am a single mom with a daughter who has a significant mental illness. I am fortunate that my manager worked with me on the craziness after school. She worked out a schedule where I came in at 7:30am (right after the school bus went by) and left around 2:45 (so I could pick up my daughter from school). In turn, I was ALWAYS available to my staff via cell phone and connected my email to my cell so they could reach me via email as well. I also worked on any paperwork type activities in the evenings. I always made sure I worked a minimum of 40 hours a week.

          It made a huge difference to my ability to take care of my family and made me more loyal to the company. My team didn’t suffer – in fact, two of my people ended up developing into strong leaders because they were given the opportunity to step up & fill in the gaps I left while knowing I was still there to catch the flack. They were just as surprised as the rest of the world that they were management material.

          It can be a situation that works for everyone involved – but it takes creativity and commitment on the part of the employee.

        2. fposte*

          “Paid her salary no matter what” doesn’t mean that you can’t require her to work a full-time week, though. And currently she’s not–she’s working part-time, roughly 80%.

          As it happens, the DOL has clarified that stepchildren can indeed be included in FMLA eligibility. I think I actually misread in that you didn’t say that this was chauffeuring to doctor’s appointments rather than just regular kid chauffeuring, though, so that might be a red herring. (If, however, she is taking the one kid to doctors/therapy, that time could count as FMLA if the kid’s disorder qualifies.)

          I suspect that’s a tangent, though, and what you have is an employee who is finding the family support more important than your paycheck right now, and who has explicitly asked for part-time. I think you have to decide whether it makes more sense to put her on part time and do the juggling you suggest or to replace her; since you have a long working relationship with her and appreciate her, I think it would make sense for you to see what you can work out and whether she knows what she’d want to do if you will have to replace her if she can’t work full time. I think you have an understandable secret wish that things will just go back to the way they were so nothing has to happen, but I also think you know you’re out of luck on that.

          Just out of curiosity, how is her team doing without her supervision? Is somebody else stepping in, are balls obviously being dropped, etc.?

        3. Anonymous*

          I was exempt but in agreement with my boss cut my expected hours significantly for a few years, with commensurate pay cut. Made sense all around for us.

    7. Kou*

      Maybe not helpful, but I work with a group of pediatricians and I always wonder about how the parents of kids with long term/chronic illnesses can possibly make it work. A lot of our clinics only run 9am-noon only a few times a month, and they’re for specialty issues where the parents have 0 other options of places to go. And I don’t just mean in town, I mean within a five-state radius from here.

      1. Rana*

        I think the answer is, they don’t, not really. There’s some government aid available for helping such children, and sometimes support programs, but from my very limited knowledge of it, my impression is that usually one parent ends up as the child’s primary care provider and the family struggles to piece together some way to support themselves on a single income.

      2. T*

        For my family, my mom remained a SAHM so that she could take my brother (who was severely mentally and physically handicapped) to all of his doctor and therapy appointments each week while my dad had to work full time. We were lucky that my dad’s job was able to provide full medical coverage and my mom could afford to not work and provide childcare, I don’t know how a single parent or a family that absolutely needed two incomes makes it work

  16. Anne*

    Aww. I’m a single mom of a 13 year old, so I get it. It’s easy now but man, was it not when he was 2.

    I have a typical in-office white collar job, and I’m a manager, and I know that there are enough options out there for people to have their kids taken care of until 6 that I would consider a request to leave at 3 from an unknown quantity unacceptable. I’m sorry to say that, but it is true. Unless you can find a job that is up-front willing/able to schedule you for different hours, or let you work from home and not care when you do the work, you’re going to need to find someone to take care of the child until 6.

  17. S*

    I would pursue fixing this problem from both sides at the same time. Start looking for alternate/additional care and begin getting that lined up. At the same time, gently ask about flexible work arrangements with companies you’re interviewing with. I have found that work/childcare situations are rarely simple or easy to figure out, so keep all the doors open until you find something that works. I have a very flexible work environment that theoretically would have no problem with me working this schedule, but practically, I often have meetings in the afternoon because that’s the only time other people are free. The only person in the company who ALWAYS leaves at 3:30 no matter what is a highly skilled, highly paid, senior individual, and even he has to work late sometimes.

  18. KEM*

    This all depends on how much you need the job- if you have time (and depending on what you do) I think there are jobs out there. My previous company was a very good sized company and almost everyone set their own hours. You were also almost always allowed to work remotely a few days a week ( a lot of people did it permanently). I would work from 7-3 or 6:30- 2:30. some people did the other end- something like 10-6. I would pick up my kids and then work until dinner time – and sometimes after dinner time. no one cared as long as you got the job done. There were a lot of people that work 9-2 so they could do the drop off/pick up thing and worked from home later in the evening. I have friends at other companies who can do the same. I went to my new job, I mentioned I needed flexibility because daycare closed at 5:30 (no daycare closes at 6 in my area- that would be nice). they had me work 9-5 for the first 3 months or so and now I can flex time.

    I know what it is like to find a daycare that you like and your kids like and do not want to leave it. I sympathize

  19. Carrie in Scotland*

    Some of the posts with comments such as ‘how divorced from reality can you be?’ arent particularly helpful and in fact possibly quite rude. We are not blessed with the infirmation of the OP’s whole situation, for all we know she has very recently come into this situation and is feeling quite alone and scared. I know if I had written this and gotten some of these response I would feel awful.

    1. Jenn*

      I agree; I’ve been really surprised by some of the more abrupt, “you should know this already” responses. How about we just stick to providing useful advice, without casting judgment on the OP?

    2. KEM*

      I agree! I feel very divorced form reality as in the 10 plus years that I have been in a work force, I have never had a job that did not offer some flexibility. I agree a lot would not go for the 8-3 thing but people make it sound like even suggesting that you need flexibility is unheard of! I always make that clear and it has never been a problem. frankly, a company that does not allow to make some adjustments is not one I would work for. If you are not immediately customer facing and get the work done, who cares?? But maybe I am the naive one.

    3. The IT Manager*

      Actually I thought my answer was rather helpful because I answered her questions.

      But if the LW is in America (which I admit I assumed), even if she’s a brand new single mom, the wording of that question is naive. I do not have kids, but when I was a kid (in the rural country not the city) I had friends and now I have friends with kids. My elementary school had an after-school care program. It is unfortunate that most kids have to spend more than 8 hours in the care of someone else, but that is the norm in America except for those lucky enough to have a stay at home parent. Being that it is both common and normal, her bafflement about how most people deal with this does come across as naive. How has she not noticed that this is how most American families do it?

      There shear number of nearly immediate responses to find a day-care with longer hours supports my POV.

      * If the LW is not from America then American norms do not apply, but I did make that assumption because that’s where I’m from, Alison is, and many of her LWs.

      1. KEM*

        I do not think it will be easy to get a job that allows that from day one. my issue is with the suggestion that no job would allow this – that is just not true. I have been looking for preschools myself and the ones I can find are open until 9- 12 or 3 with “after care” hours. And these places have a year or more waiting list. It baffles me that so many parents are able to meet these hours- and willing to pay such high fees for such an inconvenience. but obviously people make that work on their end- and so her question has merit. I am in the states BTW.

        1. Lynn*

          This is mostly what we have in my area. Around us, they seem to primarily serve stay-at-home moms who want a few hours a day to run errands and exercise and so forth without the kid(s). It’s not that there are tons of people who work 2 hours a day. There is one daycare near us that serves the “I NEED RELIABLE CHILDCARE SO I CAN GO TO WORK” crowd. You better believe we are careful to stay on their good side!

          1. Canadian mom*

            Yes – my guess is that the OP’s current daycare isn’t geared towards serving parents who are working fulltime, and she may not be aware that most daycares operate on longer hours.

            Around here, the norm seems to be that daycares are open from 7 am till 6 or 6:30 pm.

            In any event – some employers might be open to offering flexibility to a longtime employee who has proven his/her reliability, but not for a new employee or a not-yet-hired candidate.

        2. Katie*

          You might want to look into home daycares, if you are in an area that doesn’t have many full day programs.

        3. GoingAnon2*

          I think there’s a point to be made that preschool is not the same as day-care.

          Preschool (with a focus on teaching young kids their alphabets, letters, and interpersonal/relationship skills) mimics elementary school so it will end no later than 3:00; although, I think many programs actually run only a half day because of kids short attention spans and an attempt to allow more children in the program. Many/most will be associated with an actual school.

          ** The OP can also look for a day-care program that might pick up her child from pre-school and watch him/her until she gets off work. Or something called after-school care which focuses on the after school hours, but I suspect many of them would balk at 2 year old. The idea of after-school comes along with the idea of a school age child and not a toddler.

          Day-care may or may not focus on teaching children, but their purpose is on caring for kids while their parents cannot usually because of work. This would be the category of business for the OP to look for.

          Note: These are not legal definitions but in my experience the common usage.

      2. Kelly O*

        I would just like to say that while we may be advocating a similar point of view, I in no way agree with your response to the OP.

        It was overly harsh, in my opinion, and not at all compassionate or considerate of someone who may truly not realize what her options are, or who may live in an area where that’s not possible. (I grew up in East Jesus. My mom stayed at home with us until my brother was in junior high, and we lived next to my grandparents, so it was not an issue when she did go back.)

        There are people who are entering the workforce for whatever reason, and as Alison pointed out, there are tons of articles talking about flex time, telecommunting, and the like. It would be really easy to get a skewed perspective of what an office is like based on that.

        She was not using her child as an excuse. She was not coming to this with an attitude of “I can’t because…” It read to me as a genuine attempt to figure out how to work and deal with her schedule. (And I’m assuming from the hours mentioned, there is not daycare involved, and this is just picking up a child too young to get or stay home by him/herself after school.)

        Naive is not necessarily a bad thing. Naive and not asking for help is. The OP is asking. Naive and assuming that it *will* go the way you want because that’s what you assume is bad. The OP does not seem to be making that assumption either. That’s a positive, in my book at least.

    4. Amanda*

      My thoughts exactly! How would some of these posters feel if they found out the OP was going through the recent death of a partner or the breakup of a marriage?

      I also don’t think her question is dumb but even if it was, geez she’s asking a third-party source, not demanding these things from an actual employer.

      1. Katie*

        I was wondering what the circumstances were actually, because to be honest it does sound a little “off” (from my perspective as a single mother in the US). But maybe she has relocated to a new area after leaving an abusive husband and is young and really new to the world of working. Or maybe she comes from an extreme women don’t work outside the home religious background, and really doesn’t know much about working or being a working parent. Or maybe she is in another country. Many countries have very, very limited formal child care options.

      2. Lynn*

        If I had to guess, I would bet the OP always saw herself as a stay-at-home mom, so if she even knows working mothers, their talk about daycare was always a lot of “blah blah blah”. And now she finds herself divorced or widowed and is having to learn a lot really fast. So she’s doing the right thing by coming here to figure out the work/daycare part.

    5. Adb*

      I agree, I am kinda in the same boat. I am trying to go into lower level management and recieved a job offer. The hours on paper are 7a-3p with the understanding that I may not leave at 3pm every day. I had a preemie who had issues and I was fortunate enough to stay home for the first 2 years of her life. I went back to work on a flexi schedule and work 8-3 to allow my daughter to be in child care part time. But at the same time I have my master’s degree in management and dont want that to go to waist. I recieved a job offer and unsure if I really want my child to start care as soon as she climbs out of bed (she has a hard time adjusting to changes). She has only been in daycare for about a month and dont want to make such a drastic change all at once. So I have not found any of these responses helpful either, all i am reading is get over it and put your child in care for 9 hours a day!! It seems as if she, just like me understands white collar hours do not cater to mothers and child care needs. She may be just like me just scared of the change and unsure of how it will effect her child.

  20. Lynn*

    Are you looking in a particular field (e.g. nursing), or just a regular old job? Different fields have different norms about working part-time, from home, odd hours, etc.

  21. Maggie*

    How about working at a daycare? Most employment ads I’ve seen for daycares mention bringing your own child along as a benefit.

  22. JoAnna*

    I have four kids. They go to a private, in-home daycare. They live a block from my oldest child’s school and take her to and from every day (their oldest child goes to the same school). If you can, find an arrangement like that.

  23. Angela*

    I was in a similar situation when my son started school (we pulled him out of daycare at that point). My employer at that time let me leave early and work the rest of my day from home. However, I had a great track record at that point (I’d been working for the company for around 10 years AND had previously telecommuted a few days a week on top of that).

    My husband is an owner of a small business (I also work there) and I can definitely say that we would not allow a new employee to have such a schedule. For an proven employee, I’m sure we would work something out. But what the OP is asking for seems like a bit much to expect.

  24. Anon*

    I don’t know too many professional jobs that would be okay with this. There are many, many options for child care that have extended hours. The daycare I found for my daughter was open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. I also keep on file a service that will do last minute daycare for sick kids if I absolutely had to work and couldn’t stay home with them. Now that my son and daughter are in school, their schools offer before and after school programs.

    I do get some flexibility for doctor’s appointments for my son, etc., but there is good reason, and I put in work to earn that kind of trust – as in they KNOW I will meet my deadlines come hell or high water.

    You’ll have to find more reliable daycare. Find it NOW before someone makes you a job offer so this is not an issue.

    1. KellyK*

      You’ll have to find more reliable daycare. Find it NOW before someone makes you a job offer so this is not an issue.

      Definitely. Keep in mind that the best places tend to have really long waiting lists, and start looking now.

      1. Jamie*

        Is there a cost to getting on a waiting list – like a deposit?

        And I’m sure the OP has this covered, but I wanted to throw out there that while you can’t force parental involvement from the other parent – they do have legal and financial obligations toward the care of their child.

        That’s a child’s right and nothing a custodial parent has the right to waive and in fact (imo) has the obligation to fight for if it’s not freely given.

        States determine the amount of child support – people in this situation often make it harder for themselves by not following up legally if they aren’t getting what the child is owed. Child support is never what he feels like giving you at any given time – it’s a legal financial obligation of a set amount based on income for their child.

        / end PSA

        1. Jamie*

          Child support is never what he feels like giving you at any given time

          S/he is what I intended to type. This isn’t a gender issue – apologizes for a critical typo.

  25. Leona*

    I’m having difficulty with the unkind comments. If you are indeed professionals, and hiring professionals at that, then please act the part.

    The single mom in question doesn’t mention the industry she’s in. If you could get her to clarify, that might make things easier. The best time to ask about flexibility is while she’s reading the ads. Keywords to look for are: consultant, telecommute, job-share, flexible schedule. Every workplace has a culture, and they are not all the same. For example, schools, especially at the university level, offer many different schedules, and some even offer daycare onsite for a fee.

    Freelancing would allow her the flexibility she desires, although there are added headaches in being your own boss. There are many fine blogs out there to help her get started.

    I wish this single mom well and hope she finds something good soon.

  26. AdAgencyChick*

    The question that sticks in my mind is: OP, what are you doing now? Because if OP already has a job that allows her to pick up her kids on this schedule…I wouldn’t quit that job as long as I had enough to live on. As other posters have said, even a known-quantity employee would have difficulty negotiating this kind of schedule — but an unknown quantity, unless you’re in a highly specialized field where there aren’t piles of other applicants to choose from who don’t have any restrictions on their hours? Not very likely. Maybe if you tell them you’ll take a lower salary, but still, the hiring manager might prefer to deal with someone who works more regular hours anyway.

    Normally when a candidate has a “wart” in their requirements (such as a need to take a long vacation shortly after being hired), I say don’t disclose that until after you’ve been made an offer, because you don’t want to give them an excuse to pass you over, and by the time they’ve fallen in love with you, they won’t care about the wart. But in this case, I think the right thing to do is to disclose your requirement early on in the interview process, because it’s so likely to be a deal breaker and you will piss off employers if you get far along in the hiring process, you drop this bomb, and then they have to start over.

    Something similar happened to me recently — I fell in love with a candidate, we made her an offer, and then she said she needed a guaranteed 6 PM departure time three days a week. Now, I’d love to be leaving by 6 every day, and most of the time, we can. But in a client-driven field like advertising, when last-minute requests are all too common, I can’t *guarantee* it. I would have had to cover for her every single time, so I said no go. I wish I would have known about that issue earlier in the process, so I wouldn’t have wasted my time or hers, and I would have been more aggressive about pursuing other candidates. I still remember her, months later. OP — you don’t want hiring managers thinking of you as a bait-and-switcher!

    I agree with the aforementioned advice to find a daycare with longer hours or look for part-time work, if you can swing that.

    1. Amanda*

      She may have recently become a single mother and needs to jump from part-time to full-time because there’s no longer a partner’s income.

      1. Rana*

        Or even from being a stay-at-home parent to the primary income earner. That would explain why things like day care arrangements that are obvious to some of you are not to her (and they were not to me, either – none of the people I know with kids are working that sort of schedule; they either have flexible enough schedules that the spouses can trade off child care duties, or they have family able to help out, or they’re well-off enough that one parent can stay at home until the kid’s old enough to go to school).

        1. Jamie*

          This is a good point. When I was a SAHM I didn’t know any moms with full time jobs away from home – my circle was mostly other SAHM and a couple who worked part time while their parents or husbands were with the kids.

          I didn’t know any women who worked full time with small kids until I went to work myself. Excepting some of the kids’ teachers, but we didn’t discuss their arrangements.

          The social and support circle of a SAHM can be more insular than you’d think…and the transition can be difficult.

    2. Jennifer*

      I think the OP needs to find another daycare if possible. From my experience, employers seems to be flexible when workers need to pick up children but it’s typically been pick up your child from school and come right back to work.

      How would it look if an employer approved an employee with children the opportunity to leave every day around 2:30 p.m. or 3 p.m. and to work after 8 p.m. and didn’t for other employees who don’t have children?

      I’m not trying to sound mean or insensitive but that can cause issues. When I was working on my master’s degree I couldn’t just leave at 3 p.m. to attend classes. I had to find a program that was either offered at night or online so I can do my work during the day.

      If there was an employee who then was leaving early to pick up their children I would be very upset. To me that’s creating rules for two different employees. You need to be fair.

      Before my husband finished his degree, he took time off from school and worked in a printing factory. There were no breaks and sometimes they had to eat their lunches at their machines. However, people who smoked were able to take a 10 minute break and go outside for a smoke.

      My husband isn’t a smoker. He saw everyone else taking these unofficial breaks (which were approved and acceptable) and decided to go along with everyone, too. He didn’t smoke but would tell the supervisors that he was taking a 10 minute smoke break. He would go outside and just stand there so he could take a break, too.

      My point is if flex time is available (and I think it should be) it needs to be fair. If a company doesn’t have it and a new hire needs it for childcare or whatever else, they shouldn’t expect it just because of their particular situation. It just depends on the company and the company’s culture. Employees need to understand this and realize that even though they may have a unique situation, they can’t always get what they want.

    3. Lily*

      Is it okay to withdraw the offer? I had someone who was so unhappy with the salary offered that I kinda wished I could withdraw the offer. She accepted and quit later.

  27. Elizabeth*

    In my area, the YMCA is open from at least 6 am until at least 6 pm (it might be earlier/later, respectively, I’m not sure) for daycare. It’s a bit expensive if you’re not a member, but I believe they have lower-cost options for low-income families.

    There are also lots of transportation companies (van taxis) that take children to and from school, doctor appointments, and daycare, while their parents work. Daycares also do this here.

    I hope you can find something that works for you.

  28. G.*

    Or only apply for part-time jobs.

    My 2.5 year old is in daycare from 8.45 – 18.45 every day – both me and my husband work full time. The beginning was hard. It was difficult to leave him there for 10 hours. But it does get better. As the child gets older, they are able to handle longer days at the daycare.

    Now, after having had a job for 10 months, I have been able to ask for Fridays off and my request has been granted. I will start this flexy arrangement exactly 1y after joining the company. So it might be also a situation where you have to prove yourself for 6+ months and then can get a more flexible arrangement.

    Also, make sure you have plenty of babysitters lined up for sick days. I really tried never to take a day off when my kid was sick. I had 3-4 babysitters and then if the kid got sick usually at least one of them was able to come. Those days I only missed a couple of hours of work in the morning (just the time for the babysitter to get to my place).

  29. Jamie*

    It’s tough without knowing what you do, but there are certainly positions which rarely, if ever, require OT. And while flex time can be very hard to get right off the bat, I have seen people get firm hours because of day care.

    If someone has to leave at whatever time on the dot because they have to pick up at daycare most people are pretty understanding.

    Good luck – the logistics on this can be tough, but I think if it were me I’d ask some local moms I trust to recommend day care with longer hours.

  30. Anonymous Accountant*

    Can you find a workplace that has an onsite daycare? I realize this is a rare perk but depending on your location, it may be a possibility.

    Or do you have a trusted friend/neighbor that can take your child for 2 hours or such? Otherwise, in 100% agreement with finding another daycare.

    Flexible schedules honestly depend on your industry and employer. An admin asst position would be rather difficult to do via telecommuting (or so with admin assts I’ve worked with) but my job, for example, could be done from home 2 days a week or so but requires client contact so there’s that.

    To better advise you, what field are you in and what type of job are you seeking?

  31. Jean*

    As discouraging as it may seem to those of us who have family-based scheduling challenges, most employers, including non-profit organizations, are focused on fulfilling their institutional mission rather than supporting the daily family logistics of their employees. (I like the idea–although it’s not feasible for every industry–of combining mandatory “core hours” with the option of working the rest of one’s schedule before or after.) So intellectually, I understand why recruiters and interviewers are not encouraged when an applicant starts asking about special scheduling to accomodate his or her childcare arrangements.

    Yet–as a special needs parent–I also want to speak up in defense of the employees with family-based scheduling challenges! It’s not always easy to find or afford appropriately skilled childcare providers (whether all-day or just before- or after-school care) for children with physical, cognitive, or emotional challenges.

    No, life isn’t fair. Since we have to cope anyway, I’m working on my own solutions. That said, until one has got all the solutions firmly in place it can be _very_ discouraging to know that one has a lot to offer and yet hear the interest drain out of the voice of the potential employer as soon as one mentions family responsibilities.

    In my most optimistic moments I see this merely as additional incentive to solve the logistical challenges standing between myself and a professional challenge (e.g., satisfying employment). In my gloomier moments I either mutter to myself about creating social change…or else start posting long responses on informative web sites frequented by intelligent, articulate commenters. :-)

    1. fposte*

      That is a solid and interesting point there. How do you manage that kind of challenge, and what workplace changes would you like to see? If you were job-hunting, what would you prioritize?

      I was a child of a single father for much of my youth, and I have no idea how he’d have managed if I’d been younger in that pre-day-care era. Admittedly there was more tolerance for younger latchkey kids then, but you can only take that so young.

      1. Jean*

        Thanks for your comment. The quick answer is that the solution will probably be customized for every family. I would love to see more specialized child care providers and more workplaces offering job-sharing, telecommuting, or serious part-time opportunities (ideally, with proportional benefits) at all levels: clerical, service workers, admin support staff, factory workers, shift workers, health care providers, and white-collar or “professional” positions. However, I’m working on my own solutions because large-scale social change takes time usually measured in decades!

        I worked fulltime when our child was really young and attending family daycare or full-day preschool. When circumstances changed and after-school care was no longer a good fit, I first worked a split shift and then worked parttime at my longtime workplace. Since then I’ve worked parttime at another workplace or stayed home (a finite luxury but still possible since I’m not a single parent). The single parents I know who have special needs children simply become resourceful & determined in obtaining either child care or a work-life balance that works for them (early shifts, self-employment, whatever fits their skills and circumstances). Now that I’m job-hunting again, I have realized that I need to do the same, or at least make some tentative plans. It seems like a chicken-and-egg question (how to settle child care when one does not yet have a job?) but it’s not effective to apply for work with this detail _completely_ unaddressed.

    2. Lily*

      It would be nice if companies would hire a temp to do some of the work of colleagues who are off sick or caring for a sick child.

  32. Angela S.*

    My other suggestion is that you would find someone, a nanny type of person who would either:

    a) wake your child up in the morning and then take him/her at the daycare; or

    b) pick up your child at the daycare in the afternoon and then bring him/her home, and would look after your child’s needs until you come home from work.

    This outside help, probably, can be of assistance if your child gets sick and can’t go to daycare, while you can’t get time off from work.

    I find that even for married couples, they find that they need the outside help when it comes to young children. If you have parents/relatives/friends and you are willing to pay them (please, don’t assume that they’ll be willing to do it for free!) for the help, you should ask them. Hiring a nanny would be my second choice if I can’t get my parents/relatives/friends agree to do that for me. My third choice would be considering putting my child into a daycare from 7am to 6pm.

    I have a sense that the OP doesn’t want to leave this task to other people. But if OP is really serious about going to work full-time, she has to think about getting outside help.

  33. Brian*

    I disagree with the advice to bring this up during the interview (unless explicitly asked). I think the only situations where you’re going to get what you want are a) an employer that already has lots of flexibility in terms of hours and telecommuting, and b) an employer that likes you a lot and really wants to hire you, and is therefore prepared to do something unusual to get you. In case a) it’s not something that requires special mention, and in case b) it’s like a salary negotiation: you’re better off doing it after they’ve decided they want you than before.

    I agree with the advice that you’re more likely to find a satisfactory solution by looking at alternative day care arrangements, babysitting, etc. It’s a tough situation to be in; my sympathies.

  34. glennis*

    I’m thinking that, in addition to finding a more flexible day-care, the OP might want to try to find a job with a less traditional or less conventional employer. A museum, art gallery, performing arts center, event venue, sports facility – any business that doesn’t keep traditional business hours might be willing to allow more flexibility. Even if your skill set is not related to the business’s specialty, all those businesses need administrative assistants, financial people, and IT people.

    If other people at the business keep unconventional hours, they might be more open to you keeping unconventional hours.

    1. Anonymous*

      Just pointing out that many of these still need their office/admin staff to be there during normal working hours. It’s kind of frustrating to always have applicants that expect us to have non-traditional offerings because we’re a non-traditional place. I’d actually say there is less flexibility here – my favorite joke is that sure we’re flexible, we need you to be here all sorts of times…. on top of the regular times. :-)

  35. Cassie*

    After reading all these comments, I consider myself extremely lucky for my job situation. Back when I started, I was still dancing and taking ballet classes in the evenings and weekends. Before my boss hired me, he knew that I *had* to leave at 3pm three days a week (stayed until 5pm the other two days) and he was fine with it.

    My former boss, who recommended me to my current boss, had a similar situation at the time I was working for her – her daughter was in high school but needed to get to extracurricular activities. As such, she worked from 7am to 3pm every day and her boss was fine with that. She had this flexibility right from the start of that job so I assume she negotiated this with him in the interview.

    Both she and I would work evenings/weekends as needed, from the comforts of our own homes. Or if a certain event required us to be in the office after hours, we’d be there. Of course, when you are the only staff member in a group (where everyone else are technical folks), you might get more flexibility. I didn’t have to worry about other staffers complaining that I didn’t have to be sitting in my cubicle 40 hours a week.

  36. snuck*

    It depends on the type of roles you are applying for, the competition for them, the specialisation of your skill set and the company policies.

    If I was hiring (into a general pool of either semi specialised or generalist skill sets) I’d be reluctant to hire you without you being so far ahead of everyone else that it was blindingly obvious that I should choose you. If I was hiring for a very specialised skill set that was hard to find (certain IT programming skills etc) then I would work with you if it meant I got your skills ahead of my competition – but you’d have to be in a very high demand small pool of people for that.

    Basically I am a supporter of flexible working arrangements – where they don’t impact on other members in the team’s ability to do their work, have their own quality of life etc. It’s part of keeping good employees around – but it has to balance for everyone. I’ve had a staff member with a similar issue in the past (a 3pm school pickup) and agreed to early morning starts and late evening home based work – but she was specialised, skilled, and very very obviously delivering on results – we didn’t come to that arrangement until after she’d been with us a few months although she did ask about it as part of the negotiation of her salary/offer – not at interview though. If she’d asked at interview I will admit I’d have been wary of her – people who make special demands without a firm offer in their hands often make special demands regularly and can be hard to manage in a team environment is something I’ve found.

    While I am a supporter of flexibility I am also a believer in ‘what happens at home is home issues, what happens at work is something I am responsible for’ and while I do everything I can to maintain a healthy and balanced and predictable and safe work environment I don’t really want to have a special arrangement with any and all because they have family issues. I’ve done a lot of flexible arrangements over the years – but only when they fit in with the wider picture of the team’s goals and the business needs. I wouldn’t hire someone who couldn’t perform the role they were hired to do in this context.

  37. Waiting Patiently*

    Two things either you find a childcare facility which offers later hours or you find a job during the time frame that you’re available to work (maybe part time for now).
    I’m sure if your current childcare facility doesn’t offer the later hours, it might make you hesitate as a parent to find another place-because finding the right place for your child and you can be difficult. Unfortunately you will have to bend on one of those ends. And also please take this as helpful advice…try to limit the transitions your 2 year old may encounter during this time. Often we fail to see how this situation can impact a child. Hope it work out for you.

    1. bearing*

      One of the reasons I am kind of appalled at the harsher criticism in this thread is that she may well be hoping to avoid changing her child’s day care situation precisely in order to try to limit the transitions the child is having to go through right now.

      I agree that it would be very hard to try to find a new full-time job under the circumstances she’s describing. I suspect she’s hoping, or wishing, to find a situation that would be theoretically the best for her child.

      OP, sometimes the best you can do is the best you can do. If you know it’s really crucial, for whatever reason, not to extend your child’s day care hours right now, maybe the best solution is to look for a part time job and make a plan to transition to a more extended day care situation when you think your child is able.

      1. Waiting Patiently*

        Yes, sometimes you have to do the best you can. And you’re right she could be trying to minimize her child’s transitions. I was in a similar situation but I was married at the time. And when I returned back to work when my youngest was school age, I began working in a school district. So my work schedule pretty much mirrored my kids. I think my situation is like 1 in a 1000.

  38. Sarah*

    You all have a lot of opinions on this. I have two kids and reentered the workforce last year. I work part time (32 hours a week) and pick my kids up. I am lucky to be able to do this because my husband carries our insurance. I have other friend who work in the office in the morning and at home in the afternoon (full time) and pick their kids up from school, other friends who work full time hours by going in early and working late one day a week and pick their kids up. Many also do daycare, afterschool, or nanny.
    In my area many employers are happy to work around family obligations. I would suggest mentioning the kids in the interview and see what the reaction is. Hopefully they’ll take that opportunity to tell you how family friendly they are. If they don’t, you may not want to work there. People have kids, the people who are interviewing you may have kids. They do understand.
    Having said that, you may want to find care past 3pm. If the kid was covered until 4 that would be easier. You could still leave at 3 if that’s what you work out with your employer and it would give you some leeway on running late and would give you chance to do an errand or two if needed.
    This all gets so much easier once they start school.

  39. Employment Lawyer*

    Three basic choices.
    1) Hire a nanny or sitter to handle the dropoff and pickup. I know plenty of people who do this. The act of “getting to and from daycare, and giving a quick snack after pickup” can be outsourced.

    2) Find a different job. There are jobs which permit “parenting hours,” but unsurprisingly they are much harder to get and/or pay less. Usually the long term income is better with #1.

    2) Find an extended daycare arrangement. these are usually in-home, and combine a daycare and nannying. they vary widely in quality but there’s almost sure to be one in your town.


  40. Kay*

    1) Apply to companies with family friendly policies. This would include things like on-site daycare. Also companies with flexible schedules (tech companies in my area are very willing to be flexible with schedules because it’s part of the workplace culture). Granted, there may not be any in your area, but worth a shot.

    2) Cultivate relationships with other parents in your area. You may be able to arrange a pick-up/drop-off exchange with other parents so that you drop-off the kids and they pick them up. Or vice-versa. This may be challenging, but a co-worker of mine used to have a classmate of her son dropped off at seven am at her place. The boys chatted, had a light breakfast and then my friend took them to school because the other mom had to be at work at 8 am.

    3) This may or may not apply to you, but some companies are willing to offer flexibility in work hours if it means they don’t have to cough up as much money for your salary. This is a bit trickier, but is something that can be discussed with them. For example, if candidate A is offered salary X and it’s not as high as they might expect, they could do a counter-offer saying X is okay as long as they have flexible hours or can tele-comute some times during the week.

    4) I have a flexible schedule now where I take each other Friday off, rotating Friday’s with my supervisor. It’s not something we ever discussed at the interview stage or when I was hired, but a couple of months after I started working it, he suggested it because he has twin babies. So sometimes after working somewhere for a while, you can have more flexible arrangements. For now, though, I’d say stick to options 1, 2 and 3.

  41. Pissed Off In Brooklyn*

    I know I’m late, but I’d like to offer another perspective. As a coworker, its really frustrating when your manager shows favoritism towards a single parent in relation to non-parents. For example in our meetings re: scheduling, the parent always gets the earliest and desired shifts while I get the late (READ:undesirable) shifts consistently, week after week. I brought up my concerns more than once, and it was met with reiteration that my single parent coworker has nobody else to help her and we should all be sensitive to that. Initially when this new location opened we were all given misinformation by HR about the shifts, so the upper management decided the only fair way to resolve it was to rotate early & late shifts amongst all the employees. Even this week its been a struggle because, 1 member of our team was fired recently so we’re short a person temporarily. People who had planned PTO days had them rescinded while this employee still gets a week off because her daughter’s school is on vacation. Its a touchy subject I understand, but your personal problems should rarely if ever become your employer’s problems. Especially when it affects more than just you on the job.

  42. Jeff*

    I’m in pretty much of a jam.. I just received custody of my 6year old son and before my divorce I worked as a plumber and made good money, but worked my tail off and had awful hours.. As having full custody, I take my son to school and pick up plus his sports.. Two employers have already let me go because of this schedule. I’m really trying to find something from home but I don’t know what’s legitimate or what’s a scam.. I fought to get my son and now I’m put in a bracket where being a single father is tough for employers to understand :(. Can I please get some advice on this ?

  43. Nishi*

    Hello Everyone,

    I am a single mom of 3 year old. I am out of job. Right now I really need a job. I believe there must be someone who can really help me in getting a job. I applied to many places but till now there is no responses. I completed my bachelor degree but not in the USA.

    Thank you in advance

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