It's Thanksgiving week. I'm going to recognize things for which I'm thankful this week. Yesterday was clearly Jason--he's given me so many things for which to be thankful, and he himself ranks first among them :-)
For today, I'm thankful for our schedules and jobs. As I've said before, I get asked "How do you do it all?" and there's no good answer for that. I don't manage to do it all. I slack on many things and beat myself up frequently for not managing to do things well.
However, this week Patrick has no school. I don't understand having an entire week off for Thanksgiving break. They also have 2+ weeks off for winter break. To me, let them have school on Monday and Tuesday of this week (like several other area school districts), let them have school through Wednesday of the week before Christmas. That's 5 days. Then they could have started school a week later in August, rather than on the 10th or whatever insanely early date it was.
But I digress. The fact is that he has no school and we just have to deal with it. Yesterday Jason took the day off to take care of him and today he came with me to work. He's sitting here next to me, eating his lunch in my office, and I got to thinking about the fact that we're really, really lucky.
Jason and I have some flexibility in our schedules. Not a lot--once my schedule is set, I have to go with it however it is; Jason has some vacation time that isn't yet accounted for and we've been able to use it. But we're among the lucky ones. We tried to find someone who could watch Patrick yesterday but it didn't work, and Jason was able to take a day of vacation to do it (in fact, Jason ended up watching several children in addition to Patrick yesterday). Just trying to arrange it was a huge strain on us; plus, who wants to feel as though they're burdening another family with an extra child? And then when we couldn't, we were extremely lucky that Jason had some vacation time that he could use. Many families don't have that. The parents either show up for work or they don't have a job anymore.
We could have sent him to the daycare with Melkamu but that would have cost more money. There are many families who really live paycheck-to-paycheck and the extra several days of full-day care would be both a necessity to keeping their jobs and a big hardship for them financially.
There are many things that I have the flexibility to do on Mondays this semester that allows me to spend more time with my family in the evenings and weekends, like actually doing work and my doctor's appointments and grocery shopping and all of those little other things that a family needs done. I also do a lot during the summer when I have the time off with the kids. I often wonder how people manage without that time. How do women who work full-time, typical-schedule (9-5ish) jobs find the time to go to the doctor if they're pregnant? Do they have to take vacation time for each appointment? There are an awful lot of appointments, especially near the end. What if they're in a job where they don't have any vacation or flex-time? Do they have to go without prenatal care?
What do families do when their kids get sick? We've got remarkably healthy kids (knock on wood) and so far, the only times they've been sick we've been able to switch off or flex time or whatever to make sure we're there and can take them to the doctor or whatever. What about families whose children are not as healthy, or who have normal kids who get sick occasionally?
I'm extremely thankful that both of our jobs come with health insurance. We don't use Jason's since it's more expensive than mine, but this is all related to what I've just been saying. How do families manage when they don't have insurance, or only have catastrophic insurance, and their kids are typical kids who get sick or need a physical to play soccer? Many of those families are already living paycheck-to-paycheck. The idea of having to choose between taking a sick child to a doctor and having electricity at home is just sickening. I feel so fortunate that we've never been in that position. We were in a position at one point where we made so little money that Patrick (this was before we had Melkamu) was eligible for Peach.care, which is the subsidized healthcare for children in Georgia, but I still had student health insurance and we paid for him to be covered by it. And again, we were fortunate--we could pay for that. We had both the option and the means to do it.
Many families don't have these things. Being thankful for what we have also makes me remember that helping those who do not have these things is incredibly important. We donate to several different charities, both domestic and international, and one of my goals for the coming year is to get the whole family involved in more active volunteer work. Jason's already looking at opportunities for him to use his business skills as a volunteer in local organizations and I'm trying to come up with ways that the kids can help. They always donate to Toys for Tots during the holidays and Patrick alternates weeks with us for donating to tzedakah at Sunday school (one week we give him money and the next week he takes it from his allowance), but I'd like for them to have a more active role so they can help personally. A few years ago, I took Patrick to an MLK, Jr. Day event in which he helped make sandwiches for a local homeless shelter and he really liked it. Both of my kids are so generous and have such big hearts, and I know they'll learn a lot and help other families--those who are struggling to make it--at the same time.