I’ve recently come to the conclusion that every family needs a source of flexibility. No I’m not talking about yoga, although that type of flexibility is definitely good for me, and I need more of it. I’m talking about the ability to suddenly stretch your day’s plans in event of emergency.
Now the word “emergency” can vary a bit, and there is definitely a spectrum:
- Your child ingests an allergen, and is ambulanced to the ER in anaphylactic shock
- You go into labor and need someone to watch your first child while you deliver your second
- Your child has a high fever and needs to be picked up from daycare
- The daycare plumbing has gone out again and the state regs have determined this to be an unsanitary emergency situation that requires closing daycare
- Your child puked at bedtime, seems ok, but isn’t eating and probably shouldn’t go to daycare the next morning
In these situations, where does your flexibility come from? The first two are pretty straightforward; in a true emergency situation, your friend or neighbor will drop everything and come to the rescue. Rare and desperate situations will give you the leeway to greatly inconvenience the lives of others. And they’re ok with it, because it’s a rare and desperate situation.
But the other situations begin to tax your volunteer pool. I have wonderful friends who would leave work early if I called asking them to. But would I really call and ask them to leave work because my kid has a fever? Or the daycare plumbing is on the fritz again? Or because my kid’s kinda sick, but not really sick enough to make me want to stay home? This is the true test of family flexibility.
So far, I’ve concluded that flexibility comes from three sources:
- From within your family: you, your spouse
- From extended family: your parents, siblings, cousins, and friends that are part of your extended family
- From hired sources: nannies, Parents in a Pinch, etc.
You’re really fortunate if you have all 3 options available. You have lots of flexibility. But if you don’t have a lot of money, option #3 isn’t available. And if you don’t have family nearby and all of your close friends also have busy demanding lives, #2 becomes a challenge. Which leaves #1. You have to be your own flexibility.
This was illustrated today when our daycare’s plumbing backed up again. BestestHusband and I both have busy days on Tuesdays and Thursdays; he’s leading meetings, and I’m frequently working in almost-downtown with a tight schedule of patients to treat. When daycare called, I was with a patient (and my phone was not on me), and BestestHusband was in a meeting (not answering his phone). So daycare started calling my list of emergency contacts.
They were all out of state. Two of them had moved. (Sorry Jenny about that call today!) The third was out of state at a funeral. Hmm, it appears that I need to update my emergency list a bit. And consider where I can get some more flexibility…
I’ve come to terms with the fact that I am the primary source of family flexibility. It’s a matter of necessity, considering geographical distance of family, and the economics of income potential in our marriage. I did purposely choose a career that would allow this flexibility. But this arrangement isn’t perfect, as today proved yet again.
Are there other sources of family flexibility that I haven’t considered? Anyone want to volunteer to pick up my kids the next time the daycare plumbing is on the fritz?