Mindful Parenting Plan: Work Schedules
Let’s discuss HOW to discuss your job with your attorney. First of all, many family law attorneys are very intuitive about discussing parents’ work schedules. Second, many family law attorneys rely on the psych world and we get support from the psych world for our intuitive approach.
In particular, Genadek and Hill (2017) find that work schedules influence the amount of time spent with children, and this varies depending on different attributes of the work schedule. This Genadek and Hill study “Parents’ Work Schedules and Time Spent with Children” is NOT written for co-parents or divorcing spouses. It is written for all parents, including those who live with (and get along with) the other parent of their child(ren).
Even more specifically, the key questions Genadek and Hill ask about a parent’s work is:
- Is it flexible?
- Is it consistent?
- What are the start and stop times, and are these consistent?
Use this terminology with your attorney: “flexible” or “inflexible;” “consistent” or “inconsistent;” and what are the “actual times” worked.
How does this vocabulary apply to your particular industry?
9a-5p employee job generally
“Flexible”- when the employee is available to take their kid to the doctor’s office, to use the work computer or their phone to sign kids up for school, swimming lessons, etc. while at the office.
**If you tell your attorney your job is flexible but traditionally you have not been taking the kid to the doctor’s office or scheduling your kid’s activities, the attorney will question whether your job is truly flexible.**
Be honest, be real when discussing your job with your attorney.
“Consistent”- 9-5 is pretty obviously “consistent” 😊
Take time to talk with your boss/manager, etc. about wanting more flexibility (if you want it!)- just make your employer AWARE that you desire to have more flexibility to have time with your kids. I do not practice employment law. However, as general humans, we can connect and communicate with our co-workers and bosses. This is what makes considering parenting plans “mindful.” The willingness to communicate and make those around us aware of what we need is part of being mindful.
14days on 14 days off (and other “out of town” work)
In Lafayette we have lots of off shore workers. These guys have a beautiful gift of being home and indulging their children with as much quality time as they can squeeze in.
“Flexible”- for sure not- let’s not play games- unless it is, in which case, be honest, be real, when discussing your job with your attorney
“Consistent”- sometimes yes, sometimes no. That’s a fair answer- let your attorney determine whether your past few months of off shore work have been “consistent.” How will they make this determination? If you’ve “consistently” worked every 1st and 2nd weekend outside of Lafayette, you’re probably in a “consistent” schedule. If your boss has had to call you out back to work after 3 days at home when you thought you were going to get a few weeks at home, this is NOT a “consistent” schedule. It’s not bad! It’s simply not consistent.
How much control do you have over your schedule? Be aware- it’s ok! Attorneys recognize you work a high demand job. We recognize you do what you have to do for your family. Getting over the shame and difficulty of this kind of work is essential. Stay objective when talking about your schedule. It’s even a good idea to make a calendar to show yourself and your attorney how much time you’ve been home. This way you can build time with your CHILDREN into the time you’re home.
Gas station attendant (and other “shift based” work)
Simple for attorneys to look at this- it’s just a shift.
The question here is how the parent responds to certain shifts, such as a night shift. Compare two different moms:
o Tired Mama works a 8p-5a and sleeps from as soon as she gets home until 5pm. The kids fend for themselves and would benefit from going to Dad’s house. Tired Mama will have a difficult time if she wants to keep the kids during the days she works these hours.
o Happy Mama works a 8p-5a but can’t fall asleep when she gets home. So she gets her kids on the bus and then goes to sleep. She wakes up by the time the kids get off the bus and gets them bathed, fed, and put in bed by the time she leaves for her 8p shift. There’s another adult at the house sleeping while the kids are sleeping. Happy Mama will have an easier time if she wants to keep the kids during the days she works these hours.
Medical professionals (and other “call based” work)
Simple for attorneys to look at this- you’re “on” some days and “off” some days.
The question here is how the parent responds to call hours.
For example, Nurse Nancy gets to work at 4:30am on her “call” days and she gets off as soon as the surgery is done- which can be as early as 6:30am or as late as 3:30pm. However, Nancy only has to be on call Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday (this is a “consistent” schedule). Nancy will want to explain to her attorney that she is NOT “flexible” when she is on call, but she is at all other times.
Small business professional (ex: cpa, attorney)
It’s ok for a CPA who does tax returns to put into their custody schedule that they don’t want the kids for 3 weeks prior to the tax say.
Just talk with your attorney about what you want.
Attorneys can make their own schedules but the Judges control how frequently we’re in the courtroom. If I have a case at 9am in front of a Judge, I have to consider: 830am leave office to get to court, 8am at office to pack up stuff to bring to court, 730am drop kids at daycare. If I can’t get the kids by 730a I better be sure there’s someone else who can take them.
Going to have to be on the lot. Probably going to have to work Saturdays
This sounds really “flexible” but in practice it tends not to be. Each school is different, each administration is different, so please be really clear with your attorney about your limitations.
Not all teachers get summers off, so please explain this to your attorney as well.
Teachers of course have “consistent” schedules and they have predictable schedules. This is really easy for attorneys to follow.
I want clients to understand that their profession is not what the judge is used to seeing. The judge sees all types of work and you don’t know what they had before you.
I also want clients to understand that the laws are INTENTIONALLY not firm about when parents get time with their kids based on their work schedules. The legislators do not want to dictate to employers when parents can and cannot work.
The psych guys find that consistent and flexible schedules are best for maximizing time spent with children in both quantity and quality. Having work days that are inconsistent is not helpful for caregiving, and may make spending time with children more difficult.
Ultimately, please be mindful (reflective with yourself) about what your work schedule is like. Be prepared to communicate your work reality to your attorney. Stay objective.