Work Life Balance for AT Parents
Recently I've been having discussions about balancing family and athletic training. I guess since I'm new mom, I've become sort of a target to other athletic trainers in similar situations who are looking for help and advice. Unfortunately, I'm new at this and don't have a lot of answers about how to make life easier, but I’m starting to get the hang of what works for me. The traditional athletic training setting is a hard place for parents because as a school-based AT you have a unique position. It’s not like working as a teacher where there is a list of substitutes on call or other teachers in the building who might be able to cover class. Nor is it like being a server at a restaurant where the other servers might have to pick up the slack if someone calls in sick. When we ATs aren't able to make it to work, the world doesn’t end, but often games and practices need to be rescheduled and that affects lots of people. There aren't enough contract ATs out there yet for us to be able to simply take a sick day or a personal day at the last minute without burdening our institution. While there are plenty of long lists of ATs out there, most other ATs are busy at their own athletic training jobs in the afternoon and aren't able to help each other out. Wondering why we are losing good ATs to other professions? The stress of being the only AT at an institution and in many cases lack of support is a major part of the reason.
So how do ATs with dependents make it work? It's not easy and it involves making major life changes, after all having a child is a major life change. Here are some suggestions that probably sound ridiculous to the AT who has never missed a day of work. Try to find a job that is going to understand that your child is going to get sick one day and when this happens you will need to put family first. These employers are out there and many are parent themselves. Your spouse should also try to have a job that allows him or her to take a day off when you can't. Live close to family that can help out with kids. Seek out good babysitters with lots of availability. Haha.. easier said than done? Yeah! It's hard but this is the profession we are in! If you are an AT who works in an environment where games can't happen without you present and you're considering having kids this is a good conversation to have with your spouse and your employer so that you can decide who will manage what. Does the employer have the number of a service or a list ATs to call for backup? Really it shouldn't be the employee’s responsibility to find the coverage. Teachers do not find their own substitutes.
As a contractor and business owner here's what I'm currently doing to balance life with my husband and 7 month old son. I have babysitters and my family helping out 10-15 hours each week during the day/evening when I need to do administration work or per diem. My husband has been really helpful with taking over the childcare when he gets home and I try to get as much work done at night as possible. Because I work from home during the day, daycare doesn't make much sense for us. Unfortunately, I can’t take nearly as many per diem jobs as I did before and I will not be taking any week-long camps this summer because it wouldn't be worth it for me to get a babysitter. I have found babysitters to be great, but expensive and once I factor in paying them during my work AND travel time and then add gas costs, at least half of my salary is gone. I have learned that if I need a sitter, I should try to only take jobs close to home to save on costs. (Also easier said than done) On weekends, my husband (he is an occupational therapist) and I take turns picking up extra work but we also want to make sure to spend time together when possible. It’s hard and stressful, but we are doing our best to make it work.
On the upside... the profession is growing and graduating more and more ATs and many of these ATs will turn to contract work. Also per diem AT companies are starting to pop up in other states. Precision AT is certainly helping with this problem in Massachusetts, and we can generally cover about 75% of last minute requests, but we aren't at the point yet where we can guarantee that ATs will be available last minute. We are 99% successful when there is adequate notice and have helped ATs to: See their kids off to prom, attend family weddings, go away for Thanksgiving, etc. Hopefully as we grow there will be more ATs out there able to help out in a pinch so that we don't have to feel guilty when we need to put family first.
I am wondering are working AT parents of older kids able to make it to any of their kids after school activities? Can it happen? Any other parents out there have tips? Comments please!