Busy work schedules mean less time with parents for Lane students

By Safiya Merchant

For Kamile Sutaite, Div. 156, not seeing her father for a few days at a time is completely normal. Since he is a construction worker, he often has to fulfill jobs in other states. Like Kamile, many Lane students must endure parental absence in order for their parents to support their families.

According to J. Heymann, author of The Widening Gap: Why America’s Working Families are in Jeopardy and What Can Be Done About It, non-standard work schedules can be so physically exhausting that they hinder parents’ abilities to nurture their children’s development. Mrs. Andros, a Lane counselor, agrees with this assessment.

“When kids don’t have parental support at home, it affects their work,” said Andros. “They think they can get away with more things. Their grades could drop because they feel that their parents don’t support them emotionally and academically. They could start feeling lonely and depressed and it could show in their work and demeanor.”

In some students’ households, Heymann’s observation is apparent.

“Some people have parents who each day [say], ‘Do your homework.’ My parents don’t do that and they leave me to be more independent about my work. I sometimes don’t do my work completely. [When I lived in Lithuania, my mom worked a whole month in Russia and [I would only see her three days per month],”said Sutaite. “I didn’t have a female role model at all. [That’s why] I guess I don’t really know how to act around girls. I have better friendships with guys.”

“My dad prints designs. He works pretty much the whole week…about ten hours per day. I leave [for school] before he gets home and by the time I come back, he’s already left for work,” said Luis Villalobos, Div. 021. “It doesn’t really matter if he’s there or not because either way, I don’t really interact with him [since he sleeps when he is home].”

“As a little kid, [my parents] worked less. Before, we used to have nice dinners and my mom cooked everyday. Now, she’s really tired [when she comes home from work] and she’ll eat a little, watch TV, and fall asleep,” said Jessica Roman, Div. 034.

Due to the absence of parents, extra responsibilities often fall onto the shoulders of students.

“I have to take care of [my younger brother] more. I have to give him dinner, help him with his homework, and make him go to bed,” said Kasia Doroz, Div. 365.

“I have to babysit my little siblings till [my mom] comes home. I don’t get to go out with my friends or get to focus on my homework as much,” said Cassandra Perez, Div. 163.

Once accustomed to their parents’ schedules, some students were able to accept that they could not always be with their parents.

“I don’t see [my parents’ long work schedules] as a bad thing. For me, it’s something that’s necessary or we’re not gonna eat tonight,” said Roman.

However, others still desire more quality time with their parents.

“If he wasn’t working so hard, I would like [to spend time with my dad] cause my dad’s fun and he cracks a lot of jokes,” said Villalobos.

Like those who wish for more time with their parents, parents themselves often regret that they have lost memories and time with their children.

“Yes, I’ve been disappointed to miss a nursery school play, a choir concert here and there,” said Ms. Thompson, English teacher. “[However], one of the things that help [my] children to grow is for them to have independence and have room to stretch on their own.”

Despite the difficulties that work schedules present to families, many students attempt to keep their family together and aware of each other’s lives.

“Me and my mom try to keep it [a relationship] up. Sundays are our family day. [We] stay at home and talk or we go somewhere together,” said Roman.

“[We] make it up over the weekend. We cook together, go shopping, or go out and eat as a family,” said Doroz.

Mr. Cox, Lane’s social worker, states that from the students he has seen at Lane, he thinks that parents’ work schedules are not as harmful as they seem. It can even positively affect adolescents.

“Those kids are forced to take on parental responsibilities and become more independent,” said Cox. [From what I’ve seen], they’ve really stepped up, and it doesn’t hinder them. For the most part, for kids at Lane, I really don’t believe it’s a deterrent.”

According to Sutaite, watching her parents work has taught her a valuable lesson. If she does not receive an education, she, like her parents, will have to get a job that requires a long work schedule and affects family life.