Even 6 pm Pick Up is maddening and impossible.

We can't seem to make this work without one of us sacrficing our career aspirations. We can't get back to East Bay by 6 pm to pick up the kids. As soon as we hire a part-time sitter/nanny, within 2 - 3 months, the sitter/nanny quits. We don't have the option to work from home. We certainly can't afford to live in SF where we work (well, I suppose we could, if the five of us and our dog want to squeeze into one bedroom apartment.) One of us could choose to work things out with work and leave early, but that person will basically be putting the job in jeopardy, because the work considers such a behavior as "not dedicated to the company." We've already received multiple "talking to" from our respective bosses for being late to work or missing work due to childcare issues and our promotions have been passed up because we are not "reliable" and our schedule is not "predictable". The first year when our first born entered preschool, he was sick constantly which made me sick constantly and I was out sick a lot. My boss told me I wasn't getting my bonus because I was out sick a lot. 

We make a decent amount of money but barely make ends meet here in East Bay. 

I had an honest conversation with my boss. He empathized and said, he, too, had to deal with this issue. His wife also works full time and they have 3 kids. He "kindly" shared his solution which was to hire a full-time nanny and offer an above the market rate to encourage the nanny to stay with his family. I said, "thank you" although I was thinking, "Of course, you could do that because you are a VP - Doctor couple whose parents bought you your first house in SF."

I can't do this anymore. Are things better in other cities? Please tell me we are not the only ones struggling with the 6 pm pick-up. Everyone else seems to make it work somehow. We can't hack it. 

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I don't have any magic solution to the problem that you describe but can tell you that you are not alone!  I don't know any family with young or school-aged children where both parents are fully pursuing his/her own career with no outside help.  In most business settings, to be a superstar, you need to be able to stay late for an unscheduled call/meeting, go out for dinner/drinks with clients, make a last-minute business trip, etc. etc.  This is incompatible with parenting, which requires someone to do pick ups, make dinner, supervise homework, attend sporting events/school plays/school parties, and the list goes on.  I made my peace with this conundrum years ago by accepting that unless a full-time nanny was in the picture, one parent needed to put his/her career on the back burner for a number of years.  In our family, this is me. I'm OK with not being a superstar at work since I need to leave by 5 and take time off for kid purposes.  The years are going by really quickly and I know that in 10 years' time, my kids will be off at college and I'll have lots of time for work.  Yes, I won't be at the same level in 10 years that I could be were I working full tilt right now, but that's the tradeoff that I made when we had kids.  

You are not alone! I am also struggling with the same issue. The earliest either of us can be home is 6:30 and it seems impossible to find childcare available after 5:00. We cant afford to put either of our careers on hold, nor can we afford a full time nanny who could commit (we need a share). I would also welcome any suggestions.

You are definitely not alone! As the primary breadwinner in my family of 3, I couldn't have pursued my own aspirations without my husband's career taking a hit. Our additional solution was to get jobs and find daycare closer to home in the East Bay so that we could leave around 5:30 and pick up our toddler by 6pm. I also work in a department with a lot of women and managers who are really understanding with kid issues. We also have a grandma that's close by and available to help in a pinch. Otherwise, I have no clue how we would make it through...and some days we barely do! Good luck to you!

On a side note: As an employment lawyer, I'm concerned that your boss did not give you a bonus because you were out sick a lot. Not giving any legal advice here, but that doesn't seem kosher to me.

You're not alone! It is so hard. Everyone else does NOT make it work - everyone I know struggles, unless like you said they have a ton of money to hire lots of extra care (which we don't). Our solution was to buy a house with my parents (which has its own challenges, believe me) and they help with both helping us afford the house and child care, AND I have cut my hours to 80% (which of course will slow down my career trajectory, and which we can barely afford with paying for childcare for two kids). One other thing we have done is partner up with friends and switch off babysitting - we typically just do evenings and weekends so we can get other things done, but I know people who trade off with another family at the same preschool to take turns picking up both kids - something like that could give you some days when you wouldn't have to get home quite so early. I also know people who have had luck with morning or evening sitters to do drop-off or pick-up, maybe you've just had bad luck and will find someone more reliable!

This is a terrible situation. I don't know what industry you're in or whether changing jobs (if an option) would make things any better, but that may be the best solution to consider. Even if you're able to get childcare around the clock, you may resent your employers for their punitive approaches, or they may penalize you forever for your past "infractions." In my opinion, the Bay Area is less family-friendly than other parts of the country where I've been, but that may just be a stereotype. It all boils down to corporate culture and individual action. 

I think if I were in your shoes I would try to piece together solid child care long enough to get some breathing room and then thoroughly consider all the options - would a job change or even a move improve things? If you worked closer to home would your commute shorten enough to make a difference, or would you end up working longer hours? Are you both otherwise happy in your jobs and fields of work? If one of you were to shift into a lower-stakes job, which one of you would it be? Do you even want to work bonus-worthy hours? Are you missing out on life with your kids that you could recapture with a job change?

Sorry I have only more questions and not answers, but I really feel for you and hope that you can navigate this situation in a way that makes your life better rather than just making your bosses happier. Good luck. 

Maybe look into getting an au pair? Personally, I downsized my career aspirations and mommy-tracked myself into jobs with regular hours/lower pay. It was really hard to accept for the whole entire time (15 years!), but now I am finally happy with a lower stress job.

Same here. I have chosen a lower paying job with flexible hours and have taken the backseat to my husband's career. So he gets to work late. One parent needs to do that given the exorbitant cost of childcare; also they are only young once and I guess I didn't want to miss out. This way, I avoid having to stay-at-home and can somewhat have my cake and eat it too.

I totally sympathize with you, and had the same problem when my kids were younger. Two options, I’ve done both:

1. Find childcare in the city and bring your child with you.

2. Work it out where one parent goes in early and the other goes in later. The later parent does drop off, the early parent does pick up. If you get in around 7:30 then you can leave around 4. You don’t say what your professions are but I’ve managed to work this schedule out at three different employers and it’s not unusual.

Definitely not alone! 

Our pickup time is 6pm as well and one of us is often rushing in at 6:05. Luckily our home daycare provider is incredibly kind and hasn’t minded. We rotate who drops off and who picks up so each of us can have a later night or two if needed. It’s worked ok but it’s still hard. I often need to log back on after putting little one to bed to catch up on an hour or so of work. We don’t have family in the area to help so it’s all on us.

In terms of solutions, are either of your companies open to shifted hours? Could one of you do 7-4 and always be the pickup person? Alternatively can you make a deal with the daycare to pay more for 6:30 pickup given your situation? (Even if it’s expensive it’s likely less than hiring a nanny). Third option, are there any families at daycare you could ask to take your kiddos as well? 

Bay Area parenting is hard!!

I completely commiserate. It is next to impossible to get to everyone and make everyone happy, all the time. The good news for you is that you work in San Francisco. Of all major cities, SF has the lowest number of children, and they are trying to fix that. Check out the Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance, which is put in place to protect you from discrimination, or at least allow you to have a real conversation with laws on your side.

About: https://sfbos.org/sites/default/files/FileCenter/Documents/45824-FactSheet--SFFamilyFriendlyWorkplaceOrdinance.pdf

Link to ordinance: https://sfgov.org/olse/FAMILY-FRIENDLY-WORKPLACE-ORDINANCE-FFWO

I've experienced the same thing. Basically, my husband stopped doing pick ups and drop offs completely and my career definitely suffered. It annoys me to no end, but he earns the most by far, and is closer to retirement than me, and we need to maximize his wages. My kids are worth it but the stress and hardship are nearly unbearable. I am not sure what field you are in, but you may want to look at larger companies too - they often employ an older workforce that have children and are more understanding of work/life balance. Let me know if you have any tips too. I am in the same boat. 

You aren't alone, and you will have to make sacrifices.  I would start by finding jobs that measure your performance by the work you get done, not your hours in-office.  We make it work by me only being in-office 8 hours, and my husband 9 hours, but both working 1.5-2 hours from home after our child is in-bed, and occasionally working during his nap on weekends.  My husband does the 7.30am drop off, and works 8.00am - 5.00/5.15pm in the East Bay (Berkeley daycare, 25 min drive to Alameda work), home by 5.30/5.45pm.  I work in SF and have resorted to driving and doing the Emeryville casual carpool where you can get immediately into the carpool lane and be in SF in 20-25 min max.  I leave home at 7.20 with the rest of the family, have a carpool in the vehicle by 7.35, and am at my office a touch after 8.  I walk out by 4.10, driving by 4.15 and am usually at daycare near campus in Berkeley by just before 5.00pm pickup.  Kiddo is in bed at 7.30 and after eating dinner, we work from 8.00 - 9.30/10.00.   This means I don't get to exercise anymore like when I worked in the East Bay, which is a huge bummer, but it was a trade off for a great step up in my career.  I try to take a walk for breaks at work, and sometimes take a call where I listen more than talk on a treadmill down in the gym.   There are ALWAYS tradeoffs - you can have it all - but you can't have it all at once!   We were also told to get a nanny, but it is also incompatible with our financial goals, so we make daycare work.   Seriously consider the work-after-bedtime model to put in the extra hours, and learn to manage-up in your check-ins to clearly detail how you are personally contributing to company goals, trouble-shooting, making sure you close loops so no one is waiting on you, etc.  Plus make sure higher ups know that in an urgent situation they can ring your cell between 4.00pm - 8.00pm.  There are a few times I don't answer (If I'm literally putting a baby in a crib), but other times I can at least field the question using a wireless headset while also putting food on the table.   Not all jobs will measure you by hours in-office - and again, I encourage you to find one that doesn't if it is really an issue of being physically present 8.00 - 6.00 every day.    If your field doesn't allow any of this, seriously consider leaving the Bay Area.  If you're working/commuting/juggling so much and falling behind with family and career and life so you're not able to enjoy any area, it's not worth being here!   When we lived in the midwest folks did really only work 8.00 - 4.30pm, and we regularly met folks for dinner, evening sports leagues, etc. at 5.30pm without an issue.  So if that sounds appealing, definitely look into cities like Minneapolis, Chicago, Madison, Milwaukee, and Detroit/Ann Arbor if you can stomach the cold...

I'm a single/50-50? parent and completely emphasize as I'm running around like a madman trying to get from the city to 6pm pick up in the East Bay. It's impossible to do it all well. Likely one of you will need to compromise your career growth for it or hire full time or manage part-time less reliable people. It gets a little easier as they get older in that they aren't sick as much, but they do have more things going on to attend or have them attend. Since you have a partner, the best option if you can't hire is to split the week for responsibility and make it clear for work if they're flexible to only work later some days. For example, one goes in super early and leaves for pick up, one gets in a little later and stays late, or switching specific predictable days for each job. As a 50-50 parent, I'm kind of forced into this anyway, but my work has been more understanding of Monday and Tuesday are my "short days", in that I'm generally in my 9:15-9:30 and must leave by 5pm sharp. I stay later on days I don't have the kids. 

Alternatively, try and find a better companies that are more supportive of people with lives (kids or otherwise). I empathize though, it's tough, work is designed for young people who can live and breath the company. Just keep in mind that you don't get back time and kids keep growing. Your companies will never care about you as people, you are simple resources, and the time with the kids you don't get back.

I completely agree with the poster above. It’s frustrating that having young children often coincides with the highest-pressure phases in our careers. One thing that helped when my kids were younger is that my husband worked starting at 6:00 am and was home earlier in the afternoon. I did “morning duty” but could stay at work later. 

Also, California law allows you to take time off work, without retaliation, to attend children’s doctors appointments and to care for children when they are sick. 

One last thing (and maybe this sounds a little retrograde), I wish that I had worried less about my career when my kids were younger. It’s hard to do, but the time does go quickly. 

We are two full-time working parents as well, with unpredictable schedules. It is definitely a challenge. 

There were two things in your message that jumped out at me. First, why are your childcare providers leaving every 2-3 months?  That seems unusual to me. We’ve had many providers over the years (most of them part-time) and most of them have stayed multiple years.  Are you unpredictable with your hours? Do you need to pay more?  Pick people who won’t want to leave for a full-time job?  It seems like there’s something there that needs to be addressed. 

The second thing was the idea that you didn’t get your bonus because you took too many sick days. Seriously?  Last I checked, none of us control the effectiveness of our immune systems (short of taking things like Vitamin C). This is really the employer you are so dedicated to?  I may be off base, but that’s what I thought based on what you wrote...

Hi, 

I’m so sorry you’re in this difficult spot. It sounds like you have 3 children? So that means 3 times the chances of a sick child, and soon you’ll have multiple pickups at different schools/daycares/preschools. In some ways it’s easier when your kids get to school, but pickups are still hard. 

For your struggles in keeping a nanny, what if you use a service instead of hiring on your own? It costs more, but you’ll have the security of them placing someone new ASAP if one quits

An au pair program is another good option. Usually they commit for 1 year & can do those pickups and afternoon care & are a loving family member. There are reputable companies to place someone with you  

Another idea, Would childcare in SF nearer to your work make it easier? 

But —- Like the previous poster, the families I know that don’t have a full-time nanny, have picked 1 parent who stays on the power career track, and the other who does the pickups/sickdays/parenting stuff (they may work full time still but career is secondary, which might mean a job change, or change in ambition). I know some parents who swapped those roles after 5 or 10 yrs when kids are settled in schools, others who didn’t swap. You & your partner have to decide together, talking honestly about your personal ambitions, salary potentials, love/hate of the different parenting tasks, etc.  You can also compare financially, if you go underwater now by hiring a full time nanny, would your career advancement eventually lead to high enough salaries that you recover that “investment”? But it’s not simply a financial/career decision of course. It’s about how you want your family unit & family life & parenting to be now and in the future

best wishes

You're not alone. Because this is not a unique situation, MANY companies are moving towards accommodating flexible work schedules, ability to work from home, etc. It often costs companies much more time and money to hire and train a new employee than to retain the one's they have and most companies have realized this and work to accommodate the realities of family life. It does depend on the industry but I wonder if there are opportunities for you or your partner to find a different company that embraces these values? Both of your companies seem extreme withholding bonuses and promotions for the reasons you describe. Are there options to work closer to where you live? Reducing commute is so helpful if an option. I also agree with the previous poster which is to say that something's gotta give and sometimes that is a faster career growth trajectory while the kids are little. And to answer your final question, yes there are many other places where things are not this hard, so if moving is an option then you are likely to find a lot of relief. Good luck!

Yep, total disconnect between work world and real world. My husband and I have made it work because my jobs have always been flexible. In some ways I’ve chosen my career path to be flexible, but that was even before I had a child. Still, I am the marketing director for a nonprofit and have a pretty great resume. I just have chosen not to work in the corporate world because I’m not willing to be on call 24/7. One or both of you may want to search for jobs on your field at companies that are more flexible or closer to home (my spouse used to work in SF, but now that he works in Oakland, overall logistics are much easier though I still do majority of kid carting around/camp organization games, etc). Kind workplaces are out there! Data even shows that giving employees more autonomy makes them happier and more effective and reduces turnover! Good luck on figuring stuff out!

You are living the exact life that I was living two years ago. I had the agonizingly unpredictable transbay commute, the boss who was blissfully ignorant of how good they had it thanks to their higher pay and early home ownership, and the anxiety and stress of failing to live up to my high expectations for myself both as an employee and--more importantly--as a parent. Some people pull it off, but I just couldn't take it anymore. My family decided to move out of the Bay Area to a more affordable, family-friendly community and we never looked back. I took a pretty big pay cut but I don't really feel the effects because of the lower cost of living. I see my kids so much more than I ever did in the Bay Area. We actually eat dinner together every day. The only thing I miss about the Bay Area is my friends, but I never had time to see them when I lived there anyway. Good luck to you! 

Sorry to hear of your struggles. Would it be possible to do staggering shifts with your partner? One commits to a schedule to be the one to drop off, with the abilty to work late if needed. The other commits to pickup, able to work earlier if needed.

I'm so sorry to hear that this is the reality for you, as it is for many families. This feels like a true "rock and a hard place" situation. The only reason why this isn't an issue for us is that my partner has an earlier start/finish time in his job--which means that while he's able to swing pickup, I'm doing it all alone in the mornings, which has its own challenges. 

However, to help problem solve what you're dealing with: I wonder if another family in your school/daycare community would be williing to help out by picking up the kids and bringing them home for an hour or two until you can get there? I do this for school friends occasionally and it usually ends up being a fun playdate. If another parent needed this on a regular basis we might work something out where they contribute to dinner on those nights or something along those lines. I wish we felt more permission to ask our school communities and fellow parents for help when we need it. And I really wish that parents did not feel like they have to choose between their livelihood and being parents. It speaks to the ways in which our society generally does not support families. Let's work to change that norm and build systems that support one another when we can. Best of luck to you.

We had the same issue. The only viable solution is for one of you to go to a reduced schedule and give up your career aspirations. I waited too long to do this. Looking back on things, I firmly believe that my son would be far better off had I been home for him consistently after school. Being in a social setting from 8 - 6 was too much for my son. Then trying to make dinner and do homework starting after 6 was a total nightmare. Had I been the one to be with him after school, he would have been more secure and developed much better routines. I will never receive another promotion at work but it's worth it to me.

I saw a meme once that says that working moms are supposed to work like we don't have kids and mother like we don't have jobs. It's not possible and something has to give. 

I don't have solution. Just here for support. I feel you. 

If you have the space, have you considered an au pair through the J-1 VISA program? We looked into this and although we decided it wasn't right for us, it seemed like a really appealing, flexible, affordable childcare option- especially when you need care outside of normal childcare hours. Also, they'd be signing on for the whole year with the option of a second, so you'd have some stability as well. Just a thought.

Same boat.  I have found staggered schedules help - I get to work super early and leave early to pick our daughter up from the nanny (my husband drops her off in the morning).  I hate leaving early and feel like it looks terrible.  But I get to focus on her for a few hours in the evenings, and after she's in bed we eat dinner then I'm usually back online catching up on everything I didn't get done.  I've lost my personal time completely but I can show that even though I leave early, it doesn't mean I'm done with work for the day. Hopefully by showing availability at other times you can make the point that even though your work schedule is different, it doesn't mean you are working less.  But it is all about your boss's attitude.  I think everyone has this struggle but some companies and bosses are more supportive than others about flexible hours and the financial realities.  Yours sounds a bit clueless on this last point unfortunately. 

Yes, my husband and I struggled with this!  My husband travels for work and I was the one responsible for both drop off and pick up.  There is no way to work 60+ hours a week with a commute AND do drop off and pickup on time.  

Other cities can be less expensive—but it depends on where you go.  The Bay Area has always had a work culture that demands long hours.  It really favors young singles without kids or really successful couples that can afford to live on one salary.  It was fun to live in the Bay Area when I was young and single.  Hard work was balanced with lots of fun things to do.  Once we had kids, the Bay Area was no longer a great place to live.  Lots of work, schools with major problems, and high crime are tougher to deal with when there is work stress and not much fun.

I don’t have an answer for you.  I do definitely empathize.  I have been there.  You will have to decide whether the Bay Area has enough to be worth it.  If you have lots of extended family in the area, it is tough to leave.  If you are transplants like us, the decision to go somewhere simpler becomes very appealing.

Hi,

I don't have any solutions for you, but I empathize with your difficult situation, made more difficult by the high cost of the area. Heck, my family is moving to the east coast at the end of the month to have a more relaxed, cheaper, lifestyle! I wanted to recommend a book called the Ambition Decisions, and a series of Atlantic articles taken from the book. It's so hard to be 100% present at work when you don't have the right support for your family. Best of luck! https://www.amazon.com/dp/B076GMGVP1/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

Aaugh!! This makes me so angry at your employers! Anyway, it sounds like ur both putting careers at some risk already. I know it’s not easy, but maybe consider one of u changing jobs. I took a job in Oakland instead of a long commute down south when my first was born. It made a HUGE difference. Your kids are young for a relatively short period of time. Good luck, these are hard decisions. 

You are definitely not alone, judging by all the pending responses! I'm also following to see what others say because we are in East Bay, have decent jobs (based in SF), 2 little ones, and always feel like we need to tighten our belts to swing mortgage, childcare, etc. You raise many big issues here, but to first address the title of your post - how to make a 6pm pickup coming from the city. I know you mentioned the inflexibility at your work and no remote possibility, so this point is moot for you but to just share my experience - the only way I found it to work was to give up my office in SF, go exclusively remote, and be happy with the compromise that I was able to do a lot of 'momming' for the kids (pick ups, dinner prep, etc.), but I am sacrificing the opportunity to network and have presence at the office. Personally, I am OK with this tradeoff for now, but that is a very personal decision. Before I made that decision though, I was leaving work at 3:30 to make a 5-5:30pm pick up, which was clearly unsustainable. You mention you already tried the part-time nanny option (I assume for pick ups and afternoon care), but I can imagine you had high turnover because nanny's often are looking for full-time work. And it is equally stressful to be looking for someone to fill in that afternoon gap every few months when your nanny quits, so I personally would not like to do that, even if there are plenty of caregivers around who could still use part-time work. Which brings me to the point that your companies/careers don't seem amenable to work-life balance, and this may require some assessment of the big picture for you, your partner, and how you want your family life vs. careers to be. For us, we have not ruled out moving to a more affordable area, even out of state, and we've decided to re-assess after 1-2 years, perhaps when one/both of us decide to job hunt seriously again. I'm sorry I do not have any practical solutions for you, and I think it is a shame that for such a great area with so much to offer, there are still so many stressors that come with living here. Empathizing and curious what others have to say...

You'll face this problem in all big cities where you'll find a job. I have a daughter and expecting baby2, and already worried about finding a daycare, spending +70% of my salary for both kids care solution, most daycares close at 5pm or 5:30pm, bart delays, running all the time... yes we all face the same issue, we make it work more or less, and it seems the neighbor is doing it better, but reality is we all make compromises! it's all about finding the right balance between work and family life. 

I feel like employers in the Bay Area are pretty flexible/open minded though, you should consider changing. Find a job in East bay; Ask help from parents on your kids' school, offering them to pick-up their kids + yours twice a week and they do the same other 2 days... Find a person who's full-time employee on a grocery store or nanny in your neighborhood and willing to do extra 30mins/1h? Maybe employees from your kids pre-school who are willing to do some extra hours? So they don't commute for 1h to do 1h work...

Good luck!

You are not alone. We have an 18-month old and both work full-time in demanding jobs, we don't have family money, we are renters and barely making ends meet.  I don't know what industry you're in, but it sounds like your employers suck. The Bay Area economy is red-hot, in most industries you can find another job in a heartbeat. Losing nannies is not worth it, your children are only young for a few years and its stressful for them to constantly have transitions in childcare and to be away from you for long hours. We pick our kid up on time, even if it means some compromises at work. I often show up late or leave work early, but I catch up on email or various tasks after my son goes to bed. My partner does the same, and both our employers are understanding about it. You don't have to settle for being shamed and passed over because you are a parent.There are better employers out there. 

This is what works for us--I bring my kid in on my commute and he attends preschool near my work. I actually enjoy the time on BART together. I realize it might not work for you, but it's how we're currently swinging it. I have no idea what we'll do when he's ready for kindergarten in a year.

You are definitely not alone.  The only way we were able to find some semblance of balance for our family in the Bay Area is to have one working parent whose career comes first and one working parent whose career comes second.  In our case, my husband has the higher-paid intense 60+ hour a week job in SF and I have the family-friendly flexible nonprofit job in the East Bay where we live.  I do ALL the childcare pickups and drop-offs, take ALL the sick days, and do ALL the lunches/ field trip permission slips/ summer camp sign-ups/ doctor and dentist appointments/ etc.  Consequently, my husband is free to focus on work and is thriving and getting promoted.  I do wish that there could be more equality - I get weary of the second shift and he gets tired of the nonstop work cycle.  I do like my job but I miss out on a lot of career-related opportunities and he misses out on a lot of parenting and family stuff.  Plus, it feels annoying (to me) how our roles follow such traditional gender lines.  But I honestly don't know how else to do it and I like living here enough that it's a trade-off I'm willing to make.      

I've been in your shoes. Both me and my husband worked in the city and kids had to be picked up from 2 different schools in the East Bay before 6pm. Our part-time nanny quit after she found a full time job after only 4 months with us. The stress and constantly feeling like we are not putting in 100% at work was exhausting and frustrating. So I gave up my full-time job and changed careers. We had to live on 1 income for a while during my job transition and it wasn't easy but it's all about priorities. Our income now is no where near what we were making as 2 full-timers but it's been great for our family. You could put your kids in SF school or one or both of you will have to get a less demanding job to make things work. Don't even get me started on Summer breaks where most camps end at 3pm and cost so much! 

My youngest child just turned 18, so I no longer share your conundrum. However, what worked for me was to find a job that was family friendly. Granted, I did make less money than had i pursued other career paths. But, for me it was worth it to be able to successfully manage both a full time career AND be an involved parent. There are always going to be sacrifices (yes, at one time we were living in a one bedroom apartment). You need to decide what is more important - your work or your family. With my children all grown, I reminisce on their childhoods with such fond memories. It was a joy to be a parent to my children. And now that they don't need me in the same way, I've changed careers to something less family friendly. Your children are only young once. I have no regrets at all about making less money working for companies that provided flexibility in scheduling and supported me in being an involved parent. My kids benefited much more from my presence than they would have from a big paycheck.

If your kids are preschool age or younger, consider childcare in SF so you can pickup before 6p. Sometimes, that can be difficult if there’s no spots available and your child has already established a relationship with your provider. If you work downtown or near the civic center, there is a infant/toddler/preschool inside city hall, Bright Horizons, albeit pricey. 

If your kids are in elementary school, consider kango for pickup and childcare. That’s what my daughter’s classmate uses since her parents can’t pick up in time. I’m not vouching or endorsing their services. 

I am sorry that you are in this situation. I don’t know where you live or age of your kids. I know YMCA in Albany offer after school until 6.30 PM. Or you can make a special agreement with childcare provider to extend their care for extra 30 mins or so and offer a bit extra money which I am sure still cheaper than getting a pickup nanny.

You may want to consider an au pair, or at least find out more about it by talking with other parents (and the BPN website). 

This is a huge challenge for our family too--I definitely feel you! The single most helpful thing for us was to move one job closer to home. If you plan to stay long-term in the East Bay, it's worth looking at employment opportunities on this side of the bridge that might give you more flexibility (or at the minimum, a shorter and more reliable commute). There are family-friendly firms out there. I'd also take a deep look at why your sitters aren't staying--are the hours too short? Are you not paying enough? Is the schedule too unpredictable? Something is amiss there if they are only staying for a couple of months at a time. The answer may be to pay more or to guarantee longer hours. With three kids, it may well be cost-effective to use a sitter for the entire afternoon rather than using aftercare (though of course that has pros and cons!) which might allow you to pull from a bigger pool of interested sitters. Finding people to take just a couple of hours a day (and stay long-term!) is tough. I might also reach out to other families in your neighborhood to see if any have nannies who might like some extra hours after they arrive home. The other thing that was huge for us was finally having kids at the same school so we could go down to a single pickup. If you can find a preschool/daycare as close as possible to your elementary school (assuming your younger kids aren't yet school-age) so that everyone can be picked up at once, that will help too. Good luck!!

I'm so sorry to hear you're going through this. Yes, it is tough when both you and your spouse work full time and have aspirations for good careers.

Like the other poster, the way we "solved" this issue was for me to put my career on the back burner which has worked out well for everyone but me. The kids aren't so stressed, I get to go to their school events and am not as overwhelmed managing everything at home, my husband has time to devote to his work and his frequent trips. But I am sometimes bitter that everyone who was my peer 10-12 years ago now makes three or four times what I make and has a more interesting job and does cooler stuff. I will never be able to get back to that even though my youngest is 10 and he is the only one who really needs any sort of raising. (The other two are in middle school and leave for school on their own, get home on their own, mostly make it to their practices on their own.) It is compounded for us because we have three boys so now I worry they will look at what I did and think it is the woman who should sacrifice her career.

I don't know how flexible your schedule is or whether you need to stay really late on occasion or need coverage for sick kids or just can't leave at 5 to get back by 6 what, but here are some suggestions for things my friends and I have tried:

If you need to put in hours, could you go in early, like 5am and work until 4pm, and your spouse go in like 9am until 8pm?

Could you hire your preschool/after care teacher to take your kids home at 6 and get them fed?

Could you get an au pair to get your kids to school, pick them up after school, and stay home with them when sick? (That would be a pretty sweet gig for someone who wants to take classes or explore since they would generally have most of the day free.)

Could you put kids in daycare/preschool in SF? (Wouldn't do this with actual school.)

Are other jobs a possibility? Something with more flexibility? We know someone who works at Google and he had to move around to find a group with a flexible manager. Another friend works at Amazon and she had to do the same thing.

As part of not having an intensive career, we moved to Davis where it is much mellower. My husband is down in the Bay Area during the week so he can have his interesting job and get a Bay Area salary. We know a couple of other families in the same boat. Life is simpler and easier but again, there is the sadness/bitterness that I didn't accomplish nearly as much as I wanted to professionally and I was the one who had to sacrifice so everyone else could be happier.

Good luck with whatever you decide. I know it is tough.

You are not alone and I feel just as you do.  We just visited family in Europe, Montenegro.  For $35k one can purchase a brand new condo on the beach.  Want a large 3 or 4 bedroom house overlooking the bay?  $200-$250k.  Dinner at a very nice restaurant on the water for four of us was less than $60.  And what did we pay or our hotel?  We didn't, we rented a 1 bedroom private apparent 1 block from the water for $30 per night.  And to top it off a scoop of gelato/ice cream was just $0.75.  And unlike the Bay Area there were no murders, no graffiti, kids were respectful, adults were very respectful of one another and the school are better.  And add to that the quality of the food is better.

So I'm with you.  My commute on a Saturday or Sunday to my job in SF is 35 minutes each way.  On a week day it doubles of triples.  I have no free time.  I don't know how or why a family would want to stay/live in the Bay Area.  I'm with you.

On the other had my son who recently graduated from college is your competition.  Right out of college he's making $150k.  He doesn't want to by a house and rents a 2 bedroom apartment for $5,000 which he shares with a roommate.  For $5,000 a month he could be buying a house.  But he's not interested.

The point I'm trying to make is you are trying to live an raise a family in an area where others different set of values and priorities.

Sounds if you are really unhappy with your living situation.  I know I am.  Maybe it's time for a change before you reach a breaking point.  Time to take a walk in the hills and do some soul searching of what you want and can get out of life.  I'll tell you I'm tempted to just move to Montenegro.  Its a lot like San Francisco.  Huge bay with hills overlooking the bay.  Only difference is the water is nice and warm. 

Best of luck to you. 

I am so sorry and wish I had an answer for you. You are definitely not alone. I, too, was dismayed by the daycare options in the East Bay. My husband and I found one (ONE) place that is in a do-able location that is open 7-7. It costs twice as much as every other daycare in the area, but it is the only thing that will work for us. My hours require me to drop off earlier, but I can pick up earlier; his hours require him to drop off later and pick up later. We needed something with longer hours in order that we could share this responsibility. I had to pass on really amazing places because they had hours that simply didn't work, like 7:30-5:30 (surprisingly common!). A nanny wouldn't be ideal because my hours are irregular, and scheduling would be very difficult. We are both professionals, and while we're both making some changes at work, there is a limit to what we could do. I wish I knew why there wasn't workable childcare around here. I sympathize and hope you find a solution. I have heard that many people in the east bay actually hire someone to pick up their kids at day care and watch them for an hour or two in the evenings until you get home - that is something you might wish to investigate. Again, not ideal, but possibly a solution.

My solution to this problem was to hire two college student sitters to share the afternoon childcare job. They picked up my child from preschool or school and stayed until 7 p.m. without complaining.  Every semester, I hired two and told them to job share and work it out between them in terms of who handled what day and what hours, and just text me to let me know what was going on.  One of them worked for me for three years; the others were good for two or three semesters.  So it was somewhat somewhat stressful in terms of stability, but I don't think I had a single day where both dropped the ball. I paid several dollars an hour above market, had a good selection of candidates to choose from, and it was completely worth it.  Tip: I never hired anyone who asked to reschedule the job interview.  That to me was a red flag - if you can't keep the interview appointment (when you are most motivated to make a good impression) it won't improve from there.  

This is only of minor help - but when we were doing the 6pm run we got to know the other parents doing the same and exchanged cell phones.   That way if it was close we could say - JANE!! - can you get the kid and I'll meet you in the parking lot?  Sometimes it was just 10-15 minutes of playing around the parking lot with the kids that made ALL THE DIFFERENCE to the parent making that 6pm run!  And it worked both ways.  

Oh My! reading these replies makes me want to cry! I just quit my job for the same reason. My take home, after two toddlers in day care full-time and things like health insurance and 401k and other normal things, ended up being about 300 bucks. So I picked up a part time nanny gig, am renting out our 3rd room on Airbnb, and getting scrappy. It’s scary!!! I’m going to have to start over next year. I don’t know if it’s the right choice. But my heart goes out to you. 

Montenegro sounds nice..... my sister moved to sac from oak last year and she loves it. Her life, in every aspect, is more affordable. Good luck!!!  

I feel for you! I also went down to 80% time to make it work. There are a very few places that have hours after 5pm.

CEC in Berkeley is open until 6pm and we are there and love them.

I toured this Wonderschool as well, and I thought they had a wonderful director and their small location close to Emeryville. They have an evening/dinner program for kids, I really liked them but ultimately the location wasn't quite as ideal for me, and having the dinner program was not absolutely required for me. I hope this helps! : https://www.wonderschool.com/ca/berkeley/desiree-s-wonderschool-771

My suggestion is to ask the daycare provide to recommend another parent who could pick up for you. Then you could pick up from that person's home a bit later. It would have to be someone in a convenient location, whose kid gets along with your kid and, of course, who is willing. You could pay this parent.  Or do a trade: they pick up your kid during the week, you host their kid on the weekend. 

I just want to chime in with some words of support and say that I am in the same situation. The modern working world and modern economy that now requires two full-time working people in each household is just not compatible with raising kids. It's been one of the most frustrating and maddening realizations for me. I know some people do better in other locations (and perhaps have shorter commutes), but every time I have looked, I see how much less money I would make and it still doesn't seem to make sense. I'm also extremely frustrated by the fact that the people at the top of every organization (those who make the rules about how much flexibility employees can have) most often are making so much more money than the rest of us that they can afford to have one parent at home or hire a full-time nanny or housekeeper, ugh! They just don't get what it's really like. Anyway, sorry you are going through this too. I think the truly flexible jobs are few and far between, but you might just both keep your eyes open, and then the only other thing that I think works for many people is the staggering of hours (as others have said) - one parent doing drop off and the other doing pick up and shifting work hours to do it. Good luck. Sorry you are also dealing with this!

I’m the OP. Thank you everyone for your responses. Hearing that so many families struggle helps. One person’s suggestion of building a team is brilliant — diversifying risks makes sense. We spent the last few weeks soul searching and my spouse has decided to reduce hours. We will cut costs — kids are sad that they won’t be seeing grandparents this Christmas and so are we but airplane tickets (~$1000/person in December) to east coast was the most obvious cut to make. We are stopping kids’ piano and karate lessons and won’t be renewing memberships to the zoo, fairyland and the YMCA. Fixing our floor and replacing roof will have to wait. We decided to cancel our first trip to Disneyland but don’t have the hearts to tell the kids. We are sad but hopefully life has good news in store for us. On the upside, kids say that being picked up by a parent early is always better and seem very happy about that. I never imagined a household income of $200,000 would make us feel strapped and $1 million dollar house being so so far from what we dreamed of for our family home.

My friend, a nurse, was taking care of a very sick, old patient in the hospital. I'll never forget what my friend said this patient told her: "I have regrets and things I wish I did differently, but not a single one of them is wishing I had worked MORE." Although it's not easy to get by here, my partner and I made the choice to put family and personal time ahead of job/career/money. We make sacrifices so hopefully we can look back and not wish we had spent more time with our kids and each other. I don't think you'll regret reducing work hours or cutting costs because time is precious.

I agree with you about cutting work hours; your kids are only going to be this young and lovely once, and I remember how pleased my daughter was to walk home with me most days (and nice it was to not feel so stressed rushing back from work). At this point, being with their parents is what makes them happiest.

You mentioned the winter holidays in your second post: "We will cut costs — kids are sad that they won’t be seeing grandparents this Christmas and so are we but airplane tickets (~$1000/person in December) to east coast was the most obvious cut to make." If at all possible, think about January next year, or in the years to come. Our Brooklyn daughter and her family visit us in late December or early January; fares are lower, and we just celebrate all that much longer. In any case, best wishes with your family's new hours.