I got a job with the U.S. Census! Well, really, I was able to answer yes to questions such as “Are you comfortable asking people questions from a form about their race and income?” and “Do you have a valid driver’s license?” After about 90 seconds and a couple other real toughies, the guy said, “You’re hired!”
When I took the half-hour standardized exam two months ago, I fretted that it would take too long, and I’d be late to pick up my daughter from preschool. I hope that doesn’t portend what it’s going to be like when I start the job.
A year ago, I tried out for a temporary full-time job in Washington at Agence France Presse, the French wire service. For two days, I spent two hours driving and taking two trains each way commuting there from Baltimore. I loved being a grownup and wearing a suit and my dressup shoes, not to mention using my brain to translate from French and synthesize articles about the Treasury secretary visiting China, the latest GDP numbers and the stock market opening comment. My wife rose to the challenge beautifully and helped with kid-care and house jobs. But it was clear to both of us that full-time work plus a terrible commute would seriously disrupt our family’s life.
The Census job, however, will only be about 20 hours a week for up to eight weeks in May and June. The Census office guy said I would work as an enumerator, going door-to-door helping people who didn’t fill out their forms completely or correctly. It would take some day work, some evenings and some weekends. It seems generally flexible enough to work for me as an at-home dad. They try to put you within five miles or so of your home, and the office guy said I’d probably end up working the Ruxton and Riderwood neighborhoods. Not too tough a gig. Those Baltimore County areas are where some people in my rowhouse neighborhood aspire to move up to single-family homes with big yards.
Step One is driving six miles from my house at the end of the month to attend a four-day training, from 9 to 5:30 each day. Problem One: Carla only has preschool only two mornings on those days. But we can pay extra for full-day coverage – and my neighbor with a son there maybe could bring her home when preschool closes at 5:30. And in-home daycare providers in my neighborhood could take her the other two days. Problem Two: Eddie’s school lets out at 3:45, and it would use up a lot of play-date points for him to go home with a friend each afternoon. The school offers “play centers” (day care) after school, but it’s filled months in advance.
And then there are the questions of: How are we going to eat supper and get kiddos to bed at a decent hour? (I guess do meal prep at night, lining stuff up in the fridge like ingredients for a cooking show. Or just pick up pizza.) How will I keep up with laundry and cleaning the house? (I guess that’s what weekends are for.) What if a kid gets sick? How will I ever see much of my kids when I’m not rushing out the door or in?
Welcome to the world of two working parents, huh?