PerspectivesNikesha Elise Williams Jacksonville Today Contributor

Opinion: The 7-hour solution for work-life balance

Published on September 7, 2022 at 9:11 pm
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Photo: Jessica Palombo, Jacksonville Today

Why isn’t the school day as long as the work day? 

That’s the thought that’s been running through my mind since my 7-year-old returned to the classroom last month. After three years of only creative entrepreneurship through writing and publishing, I returned to the workforce in a fully remote position in April of this year. The expected work hours are 9 to 5. My availability is from 8 to 3. Those are the hours that coincide with when I drop my son off (in the car line or at the bus stop) and when I must retrieve him or ferry him to one of his after-school activities. 

This mismatch in scheduling has led me to conduct and or attend many a Zoom meeting in transit. Sometimes I’m in my car, Zoomed in through the hands-free system courtesy of Honda. Sometimes I’m walking, Zoomed in through my headphones. In each scenario, I am off camera and on mute explaining in the chat that I’m wrangling my little people. 

However, there inevitably comes a time when I must speak, contribute to the conversation and earn my keep. What ensues is an embarrassing fumble of my phone, or my child, as I try to unmute, turn on my video and say something remotely intelligible and relevant to the conversation, hoping my baby isn’t babbling too loud in the background. So far I’ve succeeded, if you consider maintaining employment a success, though internally it often feels like failure. The constant questioning of whether I’m doing this adulting thing —working and mothering well — is a circuitous loop I could dizzy myself within until I pass out from exhaustion or overexertion. 

At a time when much of the American workforce is at a crossroads — do we force employees to return to big, expensive office buildings where the lease isn’t even close to up, or scrap in-person work for the creature comforts of home? — I wonder why we haven’t examined the American school system in the same way.


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I am in no way suggesting a return to the remote, online learning, home-school model that public schools tested when COVID-19 was novel and the imminent threat of death left us no choice. What I am suggesting is an exploration of what parity would look like between school hours and work hours. 

In Duval County, nearly aligned schedules only last during the middle school years, as staggered starts have sixth- to eighth-graders being instructed from 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Assuming your children ride the bus, you could be at work by 9 as they board the bus, and home by the time they’re dropped off, provided you don’t take a lunch break. (How many of us who work eight-hour days ever take that lunch break? No, we eat at our desks, powering away at the endless to-do list that productivity derived from capitalism demands.)  

As the Great Resignation dissolves into “quiet quitting,” I believe we should explore education models that maximize instruction along with work models that establish boundaries between being at work and not.  

Seven hours at each, both work and school, seems reasonable to me. This in no way eliminates the myriad child-care issues that persist with young children and babies, nor is it applicable to many labor-intensive blue-collar positions. But it is a framework to begin ruminating on how we can improve our education system while also resisting the very ingrained American ideology to do, do, do, go, go, go, out of fear that someone else might beat us to the punch. Competition is healthy, yes, until you find yourself racing against another parent in bumper-to-bumper traffic trying to pick up your kid from a car line only to make it back to work until you can officially clock out, wondering the entire time, Why isn’t the school day as long as the work day? 


author image Jacksonville Today Contributor

Nikesha Elise Williams is an Emmy-winning TV producer, award-winning novelist (Beyond Bourbon Street and Four Women) and the host/producer of the Black & Published podcast. Her bylines include The Washington Post, ESSENCE, and Vox. She lives in Jacksonville with her family.

author image Jacksonville Today Contributor

Nikesha Elise Williams is an Emmy-winning TV producer, award-winning novelist (Beyond Bourbon Street and Four Women) and the host/producer of the Black & Published podcast. Her bylines include The Washington Post, ESSENCE, and Vox. She lives in Jacksonville with her family.


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