IT IS BASKETBALL season and it is wrestling season, and I have a basketball player and a wrestler under my roof.
For the next three months, it will be necessary for me to be at two different gyms at once after traveling all over the county in opposite directions.
Meals will amount to one long hum from a microwave, except for the wrestler, who doesn't eat, and the basketball player, who will be starving all the time but eating out of a paper bag on a bus.
I don't know whether to shop and cook or leave breadcrumbs up the driveway to my front door.
Oh yeah. And I have a job.
I have responded to the logistical challenges this season will present by declaring that I will have to take family leave.
I am only half kidding, but the idea of actually taking family leave is a joke.
As I often remind my children, they pay me to do this job. And though my husband makes a proper living, two incomes can be as habit-forming as breathing in and breathing out - and just as necessary.
I don't have a new baby and I don't have a bedridden parent and I am not nursing a child back from a catastrophic accident.
I just feel like I should be keeping better track of my busy teens, an idea they no doubt would find horrifying.
Research by the Harvard School of Public Health shows that significant proportions of working Americans, both middle-class and poor, are unable to take time off when their family members need care (or a ride home from practice).
Not only do they find unpaid family leave, signed into law by President Clinton as one of the first acts of his administration, a financial impossibility, but parents often work without sick leave, vacation or the flexibility to use either to care for family members.
"The impact is on the health and education of children," says Jody Heymann, author of "The Widening Gap" and director of policy at the Harvard University Center for Society and Health.
Not only do children suffer more when left at home to nurse themselves because parents must work, but many of these sick children are also sent to school.
And because parental involvement is the greatest predictor of academic success, parents who work nights or who can't meet during the day with teachers and school officials are clearly shortchanging their kids.
Heymann's research is based on a series of studies of more than 8,000 families across the country.
"What we saw was the need for parents to be able to address their children's needs throughout their children's lives," Heymann says.
"Most parental leave is taken when children are infants. Infants need their parents, but so do school-age children. So do adolescents."
And, Heymann found, although children's demands on their parents' work time decreases after the age of 18, it is still an issue, showing up in everything from flat tires to bail hearings.
"The reason parents take leave when their children are newborns is because that is when we allow them to take it," says Heymann. "We found that if leave was available at different times in their children's lives, parents would make use of it."
This gap between the demands of the workplace and family life has more to do with inadequate public policy than it does with the fact that women are working in such numbers.
Women have always worked, but for generations they worked on the farm alongside their husbands, and they simultaneously cared for children and ill or elderly relatives.
When men left the farm for the factory, Heymann explains in "The Widening Gap," government realized that if these providers were unable to work for some reason, their families would suffer hardship.
The result was workmen's compensation, unemployment insurance, old-age and survivors' insurance - government's response to the single breadwinner.
But when women began to enter the work force in great numbers during World War II, there was no similar public policy response. Government and our other institutions failed to see that someone was still going to have to care for the kids and other dependents.
"Women working didn't start happening in the '70s," says Heymann. "It has been 50 years. It is about time we caught up."
Very few of the major institutions in this country take account of demands on two-earner families.
School days are only two-thirds as long as the typical workday. The school year has 30 percent fewer days than the work year and the need for out-of-school care far outstrips its availability, Heymann reports.
Pediatricians and family doctors often do not have evening hours. Neither do banks, government offices and other sites of official business. Routine services, such as plumbing or appliance repair, often charge a premium for night or weekend visits.
You can shop for groceries all night and Wal-Mart might be open 24 hours. And just about every kind of retailer has Sunday hours.
While this serves workers on some schedules, it requires others to work and find child care at impossible hours.