It's 5 o'clock in the evening and Cathy Fonner is on a mission.
As she gathers her children, she says, "C'mon, mommy's got to go to work tonight, let's go."
Her twin 5-year-old boys would rather run and play. But she wants them to eat dinner, now, because after their evening meal, they must take a bath and get ready to leave. Tonight, they are not sleeping at home.
They are on their way to day care.
Actually, it's night care. Fonner works 7 p.m.-to-7 a.m. at Medical City Dallas Hospital. So three nights a week, the boys sleep at Children's Choice, a hospital-sponsored day care program open for business all day and all night.
Fonner says, "Honestly, I don't have any other option because I don't have any family here and no husband anymore. I have to be able to take them to school and pick them up."
It's a tough routine for Fonner, but this 24-hour day-care center is the best child care option she's found so far.
She says, " When I was working day shift, I was using home day care. And that - I had problems with because usually after about three months, whoever was taking care of them would want to quit." She laughs and then explains, "because of the hours."
Donna McClintock says, "Children need a predictable environment. They need to be able to know what's going to happen." She is the chief operating officer of Children's Choice, and points out that many parents have a hard time finding care for kids when they work nontraditional hours.
McClintock says, "They used an aunt or an uncle or a neighbor and what they found is their children were very stressed sleeping in someone else's bed or on a couch or on a floor or, 'Where am I going to go tonight, Mommy.'"
Fonner says, "I can't tell you how many hours I spent - how many months - I've spent on the phone, on the Internet, going through child-care referrals, going through the state referrals, trying to find day care that would fit what I needed."
Fonner is far from being alone. The Department Of Labor reports that 60 percent of all mothers with children under the age of 6 are employed. And more than one third of them say child care is the reason for working nontraditional hours.
Ellen Galinsky, director of Families and Work Institute, says, "I think that the 9-5 work day is a myth. Most people - most women, most men - work more than 40 hours a week."
The Families and Work Institute tracks the trends of family life and the workplace. She notes, "Even though we've had these dramatic changes in family life, I don't think that the rest of the world has necessarily kept pace with the needs of families."
At the moment, most 24-hour child care is provided through large companies as a convenience for their employees. In fact, that was the main reason Fonner took her job at Dallas Medical City.
Fonner says, "All I have to do is come to work; they're right here at work. One night, Matthew was having problems breathing. I can run over there, I can be there in five minutes. And give him the breathing treatment, come back to work and not lose any time."
While 24–hour day care is not exactly common yet, most agree it's bound to grow.
McClintock says, "In the next five years, we see the need for non-traditional hours of care just growing."
Fonner says, "There are so many people doing so many things now. And there are so many families that both people have to work. I think for a day care to really be successful, it's going to at least have extended hours."