(Bloomberg) -- For working parents such as Jen Stark, the end of the school year is a whirlwind — from graduation ceremonies to field trips and summer-camp orientation sessions. To deal with the “Where are you?” questions from work colleagues, she recently prepared an email signature for the season. 

“Sometimes I won’t be immediately reachable or able to take on things other than top priorities,” her signoff reads, while also noting  “I’m still doing good work + meeting deadlines.”   

She’s among the parents who are trying to balance their professional workloads with kid-related events, which are ballooning as schools race toward the end of the year and extra-curricular activities host their annual recitals and ceremonies. To explain absences and address the potential for productivity to slip, some parents are being extra vocal about their obligations. Others are pre-emptively discussing their time constraints with their managers, while some workers are building extra flexibility into meetings and other processes.

The issues are only going to get worse in the summer, parents say, when child care gets even scanter.

A lack of affordable child care is estimated to cost workers and companies billions of dollars annually in lost earnings, productivity and revenue. Almost two thirds of parents of infants and toddlers struggle with their schedules and report being late to work or having to leave early, according to the nonprofit Council for a Strong America. More than half say they’re distracted at work or sometimes miss full days.

Family obligations inevitably leave less time for work. “Imagine trying to cram 50 hours a week of work or more into 30 available hours,” said Stark, who is co-director for the Center for Business and Social Justice at the consulting firm BSR in Washington. “And imagine having a sense week-to-week that anything could happen in the next week that will upend the entire schedule.”

Stark also said the message was universal: “When I started in the workforce 20 years ago, you didn't hear that,” she said of men in management positions talking about child care. “It's a small change, but it's an important cultural one.”

To get ahead of the issue and set an example for others, she said she clearly marks school and summer camp pick-up and drop-off times for her kids, ages 10 and 14, for all to see in her calendar.

It’s a big change from previous corporate culture, said Sara Schonfeld, vice president of marketing at Los Angeles-based startup HiveWatch. She noted that schedules become more difficult at the end of the school year, with problems often persisting through the summer. 

“Previously, people would have tried to hide why they were leaving early, why they couldn’t take a call at that time,” said Schonfeld, who is in the midst of her own onslaught of end-of-year events for her children, ages 7 and 9. Now, “everyone that reports to me knows that I will have this challenge this summer, and I know that they will have those challenges this summer. It’s not a secret on each other’s calendars.”

Read more: Child-Care Perks Such as Cash for Nannies and Extra Days Off Top Workplace Benefits

US parents’ struggles can come as a surprise to colleagues in countries such as Sweden and South Korea, which invest more of their national budgets into child-care infrastructure. Stark says her email signoff message is especially geared toward international colleagues, who are often unaware of her challenges. 

Not all organizations are accommodating to parents’ needs. Kyte Baby, a baby gear brand that on its website says “we’re parents, too,” kicked up a firestorm on social media after it denied a new mother’s request to work remotely while her adopted son, born premature, was in the neonatal intensive care unit.

A declining US birth rate is in part being attributed to the fact that there are numerous obstacles to having children, from inflexible jobs to soaring costs for day care and medical care. A major criticism of strict return-to-office mandates adopted from Wall Street to Silicon Valley is the disproportionate burden they place on working parents, for whom flexibility can make the difference between staying in a job and being forced to give it up.

Some executives are trying to create a more family-friendly work environment by setting an example with their own scheduling transparency. Camilla Morais, chief operating officer at fintech company Brex, said she makes a point to keep almost all of her calendar appointments, including doctors appointments and personal obligations, visible to the entire organization. While not a parent herself, she said that this helps employees who do have children open up about their commitments. It’s a message that’s particularly important this time of year, she said. 

“You need to set the example. Those little things allow people to say, ‘Oh, Camilla's doing that, so I can do that too,’” she said, adding:  “As long as you know what needs to get done and you are very clear and upfront, then we can balance all those things.”

Schonfeld said she tries to be mindful of her employees’ schedules and allow them flexibility where needed. “Some people aren’t going to make that 9-to-5 this summer, and that’s absolutely okay with me as long as things are getting done,” she said. On one recent call, Schonfeld told potential clients that one of her team members would be in listen-only mode because he had to drive his daughter to lacrosse. “Everybody understands and respects that,” she said. “I don’t think it’s as taboo as it used to be.”

(Adds comment on men and child care.)

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