Sometimes I wonder if schools are designed these days to not allow mothers to work. I was thinking about this especially at 10:45 a.m. on a Thursday morning last week as I sweated watching my daughter's swim races in her school's heated pool. I had thought that the races wouldn’t last more than 15 minutes but no, I was there for more than an hour (and that didn’t include travel time or the time it took to find parking). Quite frankly, my morning of work was shot. As in, I didn’t get any work done.
Only the week before, my daughter was sent home with a note saying that the third graders were performing in a singing competition and that parents were welcome (and also to check out the school’s website for more information). There was no way I’d be able to go to that. Earlier on the same the morning of the singing competition, I had run into another mother at Starbucks and she asked if I was going. “I can’t,” I said. “I really have to work.” To which she responded, “I’m not going either, but I’m going to the assembly tomorrow,” to which I responded, “The what?” Apparently, there was some school assembly for the kids that parents (and I say “parents” loosely, which I’ll get into later) were also invited to.
The week before that, I received an e-mail from my daughter’s class representatives (mothers) asking for parent volunteers to come in to school every morning for at least a week, to collect sap from trees for some pioneer project. And a month before that, there was some “special” day at school where parents were invited to come in for the morning to see all the work our children had done making structures out of material like cardboard. That was the first time I looked up to the sky and asked the higher powers, “Does any mother work anymore?”
I’ll admit, there have been a couple incidents where my daughter has come home and said, “You missed chapel today.” And I was like, “What? I didn’t know parents were invited.” To which my daughter said, “You were the only mother who wasn’t there.” To which I responded, “Oh yeah? The only mother?” And, also, “Why didn’t you tell me I had to go?” My daughter said, “It’s on the website.” Right. The fucking school website.
Now, I have to admit that the school’s website is quite amazing. But that, too, is a full-time job. If I don’t log onto it practically every day, then I will miss something at her school. No longer are there notes sent home in the knapsack that I can see in front of me. Oh, no. I have to log onto the fucking website and navigate my way around to see what is happening at my daughter’s school that week. I do not lie when I say there seems to be something I can attend at my daughter’s school every single week.
“This school is like a full time job,” I moaned to my ex recently. And I’m not speaking only about end of school concerts or special performances that my child is in. There are swim races, opportunities to show up to school to see what they have made in their design technology classes, sap collecting, sports competitions at other schools, singing competitions at god-knows-what-locations and that’s all been in the last month alone. ]=
My daughter attends a private school and I’d say that probably at least half of the mothers don’t work. And even though I do work (from home), I’m now like, “Of course they don’t work. Especially if they have three children who go to school, how could they possibly work?” I only have one child and I can’t show up to at least half the events I’m invited to at her school. I don’t really feel guilty about this. I’m always left thinking, “But I work!”
Of course, my daughter would prefer that I show up to everything, but she understands. And I don’t even think I have the worst of it. My fiance’s children go to a public school that starts at 8 a.m. and ends at 2:30 p.m. 2:30 p.m.!!!! They don’t have any after-care at that school and I’m really like, “So what do parents DO if there children get out of school at 2:30 p.m.,” which IS the middle of the afternoon. So they have nannies, or babysitters, and I’m sure working mothers at that school can’t wait until their children are old enough to walk home by themselves.
I mentioned earlier that “parents” are always invited, and I said I used that term loosely, because where my daughter goes to school, I rarely see any fathers show up to these school activities. That’s because THEY WORK. And, for whatever reason, we mothers bare the brunt of attending these school functions. (Yes, I know. Here we go. Your husband shows up, right? Aren’t you lucky.)
But in my unscientific poll at the school swim race last week, there were a total of two fathers and about 30 mothers in the bleachers watching the children swim. After the swim race, as I was waiting to say hi to my daughter, who was thrilled that I had showed up (and I was thrilled that I showed up), she handed me a piece of paper. I read it and almost cried. Next month, her French class is putting on a play that all the parents are invited to. And, yes, of course it falls in the middle of the day. I’m thinking of invoicing the school for all my missed work hours. I’m not really joking.
(Photo: Richard Lewisohn)