Recently I had the opportunity to accompany Emma’s class on a field trip. It was a great time, and it happened on a Wednesday (my regular day off) so there was no “scheduling” required. The date was announced, I was free, so I said I’d come. These situations are rare in the case of school activities and working parents.
Being a working parent means I miss out on a lot of things that my kids do. Meaning there are tons of school trips and assemblies, gatherings, etc. at the school (including church services which I frankly don’t mind missing) that happen when I just can’t get there.
I used to feel badly that I was missing all these opportunities to share these events with my kids. Now that we’ve been doing school for a while (5 years for Emma and 2 for Rose) they understand that Mom and Dad are busy at work and can’t come by just because everyone is gathering in the gym for something.
Yes, it’s a bit sad, and I would love to have the luxury of being that mom who is always at the school, but it’s not realistic for us and I have to accept that. In fact we weren’t even able to make the parent/teacher night that had been scheduled for the fall semester, and we had to connect with the teachers a full week later. But luckily there is some flexibility in everyone’s schedules.
Here’s something that I realized about my “late” days at work. On those days (Monday and Thursday – you can read our weekly schedule here) I get my 30 minute lunch break at 2pm. Five minutes after I finish “lunch” (I usually eat at my 12:00 break time to keep my body on schedule) my kids are dismissed from school. As in that’s the end of their day. And I’m barely halfway through mine. It pretty much blew my mind when I drew that conclusion this past spring. But now that I’ve accepted that fact, I’ve begun scheduling teacher meetings (or whatever is needed) for right after school and just taking a “late” lunch break. It worked out for those parent/teacher interviews I mentioned earlier.
I am very lucky that my boss is quite easy going about scheduling. If I need a day off, I can almost always get it. Sometimes I can switch shifts with co-workers so I don’t leave them in the lurch. And sick days (which are unpaid no matter what) are unlimited for everyone at work. Moving break times around to accommodate appointments usually works out as well. But I still feel guilty when I can’t be at work when I’m supposed to be. Just like I feel guilty when I can’t be with my kids when they’re doing something fun. It’s just a part of my life I have to deal with I guess.
My husband also tries to take some time off once in a while to do field trips or other fun school things as well. He’s gone with Rose on her first field trip this year, and he went on the one similar to what I just did with Emma last year in grade 2. It’s really great that we can share these events sometimes with the girls. It’s also really great that they understand why we can’t always be there. School activities and working parents can really be a challenge for families!
Sometimes I think being there as the mom volunteer takes away from what my kids would normally do on these school trips. Emma always asks me to be her partner – which is fine – but what would she do if I wasn’t there? Who would she partner with? Would she learn something different? When she was younger this was more of a concern for me. Now she goes off with her friends and lets me hang back and just observe (and learn!) So missing out on some of these school activities isn’t so distressing in that regard. I want the girls to have their school life separate from their home life. They need to learn all those important social skills without Mom and Dad always being there.
But having said all that I still wish I could do a better balance of school activities and working parents. Maybe some day my blog will make me a little money and I can work fewer hours outside the home. I’m not convinced that will happen, but it’s nice to think about sometimes!
Do you go on field trips with your kids? Or are you, like me, missing school activities because of work? If I get some great comments and conversation going under this post I might think of making another crowd-sourced post about school activities and working parents. So get your say in now, and know I may quote you in future! (I’ll always ask first.) Better yet, join my mailing list and never miss a post – I’m trying a monthly newsletter with some tidbits and stories that don’t make it onto my blog. Don’t miss out – the sign up box is in my sidebar.