You know what my favorite thing about summer is?
The dramatic reduction in working mom guilt.
I mean, OK, I still feel bad because my kids spend their summer at daycare programs instead of running the neighborhood with their friends. And, yes, I wish I had more time to take them to the pool and the beach and on family vacations. But with the help of family, friends, camps and weekends, my kids get plenty of fun and relaxation in between June and August.
But school is just around the corner now (and has started for many of you), and it’s only a matter of time before I’m once again asking myself, “am I the only mom who works?!?”
You know the drill. The letters asking if you’d like to volunteer to be a chaperone for this year’s field trips. The PTA meetings and parent-teacher conferences held at 2 in the afternoon. The requests for two dozen cookies sent home the night before two dozen cookies are needed.
And when I say “I have to work”, I feel like what’s heard is “I care more about my job than my children.”
Of course, that’s not true. In fact, most of the women I know who work do so, in part, because of all the things they want to provide for their children. Things like food and shelter, for example.
Moving away from a small town where I knew everyone helped to assauge a lot of the guilt I felt about not being able to be the Home Room Mom (whatever that is). It’s a lot easier to focus on the realities of what’s important to your family when you don’t know the people you imagine to be juding you. Once I got the Guilt Over Things I Am Probably Making Up In My Head out of the way, it became a lot easier to focus on realistic ways that I, as a mother who works full time, can be involved in my children’s education.
I can’t take off work all the time to volunteer in the classroom or chaperone a field trip. I can, however, donate extra supplies to the classroom. I try to ask the teacher during the Meet The Teacher Day (held at 1:00 in the afternoon, by the way) what kinds of things are needed for the class that I can help out with.
I can’t attend a PTA meeting in the middle of the day. But I can host slumber parties and birthday parties that give me an opportunity to meet my children’s classmates and their parents.
But getting involved is more than that. It’s more important for me to be involved with my kids than anything.
I can sit down and have dinner with them every night.
I can go through their homework and ask questions about what they’re doing in school. Constantly.
I can make a point to know the names of their friends, classmates and teachers.
I can asked pointed questions about the good and bad things that happened to them during the day in order to illicit a response deeper than “fine”.
And I can, on occassion, take a day or an afternoon off for special events at school. Like taking my son to meet his teacher and see his new classroom for the very first time.
How do you stay involved with your kids’ education while holding down a full time job?