All over America, kids are heading back to school (for the first time that includes my oldest who is off to first grade — I home-schooled for kindergarten.) Now, according to the just-out edition of the popular "Working Mother" magazine, "schools are demanding a lot from parents these days," too. They are supposed to " . . . communicate with teachers, pitch in around the classroom, raise funds to pay for extras (or, in some schools, bare essentials), help kids with homework, and show up for a vast array of school events."
Gee, what a shocker.
"Exclusive Survey: How Schools Fail Working Parents" was the grabber headline on the magazine's cover. The article itself suggests that things used to be so much simpler — and better. One working mother reveals that years ago, when she dropped her first son off at school, "the teachers would meet me at the door and say, 'All right, we'll take it from here.' " Now, with her second son entering sixth grade, she bemoans this new and changed world of expectations for parents (read: moms).
But what changed world is she talking about? When I was in elementary school, my mother did all those things, and then some. All our moms did. It was their way of being connected with us, our schools and our school years. I wasn't always thrilled about having my mother chaperone class field-trips, since it meant I had to be extra well-behaved.
But chaperone and bake and host booths at fund-raising carnivals and come to class events and meet with teachers and help me with homework and projects, she did. (Dad was there when he could be.)
And this was no mother with idle hands. At the same time that I, the youngest of her five, started school, she went back to college and within a few years finished her bachelor's and received her master's degree. And to my mom, "household help" meant only that we kids responsibly did our chores.
Still, she always found a way to put her children first. So, today's high-powered working moms are irritated that schools dare ask them to attend a class play or a parent-teacher meeting during business hours? As Joan Rivers would say, "Oh Pleeeease."
What's changed, of course, is not so much the schools, but the "typical" career-mom as featured in "Working Mother" magazine. (Hardly, it seems, the struggling mother who has to work full-time to put food on her table, who I'd guess is probably the last to complain about helping out at school when she can.)
These are moms whose big concern, according to the "Working Mother" survey, is that "getting to school events is often a lose-lose choice between blowing off clients and disappointing your child," as the magazine put it. "Working Mother" highlights the apparently typical view of a woman who "rails against the stay-at-home moms who can easily make it to daytime school events while she rushes over from work, having postponed a business meeting."
(No wonder I know some stay-at-home moms who feel inundated by school requests, too — they are becoming part of a small, overstretched pool of helping hands.)
A majority of "Working Mother" readers want their schools to schedule "events and meetings for evenings, early morning and weekends." Easy for them to say, but what about the family life of teachers who, I bet, are often paid less than these hard-charging "Working Mother" moms? Don't they have children and families they'd like to spend time with during those hours? After all, many teachers are themselves moms who have sacrificed their own financial aspirations to have more time to spend with their families.
Kids are not a hobby, though they are so often treated as such by parents today, nor is their education some unimportant activity parents need not bother with. It seems to me if a mother puts her clients and her children on the same footing, then she is failing both. (And, yes, I think dad gets a bit more slack here because — audible gasp — one of the ways a responsible father shows he cares for his family is to provide for it.)
"Working Mother" went on to suggest ways moms can help out a child's school while virtually never having to step foot in it or find her child homework help online, instead of helping with it herself at the kitchen table.
You know, it's been a long time since my dear departed mom helped pour juice during elementary school class parties. But I sure bet she wouldn't think these mothers have come very far.
Betsy Hart is a regular guest on ABC's "Politically Incorrect" show and a frequent commentator on the FOX News Channel. E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.