It might not seem like there could be anything wrong with inviting parents to their child’s classroom for a few hours to experience the student’s life. Children get to show their parents what their days look like (class, snack, recess, etc.), and parents get a glimpse into the place where their child spends most of their waking hours, Monday to Friday.

But stop and think for a second what that means, to be at the school for a few hours on a weekday with the child. Do you see what I’m referring to? It’s next to impossible for a working parent (even one who works from home, like I do) to simply not be working for 3 hours on a Wednesday.

In all likelihood, they already make time for musical shows, performances, class presentations, book fairs, parent-teacher nights, etc. And those are usually not 3 hours long. Some of them even happen after the typical 9 to 5 workday.

So who is showing up to these events?

Yes, there will be some who work night shifts and are therefore available during the day, or who have that day off. Others may work jobs with flexible hours, like a realtor or therapist.

By and large, though, it will be the parents who don’t work (typically their partner works and somehow supports the family on their single income), or who do something on the side that doesn’t require a time commitment during any particular hours.

I don’t mean to disparage parents who do the type of work that doesn’t have set hours, but it does seem to create a sort of ironic paradigm: the parents who are working hard to support their family end up looking like the ones who don’t care enough to be present.

Yes, the children of those parents probably understand why they can’t take that many hours off, but that doesn’t make it any less painful when so-and-so’s mom (let’s be honest, it’s almost always going to be the mom) is always there for these events.

There’s probably also a subtle “oh, both of your parents have to work so you can guys can live…they must not make as much money as my one working parent.” feeling in the air.

Not quite the Greasers vs the Socials* but…

I fear that it sets kids up into two separate groups: those who can afford to have one parent not work a full-time job and those who have two working parents (or a single parent who works, therefore leaving nobody else to attend these events). It may not even be something that kids can verbalize.

And yes, there are all sorts of self-employment types of jobs out there that offer more flexibility. If you’re a freelancer or a creative person who deals with clients, then maybe taking a few hours on a weekday morning isn’t a big deal. But it’s safe to assume that the parents who absolutely can’t make it are a pretty damn good role model for their child, demonstrating what it is to work hard.

It just feels to me like it starts to create a group of parents who take charge of events, organizing them, showing up, and being the faces of the school/classroom, and then there’s everybody else.

Do kids feel it, even though they can’t put it into words?

And at a certain age, I wonder if that doesn’t create a sense of “well, my parent is super involved and is clearly more invested in my life and education than yours.” And then maybe it leads to statements like:

  • Can’t at least one of your parents make it?
  • Do you even have two parents?
  • Don’t they care about seeing what your day looks like?
  • I can’t imagine my mom just not showing up!

And so forth. Maybe I’m reading into it too much, but I think there’s a consideration to be made. The ones who can’t show up might be the hardest working and most respectable parents, who, ironically, are being considered to be neglectful or uninterested.

Of course, the parents who can show up can also be those things, but they aren’t necessarily that just because they’re available during the day.


Footnotes

  • That was a reference to S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, for anyone who isn’t familiar.