It was Monday morning at 9 am, and I wasn’t going to the class meeting that started in 15 minutes at my son’s school. I had to work and although my schedule is flexible, I had a lot to do after the weekend. As I was walking out the back gate one of the other mums yelled after me, “Aren’t you going to go to the meeting?” I politely told her I couldn’t make it. “I have to work,” I said. She rolled her eyes and said, “Maybe if people like you would come to more meetings, people like me wouldn’t have to do all the work.” I smiled, ignored her comment, got into my car, drove off, and went on with my day.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about her comment all day. In fact, it totally wound me up.
See, when I signed my kids up for school there was nothing that said that each parent must also be a class parent, canteen server, or P+C member. I agreed to pay my children’s tuition, be nice to other parents and kids, and to pick up my kids on time. I did not sign myself up to be an indentured servant who would double as an unpaid party planner. I don’t want to have to hire babysitters so I can go to a P+C meeting or school event. And here’s the thing: I think that if a school can’t internally support all the events it has scheduled, it shouldn’t have so many events.
My job has never been busier and I need every single moment of time my kids are in school to finish my work. But, even if I were sitting home all day catching up on “Game Of Thrones,” I’m not sure why I (or any other parent, for that matter) should have to defend my choice not to volunteer at my child’s school.
Of course, since I’ve admitted I’m not on any committees, I’ve become back gate roadkill. Certain mums who do volunteer have told me that I’m not doing my part. The implication is that I’m letting everyone down. Whether a mum works or doesn’t, there’s an unwritten expectation that she’s also supposed to supplement the school’s staff by volunteering for hours on end. There’s never a time when a dad misses a meeting at his child’s school and he’s questioned or told he’s not doing his part. The assumption is that dads are going to work and that mums not only have all day to volunteer, but also want to.
If you’re a volunteer mum or dad, that’s amazing. Good for you for finding fulfillment in supporting the school. But, please don’t judge me (or anyone else) for not volunteering in the classroom. I don’t want to spend hours on end listening to other people’s kids read or packing other people’s kids’ lunches. I don’t want to attend a meeting to listen to 37 other parent’s ideas, only to discover that none are actually viable. And I don’t want to be treated like I’ve got a scarlet letter written on my yoga pants because I don’t want to spend the time my kids are in school at their school!