Written by a Working Mom in Wisconsin
When my oldest child skipped her way through art covered hallways on her 1st day of Kindergarten last year, I was the one with “Back to School Jitters”. I watched the other moms carefully assess me, smile blankly, and return to their conversations with other parents they already knew. I noted a feeling of being “different” – there weren’t many moms in heels and pencil skirts – and quickly rushed out of the building to work.
That night the pile of classroom volunteer sheets came home. I was so excited to be a part of the classroom and my daughter’s education! I rifled through the first sheet:
I could do recess duty…
No, recess is during work hours
I could volunteer as a classroom reader…
No, that conflicts with our staff meeting
I could chaperone the field trip…
No, I will be traveling
I wanted to cry.
As the weeks passed, the ever-growing circle of mommies gathered at morning drop off continued to acknowledge me with a quick “hello” and return to their conversations. I felt the divide between “me” and “them” growing each day.
They were the “other mommies” that the teacher clearly loved for their constant assistance, and they knew each other from volunteering. My daughter began asking when I would be reading to the class like her friends’ mommies did, and my heart sunk.
Tips for Working Moms
I confessed my crisis to some women at work. After a few words of empathy, they reminded me I wasn’t the pioneer of this “wild west” and that I could play a role in my daughter’s education; it just might look different. Here are a few tips that helped me – I hope they will help you too:
If you have the opportunity to drop your child off or pick them up, make this your special time to pray together. Make sure you pray for the school and God’s guidance as you navigate this school year. Prayer is a powerful contribution to your child’s life and the school.
- School Day Debrief
A few questions can prompt an opportunity to understand how things are going at school. If your child doesn’t want to talk, don’t hesitate to ask the teacher for a periodic letter to help you start a conversation. Use this time to reinforce your child’s character by giving recognition for times they shared, showed kindness or listened.
- Sign me up…Please!
Ask the teacher if there are any opportunities that are more flexible to be a part of the classroom. I was incredibly excited to find out that I could assist – just more on a project by project basis than as a regular volunteer. My daughter was so proud that mommy was able to come to school, and I loved seeing the class in action. If this isn’t an option, ask your teacher about “Take Home Work”. Teacher’s love assistance and you can easily cut out bulletin board pieces when your children are tucked in bed.
- Sign up to Bring the Classroom Party Treat
I love the kitchen, but sometimes I need to balance time in the kitchen during my precious hours with my family at night with my desire to provide the latest and greatest Pinterest treat for the classroom. Do not underestimate the cookies from the bakery section! If you are determined to make them yourself, give the kids a good scrub in the sink and let them help out! Those treats may not be as beautiful, but your child will love the time with you and will be proud to tell their friends that they helped.
Destroying the Divide
About mid school year, I realized that feeling like I was different from the other moms was a bit juvenile. Since I didn’t spend as much time in the classroom or have the ability to stick around at drop off time, I needed to develop these relationships more deliberately.
I started a conversation with the other mothers by asking about their children (a compliment about their child is also a great way to break the ice). Once I began to build relationships with the other mothers, I quickly realized how valuable these relationships were. Some of us were “new to school moms”, some “veterans”, some worked inside the home, some outside, but we all had so much to gain by supporting each other.
This year my “Back-To-School” jitters are replaced with confidence that I will play an important role in my daughter’s education, and I have recommitted myself to supporting all the other moms that pass me in those art covered hallways.