My six-year-old son Jonah wants to know why I’m not the crossing guard at his school. And he asks me almost every day why I’m not spooning out the hot food in the cafeteria or volunteering in the playground at recess. This, he explains, are the activities the other mommies are doing at his school.
Last week was “Apple Week” in his class and the teacher sent home a note inviting parents to come in and experience apples. This week it’s apparently “Tree Week,” and the same invitation stands.
For the record, I have never missed a “real” activity – a school play, fair or special event. But while I welcome Jonah’s teacher inviting us to school at 11 a.m. on a weekday, it just doesn’t quite work with my schedule, and then because I can’t go, I inevitably feel like a crappy mom.
“We’ll go apple picking this weekend and see lots of trees,” I tell Jonah.
“That’s not the same,” he says. “I want you to come to school.”
Kids want you around. They don’t care if you have a big, important job or are on television or are out there saving the world. Kids want to see their moms in their classrooms and in their kitchens and in the carpool lanes.
“Why don’t all mommies work?” Jonah asks me. “Why do you work?” The questions are straight forward but always feel complicated to answer.
“I work because I like to and because I need to work to buy you clothes and toys,” I say as cheerfully as possible.
“Can’t you just go to the ATM and get some money?” Jonah asks. Smart boy.
About half of the moms my kids know work but our schedules are all different. I am one of the few who works full time, five days a week, in New York City . It’s not that my kids don’t understand that mommies go to work; they just can’t understand why I work so much.
A study – one of a slew that is always done on what women want – recently found that the vast majority of mothers of school age children would prefer to work part time. This is hardly shocking. Flexibility is the Holy Grail for the working mom, something I am determined to achieve. Because then, I might even be able to get to school for “Tree Week.”