I am a working parent. I currently work for myself, writing this blog and articles for various parenting organisations, as well as working in my day job running parent/carer groups local to me. I am lucky in many ways, because I am my own boss to a greater extent, so things like sick leave, holidays, arranging childcare etc, are not as complicated or stressful as they were when I was working as a pediatric nurse in the NHS (don’t even get me started on how un family friendly being an NHS employee was, I don’t know if it has changed at all since I left)
I generally try to work around my children. They are still young enough that a lot of our life revolves around them, in terms of school, after school activities and social events. I try to be at school meetings, parents evenings, help in school when I can, and be there for them, after school, because I can, and we are fortunate that LSH’s employer is very family friendly and he is able to help me when the kids are sick and one of us needs to be home with them, or so I can go on courses or to blogging events.
So, I don’t have that much to whine about, really.
BUT, recently, I have been irritated. Both my children participate in after school activities and hobbies, that they enjoy. One of these is violin lessons. I was sent a note, last week, saying that my child was part of a group of children playing in a concert, after school, in the week, and she would need certain clothes, and would need to be dropped off at the event, and then collected later, or I could stay and watch it if I wanted to.
Unfortunately, said concert clashes with other things that happen on that particular day, the one day in the week when my childcare, work commitments and another activity her brother takes part in, all clash and I have to juggle to manage the day smoothly. I simply cannot be in three places at once, and get her to a concert at the same time, then rush back two hours later to collect her. It’s also late, she finishes at 7pm. The teacher was most huffy when I explained that my day simply just wasn’t going to work, to accommodate the concert that they assumed my child would be able to go to. The implication being that I am some sort of horrible parent because my child can’t attend one concert, on a week night. It was suggested that “you could organise for someone else to take her and collect her, I am sure you could find someone?” but frankly, that’s just as complicated.
Don’t get me wrong, I am keen to encourage her to play her violin, she does enjoy it, she works and practices hard, and most of the time, I am able to facilitate life so she can do the things she likes, this one time, I can’t and I won’t, and I am being made to feel that by being a working parent with other commitments that somehow that’s bad.
She knows we can’t manage the concert, but given that she will be able to play in two others, in the next few months, plus orchestra every week, after school, she’s not exactly missing out. She was a little disappointed at not being able to take part, but seems fine with not being able to go.
I feel resentful, because I feel like people think that parents are simply taxi drivers and social diary managers for their children, and that whilst, to a greater extent we are, of course those things, that our lives simply must revolve round our children 24/7 and when we cannot make an event or attend something or aren’t available to play taxi, we are bad parents or simply aren’t organised enough, or prioritising right. I know there are parents who work much longer hours than me, who don’t have the ability to be available, it must be more frustrating for them. Given that a large percentage of parents work, or have other children or commitments, surely a little grace is allowed, in this day and age?
I used to feel annoyed, too, when her brother was smaller, and things were organised that were impractical for me to attend because juggling the needs of a small baby and trying to get your child to an activity or be at a meeting or event can also be complicated.
Am I alone? Am I being unreasonable?