Last night I banged out a post that has been flickering around my consciousness for YEARS. I always wanted to write it, I just didn’t quite know where to start. I wanted to get it right. I wanted to encompass everything it is to be a woman today and struggling with the crazy concept of ‘having it all’. In the end I just wrote the bloody thing and it took me half an hour tops. The support and love and understanding that came from that post has made me believe that this is not actually about me. It’s time for society to work just as hard as mums and make the necessary changes to rise to meet the modern woman. Hello, Society, pleased to meet you, I’m Exhausted.
Have you noticed that even though a woman’s life has changed astronomically since the 60s, not much else in society has? Office hours are the same, the set up for childcare (preschools in particular) is the same, a man’s role is the same (I just want to explode all over the computer about that so haven’t said a word) and, here we go, schools are the same.
Yesterday, I got slightly carried away talking about how much I love volunteering at my kids’ school, but as I was typing, my brain was going, “hang on a minute, WTAF?” I’m perpetuating a dire situation. See, school life has not changed for decades. It’s still 1966 at our local school and I reckon it’s the same at your school too.
It’s not that our school hasn’t moved with modern times in a technological and pedagogical sense. It has to a degree (but not enough, in my opinion. Despite having iPods and laptops for classrooms and smart boards that appear to do all the thinking, it beggars belief that a school still has a ‘computer room’ in 2016, but I know that some schools don’t even have that.) We’ve also got a thoroughly modern working-mum school principal and teachers who do women everywhere proud. No, where things haven’t changed one jot is this: mum time.
As far as I can see, a typical 2016 school still demands the same amount of time from its ‘parents’ (read, mothers) as a 1966 school. Someone forgot to tell the school system that hello, mums go out to work. Lots and lots and lots of women go out to work. Can you even believe it?
They can’t believe it. There’s the P+C to run, the tuckshop to staff, the reading groups to listen to, maths groups to flub through, the fundraisers to organise and the sports carnivals to time keep. The uniform shop needs mums, as does the library book drive, the school fair, the dinner-dance, the stalls, the working bee, the book club and the movie night. Someone has to accompany the school excursions and someone else, but, let’s face it, probably the same person, is needed overnight at band camp.
It’s pretty clear that schools can only function when parents get involved. I know this, it’s one of the reasons why I volunteer time I don’t have. If it’s still 1966 at school, I think it’s my duty to be 1966 mum and make myself available. Nobody else has any more time than I do and that’s a fact.
But volunteering is only half of it, because there are so many other insidious ways that schools suck up a modern mum’s time. Think about all the open days, assemblies, awards nights, performances and parent-teacher meetings. Every single one of them (except perhaps the awards night and a few performances) are on during school hours. Which makes sense for the kids, but life very hard for working parents. And let’s not even talk about the fact that school hours are still 9 – 3 pm – a start and finish time that is more difficult to manage with a 9-5 pm job I can’t imagine.
Then there is the homework situation. Home it comes each week in the same way it’s been coming home for decades. Despite being shown to have no actual impact on a child’s education and despite the structure of family life having fundamentally changed during every single one of those decades.
Max, who is in Year 6 and, yes, Mrs B, absolutely capable of managing his own homework schedule but doesn’t, fights homework like most of us fight sleep. Homework is an ongoing war in my house and one I know is being raged in houses up and down the street. It’s a battle that saps every last piece of emotional energy I’ve got left over after a long work day and it’s a fight I know I’ll never win. So why does the homework keep coming home? (And please don’t write to me to tell me about your kid who thrives on homework because I am very happy for both yourself and your kid but just no.)
One last thing before I go back into my dark corner: mufti days. I freaking hate them. The only reason we manage to keep things tenuously together is because our kids wear a school uniform. When the mufti day note comes home with a request to wear orange, yellow, green, pyjamas, olden-day, crazy hair, sports gear or anything other than the school uniform, I sob a little inside. Because here, right in front of me, I’m holding the straw. Extra stuff to think about, extra stuff to do and who wears orange clothes anyway? You don’t need to wear orange clothes. I know it says orange on the note but I’m sure the teachers were just thinking “if you have orange clothes”, which you don’t. I’m pretty sure everyone else does not have random orange clothes they’ll be wearing tomorrow. As if parents are going to buy orange clothes just for the orange clothes mufti day. I’ll ring Beryl and see if her girls are wearing orange clothes and you’ll soon see that orange clothes are optional. Okay, just spoke to Beryl – any ideas where can I buy orange clothes at 8.45 pm on a Tuesday night?
Thank god the shopping centres don’t also think it’s 1966.
Do you agree that the school system is NOT HELPING?