February 26 is Tell a Fairy Tale Day, so I'm going to share one with you. Once upon a time, there was a perfect mother. She loved days her children didn't have to go to school because of holidays, teacher training days and parent-teacher conference days. But most of all, she loved those unexpected days off due to snow or very cold weather. She and her children frolicked at home, doing all manner of creative activities. And her family lived happily ever after.
But wait. That may describe one type of parent, but to most, it is simply a fairy tale. While these parents love their children very much, days off of school can be more of a nightmare than a fairy tale.
I wrote a post recently lamenting the disrupted school calendar in my community. Between the cold and snow, the children lost four days of school. Add that to the planned school holidays, conference days and half days due to teacher training, and that's a pretty choppy attendance schedule. In fact, in the seven weeks since returning from winter vacation, there has only been one five-day week.
I know some folks out there love these days off of school. They are all over Facebook writing about what they baked, which board games they played and how their kids staged plays or built snowmen. One such parent wrote to me complaining that it was "wrong" for me to blog that I thought kids needed to be in school more. She suggested that school could be boring and uncreative, and I don't disagree. But here's where we part ways.
The implied message was that parents who were upset about the inconsistent attendance this winter wanted to be rid of their kids and hated the notion of being home with them. These parents simply did not love their children or cherish their creativity and free exploration as much as she did. And that really misses the point.
In a way, this has become the newest version of the Mommy Wars. Social media provides parents with new ways to continue judging one another, and Mom-shaming is still an art form. So, to parents who post glowing reports of frolicking with their kids on these non-attendance days, please consider this:
Almost 70% of mothers with children under age 18 are employed outside of the home. Chances are, their employers do not care about snow days or half-days of school or school holidays. If these mothers can't go to work, most of them don't get paid. If they miss work too often to stay home with their children, they risk losing a job that is providing for their children. These mothers love their children as much as you, but staying home is not a choice for them.
Mothers of the 8.4% of public school who children have special needs are often not able to engage them in fantasy play, cooking or art projects. Their children thrive on consistency. Chances are they are so thrown off by the inconsistency of school attendance that they are more likely to be having tantrums, banging their head or destroying their toys than engaging in fun family time. Boredom does not lead to creativity for these children. These mothers love their children as much as you, but staying home on non-attendance days makes their children confused and unhappy.
More than half of all children in public school come from low-income families and qualify for free or reduced cost lunches. Some schools also provide breakfast or even dinner. That means when these children go to school, they will not go hungry. Kids living in poverty depend on school for safety, stability, and survival. These mothers love their children as much as you, but they need school to be open to make sure their kids have enough to eat.
If you are condemning other parents for not being as excited as you are to have a fun-filled day off of school, please stop. Unless you have walked the proverbial mile in someone else's shoes, you have no idea. By all means, enjoy the time at home with your children. Those who see your pictures and read about the great time you are having with your kids are genuinely happy for you. Just don't judge parents whose lives don't match the fairy tale version of being home with their kids on these school non-attendance days as being less loving than you.