"I hate homework time," says Circle of Moms member Emilie B., who laments that it has become her "second job" to help her first grade son complete his take-home assignments. "I have to sit with my son for hours helping him with his homework, erasing, making him start over, trying to help him figure out the answers without telling him what the answer is. The next day his teacher sends home a note telling me his homework was too sloppy, or he didn't do all of it. I am just so sick of homework. He is only in the first grade. It should not be this hard."
Dawn B. has a slightly different problem with her children's school: she is no good at saying no to the many requests for volunteers. That's why she too says she's feeling the squeeze from her children's school. When she realized recently that her school volunteer work had gotten out of control, this mom of three decided it was time to set some priorities and scale back. "School volunteering has my schedule booked right up. I am finding it hard to attend all of these trips and family days. It seems like they all land on the same day. Now, I have to choose which child I go with, and I feel horrible when I can't be there for each one of their classes."
The experiences of these two Circle of Moms members reflect the rising concerns about excessively high expectations for parental involvement at school that lead to excruciating juggling acts, guilt, and burnout. Baking cookies and attending parent teacher meetings just don't cut it anymore, says Debbi H, who is a class mom and PTA member. "I am in school more than the principal."
Too Much Homework...to Help With
Many Circle of Moms members agree that schools are piling on way too much homework — for parents. But what about the literal kind of homework — the work sheets and other assignments that children bring home and need moms to help them with each night, "for hours on end," as Chelle G. describes it.
"I think homework should be banned," she says. "We mothers have already been to work and now have to endure many, many hours of homework. I think our kids do enough school work at school and when they get home they should be able to relax or play or just hang out with their families. It definitely puts too much stress on the moms and the dads and the kids as well." Tina G. agrees. After a busy day at work, "homework is the worst part of my day."
Adding to the school stress overload, some schools are making parental volunteerism mandatory. At her children's Catholic school, the contract outlines that parents must volunteer 20 hours a year or else pay $300, says Lisa W. "We have to work two bingo nights, buy from the market three [times], and I'm also the treasurer of the [parent organization]," she says. It's the same story for Becki E. who is required to volunteer 50 hours each year.
Some Circle of Moms members say they think the increased pressure for parents to volunteer is driven not just by the shrinking budgets of schools, but by the increasing difficulty of finding parents who can help out. "I think schools are finding it harder to get volunteers these days because we are all so busy, and more parents work now than they used to," says Jodi A.
But some moms point to the upside of all this pressure on parents to become more involved: as Jacqueline F. explains, all those fundraisers, bingo nights, and book fairs strengthen the school community and the bonds between families. "Every day you see parents taking time to visit with each other when bringing their kids to school."
Do you spend more time than you'd like on school-related activities?
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