Parenting? I Know ALL About It!

I’ve never been married (or given birth) but from what I understand, you’re not supposed to badmouth your spouse in front of your kids.

Parents arguing in front of kids

Bad parenting. Bad, bad parenting.

For this reason, when my preschoolers turned to me to ask, “Miss Kat, you’re not coming on our field trip?” I couldn’t tell them the truth.  I couldn’t tell them that I wanted to come, that indeed I had planned to come and even knew exactly what I’d purchase from the gift shop on my way out because the truth would have made have made my supervisor look bad.  And, as I’ve just said, you’re not supposed to badmouth your spouse (or your supervisor) in front of your kids.

The non-profit for which I teach creative movement five mornings a week is, like most non-profits, experiencing the ill-effects of the country’s economic disparity.  As such, my fellow teaching artists and I were informed last Wednesday that we were “welcome” to come on Friday’s field trip but that there was “no money” for it.

“No money?” I asked.  “What do you mean?  We won’t be getting paid?”

This sort of thing happens all the time so it wasn’t so much an objection on my part as it was a request for clarification.

“No… Well, I don’t know actually,” my supervisor replied.  “I’ll have to look into that.  What I meant is that there is no money to pay for your admission.  So if you want to come, you’ll have to pay for yourself.”

Now don’t get me wrong: I put in all sorts of extra hours without compensation all the time because I love what I do and I love my kids.  I’m constantly on the lookout for new music, new books, new costumes, new stickers, new prizes and new gender-neutral, ethnically diverse décor for the dance studio.  Even my mother has taken to calling me when she’s out to ask, “I’m at the bookstore/Dollar Store/ Target.  Do you think your kids would like Valentine’s Day tattoos/wooden nutcrackers/glow in the dark bracelets and if so, how many do you need?”

But this?  Basically I would have to pay to come into work on Friday, and might not get paid for the privilege of doing so.

This was worse than usual.  In fact, this was too much, especially when you factor in how long it takes me to get to work.  So I made other plans.  But what can you say when your kids are looking up at you with those hopeful little eyes, wanting to know why you’re not coming on their field trip?

I felt like the worst teacher in the world.  I wanted to tell them that it wasn’t my fault—that I have no control over the budget—but I didn’t, because marriages fail when partners aren’t on the same page and I’m pretty sure that working relationships aren’t all that different.

“You guys are gonna have so much fun!” I replied, dodging the question and doling out even more stickers than usual.  “I’ll see you on Monday!”

Granted, it would have been way more fun to badmouth my supervisor (My Name is Earl has done wonders for my repertoire of trailer trash insults) but that would have been bad parenting.  And I’m more mature than that.

8 Responses to “Parenting? I Know ALL About It!”

  1. Zak

    Dodging the question is acceptable, in my opinion, considering their attention span isn’t going to last the whole explanation anyway. Another alternative would be to tell them you want to, but have other plans (the plans that involve you not coming in) and if they ask what those plans are, you can tell them you’re working on some new projects for them or something.

    I agree you should be on the same page with your supervisors – even if you disagree. Hopefully she realizes you want to come along.

  2. jennywintersconsulting

    Yeah, Kat, that sucks. I taught afternoon school for 21 years and just stopped last March. For much the same reasons. However, I miss it a lot and am thinking about going back. Those little faces make it all worth it, and I’m not a parent either. If I were you I’d go anyway, just to make the little guys happy. That’s what I would do, if I could do things like that over.

  3. chauffeur

    Jenny, I am sure you were / are great at what you did /do. But I gotta back Kat 110% on this one.
    No one enters teaching with out loving it and caring for the kids…. but no teacher should be asked to do it for nothing and then to pay their own way to make it happen. Her supervisor should have gone to bat for her and the other teaching artists, but did not. She regularly does so much for no pay for the reasons she stated in her blog, but one must draw the line. Perhaps the supervisors will realize that she and the other teaching artists deserve more consideration than they presently receive. The children likely would have a better experience with Miss Kat there…. maybe the supervisors need to see that themselves.

  4. readitwrite

    I know the feeling. A couple years ago I was hired to fill a part time position at an elementary school. When I was hired, I was informed that it was a strong possibilty that it would only be a one year employment. I took the job anyway and I prayed that something would happen to keep me there. I absolutely loved my job, the school, the kids, and the staff. When the day came that I knew I was going to be asked to leave due to budgets, I had to tell my students. I don’t believe in lying to students, but I do believe in protecting them from outside activities they do not need to worry about. So, I told the kids that I would not be back the following year. I wanted them to be prepared for a new face. As soon as I told them, some had tears and many had questions – a lot of the questions I couldn’t answer because they wanting to know exactly why I was leaving. Like your situation, it would have been so easy to tell them the truth, but then that would look bad for me, the school, the district, and the principal . . . not a good way to end wonderful year. Although it has been 2 years since, I still see the same kids on occassion and it still aches to hear the question, “Why did you have to leave?” or better yet hear, “You left us!” I miss that school and the students and staff everyday, but I know that in order to be the adult it is best to take the high road and not throw people/places under the bus. Kudos to you for your response.

  5. Landlord

    I agree, it is sad when administrators miss the boat by either not communicating effectively with their staff, waste resources on unworthy studies, projects, etc. miss opportunities to learn from their staff and lose their best and brightest this way.

  6. Philly Tap Teaser

    Corporate jobs work much the same way. My salary is guaranteed, I guess, but it hardly covers the neverending work I do to keep people happy. I am always answering emails, all the time, all hours of the night. When I travel, I work 18 hour days. Employers absolutely train us to do more for free because, in this current climate, we’re supposed to be grateful just to have a job. If you don’t like it, there are people lined up to take your place.

  7. Lost in France

    We have to make tough calls, all of the time. I think in this case you made the right one.
    Sadly even though the organisation you work for is a Not for Profit set up, that does not translate to you doing it Not for pay.
    Had you given you time and had to pay for your own trip, that might have set a dangerous precedent for future trips.
    As PTT says you find the same thing in the corporate world. For example while working offshore, my basic shift is a 12 hour one, then you need at least an hour to hand over to the next person. My basic pay is based on 8 hours a day, but they only give me a 10% increase for these shifts. And in fact I am here on a 24 hour basis with no escape.

  8. laneblackmer

    Wow, that sucks. I feel like I should discuss the terms of my employment in a blog…and then we can just compile all the crappy experiences in one huge economy loathing blog. But hey I wanted to say thanks for the comment. I love your blog too! I’ll have to add it to my list. But I really liked this one and wanted to comment on it 😉 Also, since you LOVE Philly too, maybe you’ll be interested in giving the social media experiment I just posted a try! I’m lookin’ for some Philadelphia expertise!


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