Have you ever gotten a notice from school asking for volunteers for an in-class activity—at 11:00 am—and thought: how can I ever be the one to be there? As the pressure on children, and parents, mounts throughout the education years, many working moms of school-aged children wind up harboring a lovely panoply of angst, frustration and self-doubt over how they can possibly participate to the satisfaction of their school, their children… and themselves. (Sound familiar)?


For perspective on how this issue plays out for working mothers around the country— and to understand how accommodating working moms perceive the schools to be to their needs—here are some of the more intriguing highlights of an Executive Moms survey on the subject:

If working moms were giving schools a report card, it would say: “Making strides, but room for improvement.”

The good news- 64% believe schools are somewhat, if not very, responsive to their needs.

However, a dramatic 92% believe there are challenges to being a working mother when it comes to your children’s schooling. The biggest issues:

  • 64% say you don’t get to participate in field trips and special activities as much as you would like
  • 55% of you worry you don’t have as much knowledge about what’s happening in the classroom

Of particular concern is that, as working mothers, you may be treated differently by the schools. The top 3 related concerns:

  1. Fear that other children may get extra attention or preferential treatment from teachers (62%)
  2. Feeling that it is harder to determine firsthand what is going on in the classroom and how your child is doing within it (60%)
  3. Fear you won’t be deemed an “involved” parent by school administration (45%)

However, not so surprisingly, working moms appear to be hardest on ourselves.

When asked from whom you feel the most pressure to be more involved with school, the #1 answer by far was “myself” (75%). (Incidentally, spouses held up well on this one– only 4% of you felt the most pressure from them).

The vote on the single biggest improvement schools could effect to better address the needs of working mothers? More communication— especially advance communication– about the classroom, via notes or even email.

With that in mind, there are some practical ways to enable you to be (or be like) a class mom from the office (and to help your kids’ school help you):

Seek to create a “Wizard of Oz” phenomenon—meaning project yourself as more available than you are:

    • If you can, spend an hour in the class, early in the year:? Find one morning when you can arrive late to work and spend an hour volunteering in the classroom (class rules permitting). This way you can absorb the dynamic between the kids, observe interactions with the teacher, and put faces to the names you’ve been hearing about.
    • Build a teacher bond: Send in a note to the teacher early on telling her/him that you’re always quickly accessible to touch base via email, work phone, or cell phone during the day.
    • Let teachers?know you can still support them: Teachers appreciate all the help they can get- so let them know that you’re available to help, even if in less traditional ways. Offer up your talents — whether sharing what you do at work, or creating posters/flyers/handouts after hours.
    • Do “homework” together: As your child plows through the night’s homework, do your own “homework” right alongside him, whether it’s catching up on emails, or even balancing your checkbook. It shows you’re available for helping out … and homework time becomes a shared ritual.

Apply your management skills to effective school communication, and involvement:

  • Plan Ahead: Develop a school-year strategy that includes contact information, carpool arrangements, after school activities, and an emergency plan. Share it with your childcare provider, the teacher … and keep a copy at the office.
  • Get the Most Out of Parent/Teacher Conferences:? Do your own homework first and make that one parent/teacher conference both productive and efficient. Come prepared with a list of your questions, and help decode their answers by being familiar with key education-speak. Scholastic.com has a “Teacher Translator” glossary that offers simple definitions and explanations of what are often complex educational issues.
  • Integrate your executive and mom lives, on- line: Since you are likely online 24/7 (or close), encourage your child’s teacher to be web savvy too.

At least you’ll get an A for effort.