I do my best to have a good relationship with my kids' teachers. As a teacher and a parent, I understand how difficult both roles can be. Neither one is highly respected, or as respected as much as it should be. So, when preschool teachers ask questions that make moms feel guilty, I understand that, almost always, it's not intentional. I understand that a teacher may not have meant to offend the mother, and that the mother may be upset over something that seems insignificant to almost everyone else. However, as an educator, I am very mindful about how mothers are treated in this society and try to approach them with kindness, understanding, and without judgement.
I know that when my son's preschool teachers asks me questions, she isn't trying to be offensive on purpose. I know she doesn't understand how I parent and why I chose to parent the way I do. Many people don't understand, nor want to understand, why I am so liberal and progressive with my parenting. And hey, I'm fine with all of that. I can handle a little bit of low-key criticism without having my feelings hurt. However, not everyone is like me and not everyone can or should be able to handle those potentially painful moments when someone makes them feel guilty over things they have no control over.
Mothers in our society are already walking around with giant chips of guilt permanently attached to their shoulders. They carry the guilt, and the heavy burden that comes with it, day in and day out like a badge of dishonor. They do this partly because they have been told that everything they do is obviously wrong, and partly because of the unrealistic expectations of perfection they have created due to what they see it the media and hear from other "well-meaning" people. So managing your expectations and being open, honest, and forward about how others make you feel, is a great way to navigate that guilt and unload some of that burden. With that in mind, here are some questions preschool teachers ask that can make a mom feel culpable, even when you're not.
"Can You Come To The Recital?"
I seriously want to cry when the teachers ask me if I can attend an event at my son's preschool. I mean, who wouldn't want to see their kids perform, or play, or read? I don't know many parents who wouldn't be interested in that sort of thing. But, I do know many parents who work full-time jobs and, as a result, cannot just take days off whenever there's a school play. So, thanks for the guilt trip, dear teacher, but no, I cannot come, because I'm a mother who works outside of the home and I can't take off every time you decide to have an event during regular business hours.
"Do You Not Feed Her At Home?"
When my daughter was in preschool (and even now, really) it was almost impossible to get her to eat. She didn't like anything and turned her nose up at everything. Not only did she hardly eat, but she was always very skinny, so my Jewish-mom guilt was already at max capacity. It didn't help, however, when her teachers joked and said, "Oh my, do you not feed her at home?" That question isn't at all funny, and all it does is makes the parents feel worse.
"Have You Tried [Insert Unsolicited Advice Here]?"
It usually comes in a form of unsolicited advice from a well-meaning teacher, and it typically goes something like: "Have you considered using flashcards to get your child to learn his numbers?" The thing about unsolicited advice, though, is that no one ever likes it and it's very likely that the parent in question has already tried whatever the advice is. Spoiler alert: it didn't work. Because if whatever it was actually worked, you wouldn't be having this conversation to begin with.
"Have You Considered Discipline?"
I haven't actually heard this one, but my friend gets this question pretty often in regards to her son. Her son is a lively little boy, who has trouble sitting still, like any typical 3-year-old child. But because he doesn't always cooperate with the teachers, the teachers have actually asked my friend if she has tried disciplining him. They've alluded to the fact that my friend does not set any boundaries for her son and she jut lets him do whatever he wants. And while she has literally tried everything to get her son to behave, even if she was a totally hands-off, "I-don't-believe-in-discipline" type of parent, that would be her prerogative and not for anyone to question.
"Is He Still Wearing A Diaper?"
Actually, he is still wearing a diaper, but why do you ask? Why does our society set arbitrary ages for when a child must be potty trained, or when a mom should stop breastfeeding, for when a kid must drop the bottle? Why isn't our society OK with letting mothers and their children decide what works for them and their families, especially in terms of timing? Just because someone does something by a certain time, doesn't mean everyone has to follow suit.
"How Does Your Family Situation Affect Your Child?"
One evening, my friend, a single mother, called me in tears. Her son's preschool called her in for a conference because her son pinched another boy. They were both 3. One of the questions they asked my dear friend was, "Do you think your divorce is causing issues for your son?" I mean, why? Why would you ask that? Why would you ask a single mother if her divorce is the reason her son pinched another boy? How are you helping?
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