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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Math Geek Mom: On Trying to Bifurcate
September 15, 2011 - 7:56pm

The term "bifurcate" means to divide into two, to have the main body of something divide into two parts. I assume that being able to so this would allow one to, in essence, be in two places at once. I have been thinking of this term often in these last few weeks, as school started up again for me and for my daughter. It seems that I am constantly finding reasons why it would be good for me to be able to bifurcate.

When my daughter changed schools last year, I decided I wanted to be one of those parents who are very involved in their children’s education. I wanted to be a chaperone on field trips, to volunteer for special days, and to be a member of the Parent Teacher organization. Even with a somewhat flexible schedule, I found that this, unfortunately, proved to be more difficult than I imagined.

Much of the "volunteer" culture at her school operates on the assumption that some parents do not have responsibilities during the day that cannot be quickly changed. Therefore, the opportunities to volunteer often occur during the day. There were plenty of opportunities to volunteer for lunch duty and to help in the library, but the times these opportunities arise usually conflict with my own teaching and work schedule. The most difficult conflict comes from the Parent Teacher organization, which holds its meetings at 3PM on weekdays. It is occasionally possible for me to make these (such as during our spring break week), but I usually can’t.

At my daughter’s school, anyone who spends any time near the children is considered a "volunteer," and must attend a volunteer orientation. Hoping to be able to chaperone field trips, I went to the required volunteer orientation. My daughter knew that I went to this, and was excited that I would now be one of the volunteers. What she didn’t really understand, however, was that these occasions would happen only sporadically. The first week of class, she came home disappointed that I was not a lunch mom, as she had assumed that I would be volunteering as one. I had to explain to her that my own work conflicted with lunch time, and that hoped to do other things with her and her classmates, other than watching them in the cafeteria.

This month, the Parent Teacher group is holding an extra meeting. In addition to holding one in the day, they are also holding one that meets in the evening. I plan on going to that extra one, because I want to become involved in their group, but also because I see it as a way of letting it be known that there are people who want to be involved who can’t always make it to the school during the day. I am hoping enough other parents do the same that the reality of parents who have work commitments during the day begins to sink in.

So, fellow parents, how do you handle the issue of needing to bifurcate? How do you find ways to be involved in your child’s school when events occur during times that you work? And if you don’t, how do you explain this to your child? And better yet, do you find ways to use your specialized skills to help your child’s school in ways that perhaps have not been previously explored?


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