Saturday, May 5, 2012

LONG RANT: Really? Am I that selfish? Sigh. Yep.
I can sum up this post in two words:

I suck.

First, I am having a problem with my emotions not agreeing to be OK with the decisions made by my executive functions.

Saturday was my day off for years. But this spring my daughter is doing soccer. My husband is coaching. He is an excellent father. They have games on Saturday mornings. This means that I need to watch my three-year-old son and we should obviously attend the games and cheer our team. Fine. I say that's OK and agreed that Sunday could be my morning to sleep in. Fine. I really am intellectually OK with this. It's completely fair. Well, my emotional self is not. She is resentful and annoyed and sulky. When it means she has to get up early, she is angry. She resents the intrusion into the pattern that she was happy with. I don't like her. I try to reject these emotions but that is not making them go away.

Second, separately, my husband and I had a large and somewhat heated discussion over the incredibly stupid plight of public school teachers in the US. They are expected to reach goals not attainable with the budgeted funds they are given. So, as would be the case of people whose job is a vocation and who are unwilling to sacrifice the education of a generation of Americans to show just how little can be accomplished with the inadequate funding, and perhaps force change, they supplement the budget at their own personal expense. Administrations have parent organizations that are mainly fundraising groups. This leads to social pressure for the kids to bring in certain amounts of money for class pride and also to win prizes. My daughter's school Parent-Teacher-Organization is really exceptional at doing this. They raise significant amounts of money to support the school and everyone is very grateful to them for their efforts.

And here's where I suck: I resent being pressured to participate and give more money than our taxes to support the school. I want the price of education to be up front and then I want to be left alone. I am happy to participate in field trips or to give presentations on areas where I might have specialized experience, or to contribute needed items if it would be helpful, but I resent being pressured/guilted/"encouraged" to contribute more money via my kids (i.e. fundraising projects requiring sponsors or selling things). Maybe it is a having-problems-with-authority thing? Maybe I resent the assumed authority of the PTO and their assumption that I acknowledge their authority to goad my family into guilting people (who already pay taxes for this or other schools) to give money that the schools should have anyway because it's not right that they don't. I don't mind purchasing items they need on my own and donating things of my own accord, which I've done, but I really resent pressure or expectations to participate in fundraising events...or really ANYthing. Just tell me up front and I'll pay. Then leave me alone.

Now this is where my husband remarked on my selfishness, (see the part about how I suck): I do not want to be pestered to give extra support to people who have elected of their own will to do more than they are being paid to do. I know that sounds terrible because their sacrifice is helping people. But teachers know what they are getting into when they decide to become teachers in the US. We ALL know they are underfunded and disrespected and that this is wrong. But instead of showing the US people that what they expect from the way things are is ridiculous and unattainable with current budgets, which would involve cheating a generation of Americans from the education we think they should get and for which we do all this fundraising, the altruists give more than they should. Then we are expected to make up for it and congratulate ourselves even though the total is still inadequate. The American people don't get it, that you can't get blood from a stone, because they don't have to! Look, I am willing to pay more up front than we do for education so that schools can have what they need and teachers can be paid a competitive wage. But I do not want to be expected to use my personal time and effort to attempt to bridge the gap between what is possible with current funds and what is needed or expected or wished for later in the year.

Of course, the fact that this is all theoretical and that I don't want to sacrifice MY kids' education to prove the point, means I am a huge hypocrite (see the part where I suck). If the PTO didn't do the fundraising the students would suffer and who wants that? Obviously what has been attempted to fix the problem doesn't work. Having school funding tied to property taxes is a terrible idea. My husband told me Finland decide to make all their schools equal across the entire country and to pay their teachers much more. Now its harder to get into teaching programs at their colleges than pre-med. He said this resulted in huge improvements in student performance. But why was this change made? Because the schools were failing so badly they couldn't sit back and let it go. We aren't willing to fail badly enough to force change.

Third, we got a note to parents Friday that the school is having a teacher appreciation week and that our child will be expected to finish an assignment each day that shows how much we appreciate all the teachers do. I fumed. I resented this intensely (see the part where I suck). To me there is something wrong with telling people how their children are going to be expected to (required by social pressure) show their (assumed) gratitude. Perhaps they are trying to teach gratitude? Is that in the curriculum? Who are the PTO to impose this additional requirement? Not that it isn't a nice idea.

And not that I do not appreciate that my daughter has an exceptional teacher. She does. I love this woman. She amazes me and I am ecstatic with my daughter's experience this year. But I absolutely resent this all being assumed and along with that we want to express our gratitude in the way someone else has decided it shall be done. I don't want myself or my kid to do this stuff just on principle, not because I don't respect teachers and the sacrifices they make! Please don't assume that. I do think they are horribly underpaid and that it is wrong that their MOST important profession is not given the respect it deserves. I just don't like organized gratitude "assignments."

I want to do what I want how I want OR NOT on my own. You know, some of us are not functioning on the level of being willing or able to take on something extra just because someone has decided that we should and undoubtedly will, because obviously anyone who wouldn't is a terrible person. Things that seem inconsequentially little to some are not so little to others and it's not anyone's place to judge that.

I want to be left the hell alone. I don't have anything extra to give, not that anyone asked. I am barely holding on as it is. I don't need extra pressure to do even the tiniest bit more, nor does my kid need to feel inadequate because her mom sucks.

So that's the thrust of it. I do kind of feel like the above may not necessarily make me the embodiment of pure evil.

But, as an aside, fourth, since I'm being honest here, as far as guilt over being a selfish person goes, really the most embarrassing part is that this resentment of any intrusion into my life also extends to kids' birthday parties, mine and others'. I HATE them. I don't really mind paying for a gift, but getting one is inconvenient and and the bite out of the weekend messes up what I might've wanted to do and driving them there and back is a pain that I resent. Then the kids come home with a bag of worthless crap (that I guarantee the parents throwing the party didn't want to put together in the first place). The very selfish part of me that got me through nearly fatal anxiety and depression by making sure I expended the least amount of energy beyond what was required for survival, ensured pretty much all I had went into absolute requirements. But it has no place here anymore. I can't deny my kids going to other kids birthday parties! Please!

Ugh. I need to get back to functioning like a normal human. This trait that was helpful and adaptive means that I don't RSVP when I should, when I know better and have the decency to be mortified about it. It's like I posted yesterday, the short term benefit (procrastination allowing me to proceed as if I did not just receive an extra thing to have to do) outweighs the long term every time even the result embarrasses me.

I just suck. I am extremely selfish and a hypocrite and I know it. I don't like this person. Though I wonder if some of it is innate...apparently when I was a kid I used to yell at people to "Neev me anone! Neev me anone!" (I didn't say Ls for a while and substituted Ns). My parents didn't get involved with our school activities other than attending games or writing checks, but we were at a private school and the tuition was bad enough. I sold magazines for a year or two for high school, but then I stopped and I got no pressure about it. I don't know. My parents always gave money to charities, but didn't volunteer for stuff, which was because my Mom had MS and didn't do extra stuff with people if she could help it. My dad worked very hard every day and could hardly have been expected to do more (in my opinion). Also, he's an introvert, as am I, and there should be no negative judgement on that. So maybe I resent this all because we never had to do it and I thought that was normal. But I am really not inclined to place any of this in the nurture category.

I really just need my executive functions, my adult who is me, to stop hanging back, to take charge again and tell the whiny self-absorbed teen me to shut up. Hello?! I am talking to YOU, little Miss I-can-write-all-about-this-but-won't-step-up-and-take-charge. Freakin' step UP and stop making me such an ass!


  1. Well, you know, I don't think it's helpful to ever shame yourself into dong something or changing something. That just fuels the depression more. Be kind to yourself. Be gentle. You are someone worth being kind to--especially by yourself.

    The other thought this rant brought to my mind is that you might be what is a called "a negative first reactor." This means that whenever you hear something new or are surprised by something you react negatively. It's just a temperament thing. It isn't good and it's bad, it just is. I'm a negative first reactor too. But now that I know this about myself, my first response to anything is that I need to think about it. I allow myself to have the negative response and then try to look at it objectively. I had a difficult time my daughter's first year in school and then again when we switched schools because all of the fundraisers and extra "stuff" were a surprise and I really don't like being surprised. Now that we know the drill this stuff doesn't bother me as much.

    The other thing to consider is how well you transition from activity to activity. People talk about this a lot in respect to toddlers, but all of us need transition time. I spend a lot of time in the evening mapping out the next day and mentally moving myself from activity to activity so that the transition don't blow me out of the water. You might just be slow to transition and if you being to account for that and build transitions into your schedule your teen self might not be so powerful.

    Those are just a couple thoughts. Take them or leave them!


    1. Yes, I think you're right about being a negative first reactor. I hadn't thought about that. Of course, at the time I wasn't doing as much thinking as spewing... Yes, I am the person who doesn't want to do the activity but finds that she enjoyed it after the fact. This is more often true for me than not. And yes, the whole negative self-talk thing seems to apply less when I'm writing than when I'm thinking the thoughts in my head. Interesting. I know I need to spend more time planning out my days and the transition thing is a good point. Thanks for the thoughtful comment and hugs!

  2. Sorry that the grammar on that comment was so bad; I swear I'm not a spammer!

    1. Silly Laura... :) I'll let you off the hook this one time... hee hee

  3. Julie, I LOVE YOU. Really. Honestly, I wrote and then erased a very similar post on FB yesterday! The only reason I deleted it was because I thought that - ta-da - I will come across as selfish and that no parent would support me.
    I, just like you, RESENT the fund-raising. I wouldn't even mind giving 50 or even a 100$ once a year. What I hate is the non-stop string of give-give-give... Sell this, buy that, pledge here... The kids take this seriously, they want their class to win, so they come home and pester parents to do all of it. I feel that this is low and unfair to guilt us into giving money like this, again and again. And, ultimately, I think it hurts fundraising efforts: after you realize that fund-raising is non-stop, you start giving less and less, whereas if it happened only once or twice a year, you may get more generous.
    Plus, it's not just about money, it wastes my time, it adds stuff to my already long list of things to do (remember to pick up cash, remember the due date), etc. I honestly HATE that. I am head deep into junk mail and papers Sasha brings from school, and I don't want anything added to that.
    Besides, some of that fund-raising seems to be going towards extra-curricular activities: movie night, school "olympics", etc. Quite frankly, I don't care about the movie night enough to contribute...
    Similar feelings about teacher appreciation week. Exacerbated by the fact that I'm not exactly crazy about Sasha's current teacher (her permanent teacher is on a baby leave), and neither is Sasha.

    Another thing that drives ME crazy that you didn't mention is all the days off we're having! It's like 3 or more days per month, it seems! Why in the world do teachers need training 3 weeks before the school year is over? I say if they haven't figured it out by now, don't bother, leave it for August, they'll forget before then anyway. And what really sends me fuming is that they take 3 (!!!) days off for the parent-teacher meanings. I worked as a teacher myself and I went to school, and those were always AFTER school. I understand that it's not fun for teachers to stick around after school for a week, but I'm sorry, it's always been part of the job. Very few other jobs get to leave work at 3:30 pm, summers off, and long vacations for Christmas and Easter. I'm not trying to say that teachers have it nice and easy, but the job does have some perks.
    I just think it's much easier for a few dozen teachers to make arrangements for their children for a week, than for hundreds of parents to pay for private daycare for their children. And not only does it cost me hundreds of dollars in daycare charges, I also have to take time off work to meet the teachers, because meetings are between 8 and 5, and I don't get home until 5:30. AT LEAST $250 per child so that a teacher doesn't have to stay late a few days does not seem like a good idea to me. We have 20 kids in our class, that's 5K for 3 days, assuming most parents work (which I think they do).

    Sorry, but the length of it should prove that my agreement with you is whole-hearted, and not luke-warm. :-)

    1. THANK YOU! Don't even get me started on the days off. I have often wondered how working parents handle this stuff and assumed aftercare somehow handled it as part of the deal. No? Wow. Good point re: the $$ aspect. Yes, when I was in public school, as well as private school, the parent-teacher conferences were always in the evening. Dan got really put out when I griped about the "perks" of being a teacher but he misunderstood me as thinking this justified their meager salaries, which I absolutely do not. It increases their wage/hour if you consider pay as per hour worked, not as an annual salary, but that is still inadequate for garnering any respect or adequately compensating for the critical function they perform, and their inconveniences (like having conferences in the evening and continued education requirements on their own time instead of school days). Raise my taxes, don't make up the difference by making my kid (and therefore me) sell stuff.

      Also interesting point about raising less money because of the continuous fundraising. NPR tends to do the twice/year thing. I wonder if the effect of frequency has been studied and what is optimal? Yes, I bet a bunch of my annoyance is from this being the first year and being surprised by it all.

      Hang in there. Only 12 more years... :P

  4. The after-school care is inconsistent. Sometimes they do cover those days, sometimes they don't. Sometimes they say they do and then the school decides they don't want them there (they're not affiliated: after-care is with the department of Parks and Recreations, so they have some coordination issues), so suddenly, the day before, they tell you your kid is going to go to a completely different school, further away... But that also makes it harder on the kids! Luckily, Sasha adapts pretty well, but not every kid does when he suddenly gets dropped off at a new location with new teachers and new students, and all that just for a day or two.

    We're with you on raising the taxes (we had a discussion about it with EJ yesterday). That way, everyone pays, and neither teachers, nor students or parents have to sell cheap stuff noone wants to make some extra money. And fundraising only gets worse, I think. I think back to my fund-raising experiences as a junior in high school: I was an exchange student! I didn't have a single relative in the country, all of my friends were from the same high school, so they had their own stuff to sell and couldn't help me, and my host family laughed at the stuff I was supposed to sell and dismissed it as crap they'd never want to buy (although they bought stuff for their daughters). But they made me ask people in church if they'd buy something from me. Now, I'm not much of a businesswoman on a good day, and that was was one of the most humiliating experiences in my life. I still can't believe that school teachers didn't know better than NOT to make me part of that lovely exercise, and that my host family would throw me under a bus like that (well, actually, I can believe that). I think that is why I'm particularly up in arms about fund raising.

    Sigh... 12 more years, you say?

  5. Your HS experience is completely AWFUL.
    That aftercare is Parks & Rec and not Ed is just SO TYPICAL! ARGHH!
    See new graphic above.

  6. I didn't think I could even finish reading this. There is so much I want to say however I care for you and will try not to take offense (I totally did) and come at you like a complete bitch.

    Maybe you should join the PTO and find out just what we do for your daughters school and education before talking about us like we are greedy rotten people. We work VERY hard to make CMES a very special and now BLUE RIBBON school.

    I would like to make this clear. You are NEVER forced or made to do ANYTHING for the school. Raising money is not a requirement. Your child will not be punished for not raising money, attending dinners out, coming for a fun family movie night. If you don't like it then don't participate.

    Everyone is free to do what they would like with the things that come home from school. I go to 1 maybe 2 skate nights. The 1st and the last. I do one night at each restaurant and I personally enjoy movie night so I make it a point to go.

    I hope you know the PTO has the schools, teachers, and parents best interests at heart. We try to make things fun and positive for the kids and their families.

    I also at one point thought the fundraising was excessive at school, then I got involved. When you find out the school has no more paper left, but that members of the PTO are going out and buying it so your child can make you a mothers day card or take a math test...That makes you appreciate the fundraisers a little more. When each class is up to par with the technology given to enhance your childs education, you like the fundraisers a little more.

    I think you would be SHOCKED at what the PTO handles and pays for, like the volunteer breakfast we all enjoyed. Your Welcome.

    As for the teacher appreciation. That list was information stating what the week was going to be offering the teachers. No where on it did it say you HAD to do this. I know because I made it. I would hope if you had any sort of heart or compassion that as a parent who can see a positive change in their child, you would WANT to participate. We (the PTO) CAN NOT MAKE YOU DO ANYTHING YOU DON'T WANT TO DO.

    I was a mess too and this school and the PTO have helped me find a purpose again. Being a part of something is a magical thing. I does wonders for you. I get to see my daughter (and yours) everyday! I enjoy everything I do for that school, the staff that it holds and the children it molds. We are SO LUCKY to have our kids attend CMES and if you can prove otherwise please let me know.

    1. Oh Jess. I'm sorry you took offense at Julie's post. She does not think you or the rest of the PTO are greedy or bad people. Quite the opposite. She thinks you are good at your job, but wished you didn't have to do it. At least, not the fundraising part. The state should be providing our schools with steady and adequate funding so that parents like you don't have to work hard at fundraising to make up the difference.

      I agree with you (and so does Julie) that she reacts badly to requests for donations of time/money/whatever. She's working on it. These blog posts usually end up exposing Julie's worst initial reactions to things, not her entire reactions nor her eventual response. For instance, she made sure Willow had everything on the list each day this week for her teachers for Teacher Appreciation Week.

      Finally, we both love Crofton Meadows Elementary School and love that so many parents like you give so much time and energy to make the school great!

    2. Hi Jess. I appreciate you reading the entire post (I think you said you did). Because I respect you and everything you've said on this I want to respond to each part of your comment, which might make this a little long.

      The premise of this post was that I am not a good person for feeling those feelings, that I suck. I know this. I have been using posts to speak honestly about my experience as a mom with chronic major depression and anxiety and I had all these feelings about this, so I posted about it and the other stuff on my mind last Saturday morning.

      1- Thank you for making the effort to read the entire post and not just shoot off a personal attack email/comment. That took considerable restraint I am sure.

      2- I do not think the PTO are greedy rotten people. I really meant the part where I said that you all are really good at fundraising and that everyone appreciates all that you do. I also meant the part where I said that without you the kids would suffer and who would want that. And the part that since my kid is benefiting from your work that resenting things while participating makes me a hypocrite. I am sure the PTO is a significant part of why CMES is an award-winning school.

      3- I know there is no actual obligation for parents to participate, but when the kids compete individually and as classes to raise the most money for things or to get prizes, there is social pressure for them to do so regardless of their parents' take on things. If they're the only ones not to bring item X to school for teacher appreciation that day it singles them out in a negative way or then the parents are the bad guys for not being enthusiastic. We do the pizza nights and some Skate Zone nights but are on trial with our daughter (I'm trying not to use names) whenever we don't feel like it.

      4- Yes, I realize the PTO has everyone's best interest at heart and tries to make events fun. As for participating more and being more involved, that's exactly what I don't want. I want the PTO to be UNnecessary because it is wrong that the school doesn't have enough paper. That's just ridiculous. Why is it OK to the taxpayers or the state for that matter that there aren't enough basic materials? There should be an uproar about this, not a bandaid. As for the technology, I went to grade school in the '70s and things have obviously changed. I concede to others' judgement on that. My point, however unrealistic and idealistic, was that requirements should be funded. Raise my taxes to do it. Or if there has to be fundraising, give me an amount at the beginning of school, let me pay it and be off the hook, like a user fee. If everyone did that then the fundraisers would be unnecessary.

      4- Regarding the volunteer breakfast, which WAS very nice: I felt wrong being there but I'd helped with a field trip and my daughter REALLY REALLY wanted me to be there (i.e. pressure) so I went even though I felt I didn't deserve to be there and didn't really belong. I took a graduate course on starting and managing a nonprofit org and you all are doing exactly the right thing by recognizing volunteers as much as possible. That is the kind of thing the PTO should do. So thank you.

    3. Part II (I was character-limited to 4096 characters. ??)

      5- About teacher appreciation week: I was hoping you wouldn't take this all personally but I knew that was kind of crazy to expect since your name was on the bottom of the slip--but I really honestly didn't intend to single you out.

      The slip sent home did not say bringing the items in was required, that's true. But it did not say anything about it being voluntary either. It did not give that impression at all. The way we read it was: this is what we're doing, this is what your student should bring. End of discussion. Everyone will be doing this, so unless you want you or your child to feel singled out as an ungrateful person, you will provide the following. Yes, I felt it was assumed that anyone that didn't want to participate would be a bad person. What kind of person doesn't want to scrounge up 7 of some item each day for 5 days in addition to whatever else they're handling? See: "I would hope if you had any sort of heart of compassion that as a parent who can see a positive change in their child, you would WANT to participate."

      That's not the point. I could and did come up with the items.

      The point is that there was no WAY my daughter was going to show up at school without each day's thing! Even the idea was mortifying. The assignment WAS mandatory even if it wasn't intended to be and I just don't respond well to being ordered to be grateful in a predetermined way... or really to be ordered to do anything....

      If it wasn't a mandatory gratitude assignment, then we misunderstood it and I would've felt a lot better last week, but that wasn't clear to the students or parents (at least in our case). I'm still not sure it would've helped though. Any grade school student wouldn't want to be left out. If I chose not to or to do something different, I'd have to explain all that to my student and still risk embarrassing her in front of her class and the school. Maybe next year we could be "invited" to express our gratitude in some way to each of a student's teachers, by, for example, doing x, y, z. That would've felt so much better to me.

      6- Don't you see that this turned into: "If you had any sort of heart or compassion that as a parent who can see a positive change in their child you would WANT to participate" and if you don't behave as we think you should then that means you are a terrible person and have no heart or compassion and cannot want instead to do things in your own way and time?! It's our way or the highway, the highway being devastating your child who just wants to fit in, so you better not disagree! And if you DO disagree, you must bring your heartless teacher-hating self to a big group of people you don't know and work with them to wreak your change because even raising the issue is blasphemous without the follow-through.

      I'm entitled to not want to do things without deserving the judgement of anybody. Though I realize I can't gripe about something without expecting some misunderstanding and pushback.

      7- I know the role the PTO has played for you and I am so glad it did. I care about you too, though I suppose you may doubt that now. I agree with everything you said in your last paragraph and I am very glad our kids get to go to CMES. I wouldn't dream of trying to or wanting to try to prove otherwise.

    4. PART III

      I hope we can still be friends. We had started to be closer friends a while back but then I guess we both got busy. That made me sad. I could've/should've tried harder but I know I'm older and don't probably really fit in with your real friends. I hope that taking the time to try to explain that I wasn't trying to disrespect everyone and their work and how I felt and why shows enough that I care about you and what you think. I was just angry at feeling pushed around and judged or thrown into situations where I'd be judged. (Note: FEELING not BEING) I resented that the work needs to be done at all, not that you DO it.

      I meant it when I complimented you on FB about being so others-oriented. Laura was right, above, my first reaction to everything new is negative. *I* am too SELF-oriented (see the part where I suck). I can make big contributions to things but I guess I'm one of the ones I learned about in my nonprofit course who has to be tricked into thinking it was their idea. Invited, not ordered.

      P.S. Dan called to let me know you'd FBed me and made this comment. Then later, as I was writing this he said he'd commented back. I don't know yet what he said and just wanted to clarify that this reply was without having seen that.

  7. Julie, I'm so happy we had a chance to sit and talk today. I think as a person who tries to find the positive side to everything, I was taken a back by the things you were writing. I now understand completely where you were coming from and I hope you understand me as well. In a perfect life the School would have everything it needed and yes, fundraising would be unnecessary but we don't So it is what it is and we make the most of it.

    I'm sorry you misunderstood the info for Teacher's week and I again Thank you for your input. I can only make it better if I know it didn't read well with some people. I hope you know as your upcoming PTO president I will do my best to make you happy ;)

    Don't be silly about our friendship. If anything you should know now with out a doubt how much I care about you. I don't care what our age difference is, you are a great person and I value our friendship. What kind of friendship would it be if we can't be honest with each other. I miss you all very much. Between the move and watching another child and being too busy for the playground lately I feel we are frozen. Just need to break through and get back out there together.

    I thank Dan for responding...Thank you Dan.

    Now lets get back to our play dates!!