How Do You Handle Not Being Able to Attend a Function at Your Child's School?

Updated on May 24, 2011
R.P. asks from Denver, CO
16 answers

I am a working mom with a son in first grade. His school has quite a few special events during the year that all occur during the day. I work because we need the money/insurance coverage. I am a teaching assistant, which works out well because my hours are good, I have great benefits, and I have vacations, holidays, and snow days with my child. So far this year between my husband, extended family, and my generous boss, we have managed to have someone attend every school event. However, this week my son's school is having an awards ceremony which nobody can attend. I have a field trip, my husband will be traveling, and our rather small extended family is also out of town. My son seems okay with the fact that nobody will be there, but I think I am having trouble dealing with the situation. I really wish I could go - there will be a special award given to my son's amazing teacher and I would love to see her accept the presentation. So my question is not really how to explain to your child that you can't attend school events, but more how do you handle your own sadness at missing things. Thanks!

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So What Happened?

I loved all of the responses to my question, and I stopped feeling like I'm a terrible mom. The situation ended very comically. I returned from my field trip early that day and my principal told me to go to my child's awards ceremony. My son is very shy, so when I slipped into his room that day he said, "what are you doing here?". When it was time for him to do a skit with friends he spoke so softly I could barely hear him. Now I know that surprising him at school is not always a good thing. I was, however, pleased to see him get an award and to be able to see his teacher receive recognition as well for doing such an amazing job!

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answers from Portland on

I would send an e-mail to the teacher receiving the award and tell her you'd like to be there but you can't and you want her to know how pleased you are, what an amazing teacher she is and how glad you are to have him in her class.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I have come to terms that I cannot physically be at all of the special things and I try to pick and choose the most important ones to be at. My daughter will let me know if it is one of those important events. She has been disappointed before but she knows I try my best.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Austin on

Just wanted to answer the question about events during the day.
There are many reasons.
1. It cost money to have the school open after hours, also the Custodians have to stay even later cleaning up and closing up the school after everyone has left.

2.Elementary school children generally are in bed by 8:30 and usually they have younger siblings.. SO it is hard to get everybody back up to the school for the event and get everyone out in time for the kids to get to bed.

3. If you rush it, there is rush hour traffic, the parents complain there was not enough time to feed the family and attend the event.

4. Teachers do not always live in the neighborhoods so they have to stay till the event is over. Many are working parents so that means they have to be at school by 7:00 am and then stay tll 8:30 or 9:00pm

5. If parents do not have transportation and school buses are needed, this costs money.

This is why many schools try to do things during the day and then sometimes at night. It gives families a chance in different ways.

Not all parents wil ever be totally happy. I used to encourage those parents to join the "scheduling committees" at their schools to make suggestions and then answer the complaints of the parents,

I think most parents cannot attend every event at their child's school.
When I was little most of the moms worked except for very few. So I NEVER had my parents attend any of the events that took place during the day.
Back then women who worked had to go way beyond the call of duty and most bosses did not allow them to take off for their childrens school events.

What we tried to do at our daughters schools was to have a few people video the events and then have the videos available for either purchase or to copy.. Do you any parents attending that may be willing to take some photos of your child?

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

There are different ways of showing your love for you son. Certainly, attending school events when you can is one way. But don't be too quick to dismiss the contribution you make every day: your job provides health insurance, helps to provide financial support for your family and shows your son how families work together to provide for each other.

I'm sorry the laws of physics make it impossible for you to be in 2 places at once (wouldn't we all like to change that one!). Don't sell yourself short, mama. What you are doing matters -- a great deal.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Biloxi on

I have been a single mom for my son's entire life (now almost 15 years old). No family living close by, and of course, all my friends worked days also. So, over the years I have missed a lot of events at his schools. When he was little, we would look at the school calendar and pick the events that occurred during the work day that he wanted me to attend. That way I could schedule those days off, literally, months in advance. As he progressed through school, and I got to know other Moms, I met several that where SAHM and they would take photos and such for me. Fortunately, his Elementary school scheduled plays and recitals after school hours so working parents could attend.

We have continued this practice through Middle School, and now, in High School, though, most events take place after work hours.

I hate, hate, hate, missing his events. But we both love, love, love electricity and food, so we have learned to balance it out. I try and hit the ones that are most important to him, and he understands that my responsibilities to support us prevent me from making everything.

If your son says he is okay with it, most likely he is. Not every parent can make every event - kids get that. Ask another parent to take some photos for you, and get your son to tell you all about the ceremony. Maybe send a small congratulations card to the teacher telling her how much you appreciate her.

We just can't be in two places at once, and we are better parents when we accept that, let it go, and don't beat ourselves up over it.

God Bless

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

Do ask someone to video the event for you, or at least take pictures, so that you and your little boy can look at them together and he can tell you about everything (ask to know every detail!). You aren't the only parent this happens to, and all you can do is to be excited about it after the fact. I hope all your family will be excited about it.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Please try not to be sad!
Schools today have SO many more activities and events than they ever did in the past. Even I, as a stay at home mom, can't make it to everything.
Be happy that your son is not bothered, it shows that he is well loved and supported by his family :)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Laurie A not only hit the nail on the head, but she also saved me from having to type it out!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

I am glad that you posted this - I totally forgot my son has an award ceremony tomorrow. I can understand why you feel that way. But if he is not bothered, then I wouldn't let it bother you. You do your best and that is all that you can do - try not to be too hard on yourself.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Daytona Beach on

i just went to my daughter's awards and asked my husband why they would have it in the day while so many people have to work and miss it. you aren't alone. i think it's ridiculous to have things like that during the day and not at night like they used to.

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answers from Detroit on

I had to miss a Mother's Day tea party this year. My kids go to the same school and they held the Mother's Day events at 8:30 each day of the week for diffrent classrooms. Hmmmmm, I have this thing called a J O B...leaving mid morning (I start at 6 am), driving 30 mins each way to attend a tea party on a Thursday AND Friday was just not happening. I felt AWFUL that my kid had to sit there without a parent. Sure, there were 3 other kids that had loser moms too, but it still made me feel soooo bad. OF course she lived through it. I did attend the Friday event with my youngest and the school allowed my oldest to come down with me which was nice.

What irritates me, is for events like Father's Day, they do them at night because the dads work. it 1950?!?!?

I have learned over the years that working full time means I will miss out on things and my kids will be upset by it for a short time. And then, we will all move on the the next thing.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Harrisburg on

I am a stay at home mom and I miss out on stuff with my oldest so much! It does sadden me because I have two younger children who are not old enough for school and so I can't go into my son's classroom or volunteer to help with the different events because the younger siblings aren't invited.

For example today is "Lunch Dates" and that means that each student may have ONE adult (no other kids, siblings, or other adults) visit the school and they can bring lunch or have a school lunch with the student. I have been to one this year because its hard to find someone to watch my other two children while I go to my son. The good thing is, I too, have extended family that can take a quick lunck break to be with him so he has had someone at each of these events. There is one each month.

I do regret not being at some of the other events like Moms and Muffins and such but I figure at least we are able to attend a few of them and he knows we care.



answers from Johnstown on

You can't be everywhere all the time. You have to make sacrifices somewhere. If you've been to every other one, then don't fret over this one. I've very upset because my twins are going to a location nearly 2 hrs away on Thurs and I was not asked to go with as a homeroom mom...however, I know there are other moms who will be there and will take care of my babies for me :)



answers from Pittsburgh on

Why do the schools have these things at all? Shouldn't they use that time to be, oh, I don't know, teaching? I can see one awards day at the end of the year, but you said there have been several? My parents certainly never came to events like that when we were in school-- I wouldn't worry about it. Unless my kid was getting an award, I wouldn't think a thing of it.

IMHO, there is too much of this. I just went to son's-- who is 3-- "graduation" at daycare. They go year-round, and he's still in the same class. The pressure on parents to be at all these things is ridiculous. When I was growing up (which was not THAT long ago) graduation was what you did at 18 when you left high school. I think we all need to take a big step back.... just my little rant for the day. :-)



answers from Pittsburgh on

I would start making a point of e-mailing all the people associated with each event each time to recommend scheduling in the evening. When I was a kid, all these events were scheduled in the evening. Way more considerate of parents.



answers from Houston on

I'm opposite. I have to explain to my child all the time why noone but his parents come to all his events. Not one family member has been able to attend all the school, church and sports activities my 5 yo has been in in the last 3 yrs. Its so heartbreaking to go to all these award ceremonies, graduations, end of the season ballgames w/everyone else's grannies, grandpas, aunts, uncles, cousins, step parents, real parents, etc.

Be grateful your son only has this 1 event noone will attend for him.

The only way I handle my sadness is making sure my son knows his father and I are very proud of him and he doesn't need anyone else's praise to feel like he matters.

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