Too Much Information: Why Modern Parenting is Overwhelming

70424540 - child annoying his tired mother with headache
Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_bialasiewicz’>bialasiewicz / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

I have to admit, I ignore a lot of the stuff I get from my kids’ school. I used to rant and rave about people not reading things I sent them. Then I’d get, “Wait, we’re having a meeting Friday?!” I’d sigh and lament people’s attention spans, so short they couldn’t get through a three-line email. But that was back in the early 2000’s.

Now, in 2017, I get multiple emails from the school and the district every day. Much of the information isn’t applicable to me or is a third repetition of information I already know. So yeah, I’ve stopped reading all the multi-paragraph, book-length messages from the superintendent.

The other issue, aside from the sheer volume of messages both electronic and on paper, that come from school is, usually, they want something. They want you to send in paper plates, volunteer for the Thanksgiving luncheon, sign up to be a room representative. Or, it’s about some new program your child, as student, is participating in — a leadership initiative, something to promote science skills, “home connection” notes with exercises to complete with your child to ensure their continued emotional health. It more than any one person should realistically be expected to pay attention to.

Don’t get me wrong; all these programs are useful. I’m glad we’re encouraged to volunteer, I love being able to send supplies and support the teachers and I’m heartened by the fact that public education has realized they need to address emotional well-being. There is just SO MUCH OF IT. I don’t have the bandwidth to take it all in, let alone participate in it all. So, I might occasionally miss something, because I’ve skimmed the school-wide news of the week instead of studying it carefully.

Here’s my coping mechanism as a person who wants to help and participate but does not have the capacity to consider everything that comes home in the children’s backpacks and each and every email that pings into the inbox: I ignore a LOT. I’ve picked out my things I like to do — things for which I’m well suited. I send art supplies to the art teacher every year (her budget is abysmal); I volunteer in my first grader’s class once a week, because I like getting to know the kids in his class; I chair the book fair, because I love books.

What I don’t do (like categorically don’t even consider doing, because I don’t even want it taking up space in my head): go to PTA meetings, sign up to bring food for teacher appreciation week, volunteer in the cafeteria or get coerced into being on the PTA board. I am glad other people do these things; they’re important things, but they’re not my things. I have a hard time paying attention in large group meetings, I don’t particularly like to cook and a cafeteria full of noise is overwhelming to me. As far as the board goes, I am so grateful to the people who do those jobs, because I cannot stand to be in charge of one more thing. Between work, family and the book fair, I’m tapped out.

Why am I sharing this? Because I know a lot of parents who feel the same way, and we’re not going to stop getting so many emails and requests for help anytime soon, so it’s important to work on what we do have control of: ourselves. I hereby give you permission to ignore any requests from school that are not at all suited to you. Don’t even consider them. Pick a handful of things you think are important or that work for you, and don’t let yourself feel guilty about the rest.

Now excuse me, I have 87 emails to delete without reading.

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