My wife and I have a 7 year old son who normally goes to the public school system this year. However, for a variety of reasons, mainly driven by the pandemic, we decided to start teaching our son first grade this year. My wife is currently a home mom (she decided to take a break from a great career in marketing when our second son was born a few years ago).
We also have very dear friends who live in our neighborhood and a son who would be in first grade this year. When my wife decided to teach our son at home this summer, we offered to teach her child at home as well. Our friends readily and excitedly agreed. These friends are in our “COVID bubble” and are essentially the only ones we see in person.
I thought the family would be considering financial issues (they pointed this out last September) but we haven’t discussed the issue since.
My wife currently runs the home school four days a week. She puts in around 15 to 20 hours each week between preparation, actual class time, and playtime after school. Details of how the agreement would work financially were never discussed. The two families shared the cost of curriculum, school supplies, art supplies, etc., but the other family did not offer any compensation for my wife’s efforts (nor did we ask for it).
I thought the family would be considering financial issues (they pointed this out last September) but we haven’t discussed the issue since. We and the other family are both comfortably from the upper middle class, so money is not a critical issue for either of them. However, I see how much effort my wife puts into training and I feel that she deserves something. The other family likes to spend a lot on nannies, other day care, etc.
Is it too late to tactfully ask for consideration for my wife’s efforts? I don’t want to endanger or embarrass our friendship. How should I go about this, if at all?
Father in south texas
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This is an act of service to your friends and an act of love for your son and his friend as well. Once you commercialize a friendship and turn such a gesture into a transaction, something fragile, pure, and unspoken in that friendship is forever changed. Given what you say about your comfortable financial position, this feels more like a “need” than a “need”. Remember the precious cargo that you carry four friends: two children who are ignorant of the changing sands of adulthood around them.
I understand that there may be some frustration that you could have reached a more equitable agreement. “We’re going to take little Jimmy with us for a couple of hours on Saturday and Sunday, and he can have dinner here a couple of evenings a week to give you some break …” would have been nice. There would also have been a clearer path ahead of us. But don’t give up your friends’ ability to show their appreciation in other ways, by taking your son on vacation this summer or some other surprise.
By giving these two children time, you will also teach them another valuable life lesson.
You are not required to do this every year, but rather end this year the way you started it. You’re in each other’s pandemic bubble, and there’s probably a reason for this: They value and trust each other. Don’t underestimate them. They may already be thinking of ways to say thank you. And yes, sometimes “thank you” is enough. And maybe, just maybe, seeing your son improve and the love you instill in him for his favorite subjects will be enough.
This is a better situation for your son too. It is a huge benefit for your son to have social interaction with his friend and classmates every day. They can have fun, learn from each other, help each other and not feel alone during the school day. When a child struggles one day and another the next, it shows that it is okay to ask questions, and it is human to have both strengths and weaknesses.
By giving these two children time, you will also teach them another valuable life lesson. Little Jimmy will look back on this year and think highly of his mother and hopefully pass that lesson on when he gets the chance. Maybe he’s helping a colleague in high school or university. Your friend’s son may enjoy looking back on those days. In normal and extraordinary times, it is often better to give to yourself without expecting anything in return.
It’s difficult to drive a neighbor’s car as a gift and be surprised with repayment suggestions after five months.
I want to be clear Women are more likely than men to work unpaid at home and in the office. “According to the OECD, women generally spend a disproportionately large amount of time on unpaid care work than men. “Because of gender-specific social norms that view unpaid care work as a female privilege, women in different regions, socio-economic classes and cultures spend an important part of their day fulfilling the expectations of their domestic and reproductive roles.”
My answer is not even based on your relative wealth, although I understand that clearly matters as it is both a calling and a lot of work for your wife. This is because a fee was not discussed before the class started and there is no real power imbalance here, as can be the case with partners or employers / employees or managers / direct employees. It is difficult to drive a neighbor’s car as a gift and be surprised after five months of repayment proposals, be it in cash or otherwise.
The actual lesson plan for all of you may not be in the curriculum at all.
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