Life-sized castles, elaborate electronics and live puppies top my children’s Christmas wish lists this year. The big day is less than two weeks away, and I’m officially in a state of parental panic.
I’m trying to make the house look festive, find fabulous gifts for family and friends, and keep my small business afloat, all while attempting to maintain a merry demeanor without losing my mind.
And those wish lists - how do I find a balance between frugal finds and the more glamorous gifts?
As a parent, the pressure to find the perfect present doesn’t end with my offspring. I’m also eager to show my appreciation for the teachers, coaches, babysitters, dance instructors and senseis who have made a difference in my children’s lives.
But how can I be indebted to them without going into debt?
With the financial strain that comes with the festive season in mind, one group of parents is putting a stop to teacher gifts altogether.
A Scottish parents’ organization called Connect is calling for parents and parent groups to rethink the giving of expensive gifts to teachers, hoping to free financially strapped families from the distress and discomfort caused by the inability to keep up with the indulgent gift-giving game.
Pushing the message that a “simple thank you to children’s teachers really is enough," the group hopes to encourage parents and their children to share a heartfelt thank you through homemade cards and kind words.
According to a survey conducted by Huffpost UK earlier this year, which examined the support available in schools for families facing financial hardship, one parent described feeling a sense of isolation, unable to afford class outings, school fundraising initiatives and joint gift giving to classroom teachers.
And it’s not just the parents who are left feeling uncomfortable. Teachers, too, have expressed feeling conflicted when receiving gifts from some students and not others.
“Teachers find it awkward and uncomfortable to receive gifts because they struggle to find the right balance between thanking children for gifts and avoiding making children feel unhappy or inadequate who have not brought in presents,” shared a teacher based in Dundee in the Huffpost UK piece.
While I agree that putting the pressure on parents to put in for elaborate group gifts, or present pricey items as a sign of appreciation may put some less fortunate parents in an awkward position, I also find it difficult not to show my appreciation through the act of giving gifts.
Like bringing a hostess gift to a dinner party, I enjoy giving a little thank you trinket to show my appreciation, and I think teachers deserve more than a verbal thank you for their hard work.
The truth is, they spend more time with our kids than we do during the day. Many teachers are out of pocket for much-needed school supplies, and some volunteer their time - unpaid, to provide extra help for our kids or accompany them on class trips. Instead of banning all gifts, I’d love to see a more collaborative effort made among classmates and their parents to show appreciation for teachers, without leaving out families who are financially unable to fork up the fee. Perhaps a small token of appreciation paid for by those parents who can afford it, with a card signed from the whole class.
If you want to give an individual gift, consider something that is mutually beneficial, such as supplies and snacks for the classroom, or a gift card for books and crafts that the whole class can enjoy.
I don’t think everyone needs to give gifts to teachers, but those who don’t, or who can’t afford to, shouldn’t feel pressure to purchase pricey presents just because others have chosen to do so. I’m sure the teachers aren’t keeping a tally, and knowing that their hard work is appreciated is likely the best gift of all.
Bianca Bujan is a mom of three, writer, editor and marketing consultant. Find her online at @bitsofbee.