Pulling My Child From Private School Has Made Me A Richer And Poorer Person

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I’m walking away from the school feeling, while my daughter has had a wonderful early-childhood educational experience, that the politics behind admissions trump the positive, warm-and-fuzzy feelings I have about her specific classroom. And that feels sad to me. We pursued other options for our son.

We have a couple of suitable options for our daughter, too, for school, but as the school year comes closer to the end, other parents whom we’ve befriended (or at least acquaintanced) are starting to ask if she’s is returning to school next year (and if our boy is attending next year). The ones whom I actually consider friends, I tell the truth, and it feels fine to be honest. The ones who are acquaintances, it’s a little more awkward. Usually the questions are asked in the school halls, before drop-off or during pickup, usually with my daughter standing right next to me. It feels strange to tell people I don’t know well, but whom I’ve seen regularly over the past two years, and been to their houses for birthday parties, that she isn’t returning because we can’t afford it.

I know we’re not the only ones in this position, but it brings to light subtle socioeconomic differences that no one really wants to discuss. I remember a New Yorker piece from years ago saying that sex isn’t taboo to talk about any more, only money is (i.e.,  you don’t tell people how much you earn, how much savings you have, if your parents do or do not have money that you may inherit some day, if you really can or cannot afford $30,000 a year per child for private preschool). And I know I don’t know the details behind anyone else’s finances, either, and I don’t want to be a hater just because there are lots of people who are choosing private school, and we aren’t. (Although am I allowed to be a hater because I never was interested in going into finance?)

I can’t help but look around at the parents whom I know do have returning children, and many, a second child returning, and feel resentful of them for presumably having greater means than we do. I’ve had plenty of friends and colleagues who were much wealthier than I’ll ever be, but I’ve never quite experienced class strata in New York City on a personal level like this. And I’m not saying cry me a river – we’re by no means a needy family – but aren’t I still allowed to feel a little addled by how socioeconomic differences for me have come to the surface of idle chit-chat?

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