Care and Feeding

I Feel Guilty About Sending One Kid to Private School When I Can’t Afford to Send the Others

How do I explain it to her siblings?

Woman walking her three children to school.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by kwanchaichaiudom/iStock/Getty Images Plus and noipornpan/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Email or post it in the Slate Parenting Facebook group.

Dear Care and Feeding,

We have three elementary school–age kids. Our middle kid has a few different delays (speech, fine motor, math) and public school just doesn’t seem to be a good fit for her anymore. The private school we are looking at moving her to is the kind of place you dream of affording for your children.

The thing is, we can really only afford one tuition, and it feels a little like we are robbing the other two of an amazing opportunity (both are happy and well-adjusted where they are). How do you deal with the guilt of not sending all of them, and how do you explain why one kid gets a special school?

—Unfair Mommy?

Dear Mommy,

One of the most important lessons of having kids is that sometimes they need very different things from you as a parent and that there is nothing inherently “unfair” about doing your damndest to meet each child where they are. Your other two kids are happy in their current school, and your middle child may need a slightly different environment to thrive.

Before you pick up stakes, please remember that if your child qualifies for an IEP (or just a 504), it’s only the public school system that is obliged to meet those needs for her, and your hoped-for private school may prove less flexible in this respect than you imagine. Essentially, before dropping megabucks on a new school, make sure the public system can’t accommodate your child’s needs and educational rights. Even hiring an education/disability lawyer for a consult to see what she is entitled to by law in a public education is a lot cheaper than private school tuition.

If your kids ask questions, go ahead and answer them. Nothing demystifies disability in our society more than being upfront about it. “You know how Anthony needs glasses, so he has to go see the eye doctor and you don’t? Well, Dorothy needs a different math teacher/specialized tools/a teacher to work with her on her talking skills,” etc.

Best of luck! Please let me know what you decide.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My wife and I, both women, are hoping to start the adoption process in the next year or so. My wife is half black-half white, and I am white. A bit of me hopes our baby will be part black so that they look more like my wife and her family. They will also have amazing black role models in their aunts and grandpa.

Some of the other lesbian couples in our life have recently gotten pregnant or had babies. All three of these couples chose to have one of the women carry the child. One of these couples chose a black friend to be a sperm donor. The mom who carried the baby is Asian; the other is white. I find it strange for this other couple to have chosen to have a black donor when neither parent knows what it’s like to grow up as a black person. In this world of simultaneous black suppression and fetishism, I am wary of people “making” a black baby.

Why does it make me squirm to think this couple has a black child? Does it make a difference that they are the ones that chose the baby’s race, whereas for us the birth mother will be the one choosing us? Is it that I know there are so many black babies already in the world who need homes? Am I totally insane for thinking this is weird?


Dear Uncomfortable,

I honestly wouldn’t waste any time thinking about someone else’s choice in this respect. I often think that essentially anything anyone does that I personally wouldn’t do is “weird.” It sounds like you are confident in your own path forward as parents, so I am hereby freeing you of worrying about theirs.

One point of correction that you may find helpful in moving on: I wouldn’t say they’re “choosing the baby’s race” like they went to a black sperm store; they chose a friend they wanted to be their baby’s biological father, who is black. Do I hope they’re as thoughtful as you about making sure their child has a connection to black culture? Absolutely.

Good luck with your adoption journey!

Dear Care and Feeding,

We have a 2-year-old in full-time, in-home day care. We adore our son’s caregivers, the owner and her employee, who are nurturing and wonderful. We live in a pricey city and pay about $1,650 a month, which is a good deal. What’s the protocol for holiday bonuses in this situation? Our son will soon transition to official preschool, which will be around $2,300 a month. What’s the bonus protocol there? I’ve heard everything from a Starbucks card to a cash bonus equivalent to an additional month of care.

Can you help us navigate the holiday bonus landscape for caregivers?

—Confused in SF

Dear Confused,

I think a $50–$100 Starbucks card is a perfectly appropriate holiday bonus for your in-home day care providers, one for the owner and one for her employee (who is not the one pocketing your $1,650 a month). Once you transition to preschool, you can continue this tradition. It would be very weird to give a cash bonus to a preschool, and no one could expect you to do that.

For those readers who have a full-time nanny, I do recommend a cash bonus. An extra week of pay is generous, if you can swing it; a month’s worth if you’re rich. You best know what you can afford.

If you want to feel better about being confused, please read literally anything about holiday tipping for NYC doormen. It’s a real mess!

Dear Care and Feeding,

I’m five months pregnant with my first. I’m very excited to have a kid but feel sort of squeamish about intense pregnancy attention from others. This has been especially true with family. For some reason, starting every phone call with “how are you feeling?” or asking about my belly doesn’t bother me as much when it’s from friends. But while my mom is incredibly loving and enthusiastic and so excited about me becoming a mother and her becoming a grandmother, I have a really negative, almost teenager-y reaction when she turns that enthusiasm on my pregnant body.

When I saw her at Thanksgiving, she wanted to see if I was showing. She didn’t do this in front of other people or anything, but it still made me really uncomfortable, and I told her so. She said something along the lines of how I need to get used to the fact that I’m pregnant and people will be able to see it, and I said something like, “You have to get used to the fact that this makes me uncomfortable,” and we sort of walked away and that was that. It was all pretty reactive, not the most lucid, thoughtful conversation.

I know I’m not the first pregnant woman to chafe at how pregnancy suddenly makes everyone think my body isn’t mine anymore, and I’m ready to fend off grabby strangers once I’m really showing. But what should I do about my mom? Next time I see her, I’ll obviously be showing more, and I really don’t want her to make a big deal of this!  Should I talk to her about this before our next visit? I don’t want to make a big deal out of things, but I also don’t want to feel anxious about what should be a nice visit, and I don’t want another reactive, unhelpful exchange.

Basically, I love that she’s enthusiastic and excited, but I don’t like my body being the center of attention like that, and I would really love if she would refrain from commenting on my body and making a big deal of whether I’m showing or not. I should probably just say that to her, right? Is it bad if I text it, like the day before the visit or something? That’s 100 percent me wanting to avoid confrontation, but maybe I shouldn’t have to deal with her feelings about this? Or am I being selfish and immature?

—Hands Off a Softbody

Dear Softbody,

I think you can tackle it respectfully and lovingly. You obviously care deeply about your mother, and your discomfort around discussing/touching of your pregnant body is a personal issue.

What I recommend, honestly, is making it all about yourself. You’re not a weirdo—this is extremely common, and people absolutely do need to back off pregnant people, in general—but it’ll be an easier conversation if you lean into being the slightly odd one. Do it in person, and before any new touching/weirdness has taken place. Tell her that for whatever reason, talking about your bump and having it touched makes you really uncomfortable. Pregnant ladies! Right? Who knows how they’ll feel. Anyway, you’d rather talk about your nursery plans or books for the baby or anything else nurturing and warm you look forward to doing with your mother. If she’s just a steamroller, nothing will work, but if she’s just feeling pushed out, doing a little extra to make her feel involved in general might do the trick.

My sense is that she doesn’t think of her body comments as being about you at all, so much as about the BAAAAAABY. That’s not how they’re coming across, however, and you should feel free to remind her, change the subject, and possibly leave the room (in order of escalation) if she keeps pushing.

Congratulations on your pregnancy! Now, how are you FEEEEEEELING?