NEW YORK — Jodi Gold, a Manhattan child psychiatrist and the mother of three children ages 6, 9 and 11, is accustomed to the perennial juggle. But at this time of year, all she can do is triage.
Last Wednesday, she started the morning at an Upper East Side private school in the first-grade classroom of her daughter, Samantha, observing a Minecraft-themed project. After a few hours seeing clients, she took a break to chaperone her son Jackson’s fifth-grade field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Thursday was her son Carter’s end-of-year parent-child soccer game. Gold sent Jackson as her stand-in. On Friday, her husband, who works in finance, planned to arrange his schedule to attend Carter’s third-grade violin performance. They would all have to miss Samantha’s gymnastics medal ceremony that afternoon because the children had appointments in order to get their medical forms signed for summer camp.
“Whatever the baseline demands are, you are going to add 25 to 50 percent to them,” Gold said. “This is a time to recognize that there’s just going to be a lot of chaos.”
Field Day, once potato-sack races and so forth, has become ever more fraught. The concluding weeks of the school year have turned into a gantlet of activities, all jostling for grown-up attention. There are science fairs, class plays, concerts, big games, teacher appreciation days, awards ceremonies and class picnics.
With the end-of-year bloat, working parents tot up vacation days or figure out which art shows or field trips they can cram into lunch hour.
Of course, this juggling is primarily a problem of affluence: Parents who work in low-wage shift jobs are unlikely to have the flexibility to take time off.
Still, “it’s anxiety-inducing because it’s so concentrated in three weeks,” said Lisa Hawthorne Smith, an executive assistant at Weight Watchers and the mother of two children in public elementary school in Montclair, N.J.
Today’s parents say they don’t remember this volume of valedictory activities when they were growing up. It’s possible that they spend more time at school events in the last two weeks of the term than their parents did in their 13 years of schooling.
Principals and teachers say schools want to build strong communities, as well as acknowledge how hard students have worked during the year.
The age of helicopter parenting may also be complicit, said Madeline Levine, a psychologist in Marin County, Calif., and the author of “Teach Your Children Well” and “The Price of Privilege,” books that warn against pressure-cooker parenting.
Levine said parents who make heroic efforts to adjust their work schedules to attend every minor school activity perpetuate a notion of adulthood as an endless round of spectatorship.
“The better message is, ‘Yeah, I really support you and I’m really interested in what you do,’ ” Levine said, “ ‘but I also have other things that matter a lot, and they are exciting and interesting.’ ”