On Monday mornings, the birds seem to chirp louder than any day of the week. It’s not just because it’s summer and in the Midwest, the sun is out all day. It’s mostly because it’s the first of three days a week that my son has preschool.
Getting him ready is tedious – he wakes up on a “ten” every morning. But after I write my name on that signature sheet at school, all is right with the world.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my son. He makes me smile and gives me someone to talk to because his eight-month-old sister isn’t one of many words. But he’s three years old and he has So. Much. Energy. It gets overwhelming really fast. I believe that kids should be kids and since I don’t have time to play with him around the clock – more often than not I’m at a computer working – I send him to preschool.
I know it’s the best place for him. He’s really intelligent, extremely social, and a quick learner. As a parent, it’s my job to provide him with the tools I have access to that increase the chance he will be successful in life. Having him sit in front of a TV while I’m irritated and yelling “What was that noise” every five minutes isn’t gonna do that.
So, I decided to seek help through preschool.
Of course, I miss him and think about him regularly during the school day. But I know that he’s in good hands. I’m comforted knowing that by sending him to preschool, I’m giving his younger sister the chance to experience the same one-on-one attention he had in infancy.
I wish my perspective of the situation were that black and white — we benefit therefore I’m grateful. It would be great if I could proclaim loudly from the hills that sending my son to preschool allows me to rest and be a better mother to both of my children. It does wonders for my mental health and gives me the chance to continue taking small steps towards my dreams while experiencing the highs and lows of motherhood.
But it isn’t, because most times I don’t get to feel good for very long before I feel immense and heavy guilt — mostly because the world thinks that since I made the choice to have children, it should be my sole responsibility to care for them. I’ve had older ladies suggest that I’m taking the easy way out. They hint at their belief that if I couldn’t handle being home with the kids full time and that I’m chasing my career dreams, I should have given up on one or not had children at all. They’re the same folks who make comments about how mothers these days are less engaged with our children and use technology as a replacement for genuine parent-child connection.
It’s humorous that they don’t have any critiques of the huge emotional/domestic labor disparities that plague our families. Perhaps they’re too busy believing that I should spend my time cooking and cleaning instead of helping my husband afford our bills. They forget that a dollar doesn’t stretch nearly as far for us as it did for them.
I know what they’re saying is nonsense. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t sting.
Their words make me feel ashamed and responsible for my struggles. Mom guilt seeps into my brain and makes me question every decision I’ve ever made related to my children. In those moments, I start to feel selfish for sending him to preschool.
And I start dreaming about what my children would be like if they had a mother who was fully present all the time instead of chasing other dreams. Did I fail them by not giving up? Should I have seen pregnancy as the end of my book and focused on the first chapter of theirs?
I hope that I teach them that parenting doesn’t mean the end of an individual…but am I unintentionally suggesting that they aren’t worth my time?
I haven’t technically quit parenting. I’m still here full-time with my daughter. Shouldn’t that count for something? Does parenting really have to be this all or nothing framework we hold on to?
It feels bad to say I breathe a huge deep sigh of relief when I drop my son off at school in the morning. But I also know that the second-best moment of my day is picking him up and hearing what he did there. He’s meeting people and he’s learning. That’s much more than I can say for his time at home.
Before he started preschool, I was worried how things would go. I didn’t know how he would respond to instruction and I was worried about how bias might seep into his educational experience. My fears haven’t manifested and we both seem happy with how things turned out. Sending him to school was a great decision.
If I happen to get some work done – or a nap in the middle of the day – is that such a bad thing? Why does motherhood have to be constant activity? Can’t I rest from being the person everyone in my family depends on for support?
There’s also guilt tied to the privilege. I know millions of moms will never have the break I’m paying for. My mother would have dreamed for the chance to be home with her kids. I used to be one of those moms who prayed they could have enough money to send him to day care. We’re all over the spectrum. And just because I can afford it doesn’t mean I think it’s right that moms without money don’t get a chance to breathe.
I love my son, but I don’t want a life that only revolves around him. I like to live life and I want to work hard now so when he’s old enough to remember we can enjoy the world together.
At the same time, I’m learning that I don’t really need a reason. My son is in preschool and he’s thriving. I hope to get to a point where I feel like I don’t have to justify that to the world.
I guess I’ll have to start by learning to accept it myself. Sending him to preschool doesn’t mean that I don’t care. It just highlights my willingness to love myself as equally as I love my family.