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When Mommy and Me Comes to an End

By Madeline Holler |

mommy and me, swimming lessons

At 3, Mommy is now optional.

Writer and mother of twins, Zibby Right, has been kicked to the curb. She writes in The New York Times Motherlode blog that after spending the first three years of her twins’ lives going from Mommy and Me this to baby playgroup that, she feels she is no longer welcome. Pre-school teachers wave good-bye before closing the classroom door behind her. Dance teachers ask that she step outside the studio. Rugby coaches want her to hide in the bushes.

Zibby doesn’t like this.

Zibby still wants to lean into stretches alongside her daughter during dance and mash playdough with her son during craft class. But as the twins hit the 3 year mark, she began to find herself lost — lost and alone.

She writes in the Times:

What about me? Maybe that’s a horribly selfish thing to say, but I derive great joy from being with and partaking in activities with my kids. I’m sure the kids could use a break from me; they benefit from time away from mommy. That, I thought, was what preschool was for. The rest of the time, I genuinely like helping teach my kids different things and watching as they learn and play. With three hours of school every morning, is it too much to ask that we do a few special things together in the afternoons? How can I still find quality time with my kids if I just keep leaving them everywhere?

That last question, I can answer: forget the classes.

Any time parents spends with their kids is quality time spent with the kids! No registration fee required. Zibby doesn’t need a dance teacher to facilitate fun interactions with her daughter and son. She doesn’t need a schedule or a parking pass or $30 for the materials fee. Plenty of parents hang out with their kids without first checking off their names on a class roster.

Time spent in a park/on the couch/going for a walk counts as quality time and it not only allows mom’s presence, it requires it (by law!). Zibby doesn’t have to worry about being ejected from her own home. No, the museum actually wants her there, interacting with the kids so they’ll quit touching the Giacometti.

I feel strongly about this because I, unlike Zibby, couldn’t wait for my kids to reach the age of drop-off. I rejoiced when party invitations included scribbles about leaving the kids off. I vastly preferred old-fashioned swim lessons to Mommy & Me pool time, young bodies tolerating cold, cold water far better than my aging one.

No, unlike Zibby, I look at 3 as a magical age and I don’t mean because of potty training, independent streaks and lower-priced childcare. I mean because 3 is the age mom is no longer required to take off her shoes, pick up a tamborine and provide back-beats to “If You’re Happy and You Know It” while dancing in a circle.

I doubt that I’m alone.

I’ve got one more kid to get to that magical age. I worry that if Zibby complains too loudly — and in The New York Times, for crying out loud — she’s going to blow it for parents like me who want nothing more than to be told by a teacher to go wait in the car. Alone. With a coffee, NPR and a magazine that just came in the mail.

(The park, Zibby, go stretch in the park!)

Were you saddened, or relieved, to age out of the Mommy & Me phase?

Photo: OmniNate via flickr

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About Madeline Holler

madeline-holler

Madeline Holler

Madeline Holler is a writer, journalist, and blogger. She has written for Babble since the site launched in 2006. Her writing has appeared in various other publications both online and in print, including Salon and True/Slant (now Forbes). A native of the Midwest, Madeline lives, writes, and parents in Southern California, where she's raising two daughters and a son. Read bio and latest posts → Read Madeline's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “When Mommy and Me Comes to an End

  1. jrmiss86 says:

    Very, Very Relieved!! I like you counted down until they hit 3. I love the extra free time preschool and now Kindergarten gives me. I love sitting and relaxing and talking to other adults during gym class. I love my kids, but I love being able to take time for me as well.

  2. Megan A says:

    I totally agree! I could not wait for drop off activities. This seems to me like helicopter parenting taken even farther! Let’s let our kids be independent and grow up and spend quality time with their peers.

  3. Noel says:

    I agree! When I read that article in the NY Times, I couldn’t believe that a grown-up was so sad that she was allowed to be a grown-up again. I love my kids, and some kid play is fun. But I’m an adult, who is interested in adult things. And I think my kids should be playing with other kids most of the time, not with me.

  4. Linda, the original one says:

    Co-op Preschool.

  5. Meagan says:

    All I could hink while reading that artical was, how many different activities are these poor kids enrolled in?! Rugby, preballet, art classes, swimming… That sounded like an insane schedule for a highschooler, much less a 3 year old. And I can’t even imagine the costs. It’s hard to sympathize with such a “problem.”

  6. ALittleShort says:

    Why is her 3 year old doing rugby??? Has she seen a game of rugby before? Yes, her children are in WAY too many activities. I say pick one for each and that is it. then she can still have her “mommy and me” time and stop her whining. Grow up Zibby! Its not about you.

  7. Snarky Mama says:

    Zibby needs another baby.

  8. Laure68 says:

    I totally agree that when preschool came along I absolutely loved the freedom it allowed me. Other than preschool, my son was not really enrolled in many other activities, so I still had a ton of time with him. Like Meagan, I was shocked to see how many classes her kids were enrolled in. Seems like a “problem” that she created for herself.

  9. Yes, I didn’t want to touch the over-scheduled possibility. And, really, these things were over a three-year period so, you know, maybe they’re not doing it all every week. My point stands, though: don’t complain outloud! I’d hate for teachers to start thinking ALL of us want to keep participating!

  10. anon says:

    I’ll just say that a lot of kids aren’t really ready to be dropped off until more like 3.5 or even more. It has a lot to do with language development. Sometimes I think these activity planners are trying to rush the whole thing.

    And I think the writer (real name?) has a point. Just as your kid is developing enough social graces to be a delight to hang out with, it seems like everybody else is trying to horn in on your fun. Homeschool, here we come.

  11. andrea says:

    I just don’t get it. Why do you even have children if all you want to do is leave them somewhere else? There seems to be this cultural assumption that having kids is something you do so you can check it off a list. And then a race to see where you can leave them so they don’t interfere with your oh-so-important grown up life.

    It’s okay to not have kids. The world has plenty. Only have them if you want to take care of them. Yes, fulltime. Yes, you.

  12. Oh, come on, Andrea! It’s possible to love your kids and hate tambourines. I’m living proof!

  13. Tripletmom says:

    What is wrong with this woman? Why are her kids in so many activities? My 3 year old triplets are in swimming, that’s it. I think is more than enough for them and I can´t tell you how much I relish that twice a week free hour I get to read uninterrupted or have a glass of water all to myself (I´m selfish like that)

  14. jrmiss86 says:

    Andrea,

    I love my kids, and I love every minute I spend with them, but if I don’t take some time for myself, I will get burnt out, so I am not going to feel guilty for taking that time, usually in the form of preschool and gym class. Actually during gym class I stay and talk with the other parents and watch the kids through the glass. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to take care of my kids, but I also look forward to the 3 or 4 hours a week where I can do what I want to do, not what they need to do. If that is not how you want to raise your children, fine, but don’t judge others because they like having a few kid free hours a week.

  15. Jane says:

    I don’t understand this parental obsession to be completely involved of every aspect of your children’s lives. I thought being a parent meant making yourself obsolete and turning out the next generation of fully functioning people. How are kids supposed to figure out how the world works if you’re standing over them every second of the day? Yes, even at 3 and 4 they should be spending time alone/with peers/with other adults without their mother’s never-ending presence. For Pete’s sake, give your kids (and yourself!) some breathing room.

  16. Linda, the original one says:

    Eh. I preferred doing things WITH my tots when they were the ripe old age of three. The school years come quickly enough (all mine are there now.) I think it’s pretty lame to criticise someone for wanting to participate in activities with her young children, then expect that no one is going to express an opinion about you leaving your child in daycare. That’s a two way street. We went to a co-op where parents were required to work in the building during class one day a week, but where welcome to stay and play (or drop off) on the other days.

  17. Read Aloud Dad says:

    One of the best activities for kids – that you can always do together is reading aloud! Kids need a lot of time with their parents, that’s what they miss most.

    If you ask them with whom would they like to play – its with Mom and Dad. So, let’s not starve them of contact with us by enrolling them in too many activities.

    Read Aloud Dad

    http://www.ReadAloudDad.com

  18. Rosana says:

    My kids have been in daycare since they were very young and I cannot wait to see them every evening when they rejoice to see me walk in the door. I always find time to spend with them in the mornings and evenings. My son (3years old) loves when I come lay down in his bed every morning for 10 minutes and talk to him about anything and my daughter (11 months) loves when I hold her and talk to her as well.
    In the evening, my son helps me cook, his dad gives him a bath and we alternate the days to read him a book and lay down with him right before he goes to bed. My daughter like to play with me right before dinner and I give her a bath and I alternate with my husband to put her to sleep.

    I have always wanted my kids to be independent (they are) but to know that I am their mom and that I love them unconditionally. That is something that can be done without mommy and me classes and by not being with them 24/7. It is all about quality, not quantity.

  19. Rosana says:

    I would love more to stay at home with them than to work but I have no choice. Still, I KNOW they are happy and even if I stayed at home with them, I will definitely give them a break from me a few times during the week.

  20. Linda, the original one says:

    I think it’s fine to be at peace with your decision to leave your very small child is full time daycare, however, it’s delusional to believe that it’s necessary for, or even fosters, “independence” in the under 3 crowd. Secure attachment is what fosters independence and whether that’s achieved in the short amount of time before and after work or by being with a stay at home parent all day, it happens because of the things you, the parent, do while you’re with your child.

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