It’s kind of a given that you ship your kiddo off to school around the time they turn 5. But what about before that? It’s easy to feel guilty for sending your toddler or baby to preschool or a parent’s morning-out program, but I can honestly say doing so has made me a better, more present mom.
Even though I feel bad about it occasionally (Shouldn’t I want to spend time with my kid? Isn’t this why I’m at home? Why am I paying someone else to take care of my kid when I could do it? Why am I the only mom desperate to get some time?), we (both mom and dad) feel really, really good about our decision to send our 2-year-old to school. He’s two now, but he started going when he was 8 months old.
We chose to do this because I work from home and I couldn’t manage being a full-time mom to a baby that didn’t nap and actually get my work done without going certifiably insane. Now he goes because I still need a way to get my work done without going certifiably insane, but it’s become clear that we’d send him anyway, even if I wasn’t working. It’s good for me and it’s good for him, but it’s especially good for me and my mental sanity.
How School Makes Me a Better Mom:
1. I need mom time.
I miss him greatly when he’s gone and sometimes four hours seems like a decade, but I do not regret having some time to myself. At first, I needed the time to work. I dropped him off the second the doors opened, drove to a coffee shop, and worked frantically for four hours without stopping to breathe and still had loads to do. I still do that many days, but I’ve learned how much I revel in the opportunity to do other things without worrying about another little human. I can hang shelves or cook dinner; I can go to the grocery store and actually get everything on my list; I can have lunch with friends. I can SHOWER. Go to the gym. CLEAN and have it stay clean for slightly more than .4 seconds. (I’m lying. I don’t clean during mom time.) EAT without grabby toddler fingers. Read. Volunteer. Have a sick day. Do NOTHING. Yes, working is the priority on my list, but all of these other things are important too. Meaning, I’d love and appreciate having this time regardless of having work to do or not. I’m actually working really hard to make some of these other things priorities instead because I tend to undervalue them and the difference they make in my sanity level. Some moms seem to be able to do it all. I am not one of them. Even if you are one of them, you don’t have to be. When I get “me time,” I’m better able to be there for my son when I’m with him, instead of being distracted or frustrated by a million other things.
2. I love discovering what interests him, which makes me HAPPY.
Notice a theme here? Happy! When it’s just me and the tyke at home during the day, he’s only exposed to what I show him, what I know, and what I say. At school he experiences his teachers, other kids, different toys and activities, music, and more. I love trying to figure out what he’s talking about when he comes home asking for the “moon song” or talking about his buddy that I don’t know. I love when he tells me to “shh, shhh, shh” and “beep, beep, beep” when he plays with his school bus. I love when he puts his little fingers together and tells me it’s a diamond shape.
3. I have time for doctor’s appointments/meetings/exercise, which makes me take care of myself.
Umm, when do stay-at-home moms go to the doctor? Or dentist? Haircuts? Rarely do offices have evening hours. That means you need a babysitter or dad needs to take off work. AKA: you’re probably not going to do it. Having set times available to go to appointments is really helpful. It’s been a lifesaver for me given my recent stint in physical therapy. My toddler hates gym childcare with a passion, which is a huge struggle for me, but there are also lots of exercise options that don’t offer childcare or are harder with a kid. This is a great time to do them without having to enlist outside help.
4. It has a low cost, which makes me not feel guilty.
School is cheap. It’s not like daycare that can cost an arm and a leg depending on where you live. It takes a little bit of the is-it-worth-it-financially out of the equation. Babysitters and drop-in childcare isn’t cheap either. School, per hour, costs significantly less than a babysitter and the arrangements are already made. If it were left up to me to simply get a babysitter whenever I felt like I needed an extra hand or overwhelmed, I would just never do it.
5. I get adult interaction, which makes a human being.
Okay this one is just sad, but it’s true. Especially when KB was really little, sometimes the only time I saw a human being that could talk back to me with actual words was when I saw other parents dropping off their kids at school. That part of it has mostly melted away, but it’s still nice to have a reason to get our of your PJs and say hi to someone that’s not related to you. This is especially true when the husband’s traveling for work.
6. My kiddo loves it, which makes me HAPPY.
LOVES it. He’s a very, very attached kid. He gets mad when I leave a room in our house. Let’s not talk about the sobbing and shuddering that happens when I try to put him in gym child care. However, he RUNS into school. He forgets me the second we pull into the parking lot and asks to runnnnn in, which is exactly what he proceeds to do. He gets mad if the doors haven’t been unlocked yet. He runs by every classroom waving at all the teachers and goes straight into his room without so much as a goodbye or second glance. When I pick him up, he darts out of the room and runs down the hall to go explore other classrooms. Rarely do I get a “Hi mommy!” in passing. I have to drag him to the car. Knowing he can be happy without me there takes a weight off my shoulder and lets me not worry so much about the times he seems permanently attached to my leg.
7. He gets to experience other kids his age, which teaches me how to react appropriately.
Many of our kid-friends are a little older. Most of the time it doesn’t matter, but sometimes a small age difference can seem like a lot when kids are little. Being in a group of his peers lets him learn how to interact with others and get used to being around a bunch of kids. It also lets me see what’s “normal” and age-appropriate, enabling me to handle certain situations better. Plus, it’s nice for him to have other people on his level, both literally and figuratively. He’d never learn this at home with just me around most of the time.
8. He learns, which takes the pressure of me.
Self-imposed pressure, of course. I don’t have to worry so much about “lessons” or teaching — just playing and being there. I try to teach him along the way, but it’s nice for him to “formally” learn, too. And learn he does — lots. Crazy lots. Like, real things. I can try to take all the credit in the world, but I promise I did not teach him how to identify an octagon or the numbers six through twelve. (One through five is still iffy.) I doubt it’s coincidence that my non-talker started babbling away this September, weeks after school started.
What do you think about school? What’s your advice to other moms/dads that are on the fence?
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