Well, it’s September and everyone seems to be sending their first child off to kindergarten or pre-school for the first time. My Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds have been full of pictures of kids standing by doors with year signs, ala Pinterest, for the last few weeks. For our family, it will also be the first year that both the kids will be in “real” preschool. Only two days a week, 3 hours at a time, but still…
A lot of my mom friends are expressing sadness and regret as they send their little ones off to school for the first time. Of course, it IS the end of a fun summer, and now we’re back to the routine. It can be a beating to make everyone come inside and go to bed when we used to take another walk outside or even go to the pool for an evening swim. And I also get that the kindergarten transition is a huge milestone — the transition from a little baby to a Real Big Kid is enough to make any mommy cry. I’m already thinking about how I’m going to be crying over that exact same thing in a few years! But there’s one aspect to the back-to-school blues that I don’t get: the guilt.
What I’m thinking of usually happens to moms when the child is going into a school environment for the first time. Whether it’s daycare, once a week Mother’s Day Out, or even 1-day preschool, mommy guilt over those few hours every week is something I don’t fully understand. I know I’m going to sound like a monster here, but I’ll just say it: I’ve never felt a guilty when dropping my kids off at preschool, Mother’s Day Out, or any other form of childcare. And even though I stay home, they spend a lot of time in cooperative care environments – Mother’s Day Out since they were 10 and 6 months old, church classes 2-3 times a week, weekday morning Bible study, and babysitting at We Yogis when I take a class.
Don’t get me wrong, my kids haven’t always been great at the separation aspect. My youngest had the worst time learning to take a bottle and I had to be called back by the Mother’s Day Out staff 3 weeks in a row to nurse her because she refused anything but breastfeeding. While I did feel badly for putting the teachers through what must have been a long period of screaming baby, I didn’t feel guilty about leaving her for a few hours even though she wasn’t a fan. Why didn’t I feel guilty?
It isn’t because I’m desperate to get time away from the kids that I don’t feel guilty for sending them to school. I chose to forego working a full time job in order to be with them during this period in their life because it works for our family right now, and I am just as available whether or not I drop them off for a few hours during the week. I hardly consider 6 hours of child-free time per week to be checking out of my motherhood duties. In fact, I’m using most of the time to run errands on their behalf and teach a kids yoga class, where I spend an hour with other kids of the exact same age as my children.
One reason that I don’t feel guilty is because I absolutely trust the person or people with whom I am leaving my children. My husband and I served in the childcare at our church for 4 years before having children of our own, so we know how much love and care goes into that entire program, and the way the older kids are served through learning as it is age appropriate. The Mother’s Day Out workers in infants and the teachers in preschool are extremely patient and encouraging. When Little Lady had that separation trouble, they encouraged me not to give up, to try again next week, and didn’t make me feel like a bad mom. The partnership and cooperation of a caregiver makes a huge difference in how you feel about leaving your children.
I am flexible with routine and, to some extent, diet. Are my kids’ routines, eating habits, or experiences different when someone else is caring for them? Definitely. But you know what? That’s OK. They need to learn to adapt to different situations as they get older. It’s my opinion that if they freak out because the caregiver doesn’t know to give them their special na-na at 10:05am, that’s fine. It will actually help them learn not to be so dependent on routine or a particular item. Are they going to be upset when another kid smacks them or takes a toy? Yep. Also a good thing to learn to deal with. We do have some food intolerances (not allergies, that would be completely different, obviously), so I provide alternative snacks when I think my son might be given things that make his tummy rebel. I communicate with his teachers about his ongoing food issues. But for less serious things, I am flexible. There are many times they’ll get a non-organic apple or some juice with high fructose corn syrup that I wouldn’t normally serve them. I do not freak out over those things.
There is one thing that I am very clear about: my own limitations. I both love and hate Facebook and Pinterest for showing me all the things that I’m not doing with my kids. When my kids are bored, I’m likely to give them Play-doh or paint or send them outside. I’m all about imaginative play, and fortunately they are fairly good at it. It isn’t until I pick them up from Kidville or preschool that I realize that what I’m supposed to be doing with these kids is teaching them letter combinations with noodles or giving them sensory experiences by embedding objects in Play-doh or using those dinosaur toys to facilitate counting. Honestly, those things never, ever cross my mind. I am not an educationally minded mother. Not only that, I don’t know what I don’t know. I need environments like preschool, Mother’s Day Out, and KVU, Jr. to help me educate my children so they aren’t behind when it’s our turn for kindergarten, because educating is not a skill that I possess naturally.
How about you? Do you have mommy guilt about school?
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