A few months after my oldest was born, I took over running a small family business. The business was in desperate need of attention and I was needing to use my brain for more than calculating feeding times. It was a win-win: I would get the mental stimulation I needed, a little money in the bank AND be home with our daughter. How could this go wrong? Everyone always talks about how wonderful it is to be home with your kids full time – and now I was going to get to do it!
I quickly realized that just because you work from home, your kids don’t suddenly change their schedule for you. As I perfected working during naps, those nap times began to change and the job needed more time. And while the job did require decent chunks of time, it didn’t seem worthy of childcare help. I felt an immense self inflicted pressure to manage it all and starting asking myself how to be a better mom. I was constantly bouncing from kid to work and back, not really doing either very well.
A year or so later, during one of many breakdowns, my mom suggested that I look into preschool, for just a few days a week. I finally gave in – I ignored that voice that said “You’re home! You can work and parent at the same time! You don’t really need to be putting your toddler in school!” and enrolled our daughter B in preschool.
It was the best money we’ve ever spent. I had a set amount of time that was mine to spend how I wanted. I worked, ran errands, cleaned, whatever I needed to get done. What I realized was that when I went to pick her up from school, I was a nicer mom. I was happy to see her. I had a chance to miss her and her miss me. We had something to talk about and share with each other. And we each made friends that were in the same place in life.
Five years, a second child, a second business and more commitments later, I was back at the same crossroads. The voice was back telling me that I never put our oldest in preschool all day, why would I even consider it for our youngest? But I knew that the reality was, he wasn’t getting what he needed and I was back to being frustrated with a schedule I couldn’t keep up with while taking a step and dragging a three year old behind me. So we made the plunge and enrolled our little guy in preschool at the same school as his sister. One pick up, one drop off. Perfection.
Thankfully, he loves school. And I had the same realization: I’m a better mom when my kiddos are off at school. I make a goal to be totally checked out of work, errands, etc. by 3pm. I don’t take work calls after that; I’m all theirs. And I can do that because I’ve actually had a chance to put my full attention to my to do list, which means now I can turn my full attention to them. I don’t yell as much. I have more patience. I still grapple with the guilt of not having them home all day, but I’ve realized that I can’t be and shouldn’t be all things to them. Sometimes being just mom and not educator too, is just fine.
And it’s good to miss each other…just a little.