I am a stay-at-home mom who loves educational child care almost as much as I love cake.
Okay, I’ll be honest—it doesn’t even have to be educational. Daycare, Mother’s Day Out, Mother’s Morning Out, Pre-K, and nursery school, I love them all. I love the programs and the teachers and the fact that I can drop my children off and take steady, uninterrupted breaths while they play and learn in a controlled setting.
While I may technically be capable of teaching my kids the alphabet myself, I also have to do things like keep the family room carpet clean and make sure everyone has socks and underwear. Apparently, I am one of those people who can’t manage to handle all of that without losing her ever-loving mind. Child care, in any form, is something I require in order to function.
And teachers, my God, teachers are saints. Teachers are amazing creatures who intentionally chose to teach, and apparently they enjoy it enough to keep doing it. Sometimes I am so grateful that I have to fight the urge to bear hug them all as I walk down the hallway yelling, “Thank you for saving me!” Because truly, they do.
I made the decision to enroll my two youngest children in full-time preschool this year because I needed a break from the things that kept happening. Things like me leaving the room for two seconds and returning to find my toddler freshening her face with all-purpose cleaner like it came straight from a French Alps aquifer. Things like discovering my eldest washing his hands with an entire banana. Things like 95 days straight of my preschooler pretending to be a cat and rubbing against my legs while I ate breakfast. We woke up every morning to meowing. We don’t own any pets. The day my cat-son pooped in the backyard was the day I enrolled them all in school.
It wasn’t always this way. Years ago, when I was a working mom with a child in daycare, I was absolutely wracked with guilt. I rushed to pick him up after work, and I cherished every moment we had together. If I had to stay late, I sat in my mauve cubicle letting waves of sadness wash over me. I proceeded to quit my job and have two more children, and only then did I realize what a gift child care was to me.
I am one of those overwhelmed mothers who always forget it’s picture day and never send party favors for class parties and always feel like I should be doing more for the teachers, because if not for them I would be teaching my children math myself and I draw the line there.
My daughter’s hair always looks like she just rolled down a hill—during a tornado. I do my best, but my best sort of sucks. Sometimes her teachers send her home with perfectly French-braided pigtails, and it’s amazing and inspiring and makes me feel a little bit like I have a village.
I need a village.
Preschool is where my children learn how to use scissors properly without the temptation to cut each other’s hair or poke holes in the tablecloth when my back is turned. They learn how to form a line and sit quietly and take turns and act like civilized individuals. They learn cute songs with hand movements.
Sometimes my 4-year-old even sings to me in human instead of cat.
Preschool provides structure and seesaws and crafts involving paint that I don’t have to clean up. They have time to miss me, and I them. It teaches them that Mommy always comes back—sometimes even a bit early—to pick them up.
Those precious hours recharge me enough to play along with the whole cat thing, which is good because motherhood really wears meowt.
Thank goodness for preschool, and cake.