Somewhere in my head a little voice is telling me that I have to make the decision I feel is best for my family and I can’t let everyone else’s opinion color that decision.
Sure most anyone who is a parent has felt this feeling that I’m going through. Uncertainty about whether the decision I’m making for my child is the right one or not. Am I making the best parenting choice? What will the repercussions be if I am making the wrong choice? Really, do I have a choice at the end of the day?
Most parents would probably agree that it’s just what you have to do to make ends meet and if you’re going to keep a job and work a full-time job, you’ll have to find a way for your child to be cared for by someone other than you! I see nothing wrong with this considering I’ve been trying to avoid that as long as I could, but 18 months in I’m realizing how beneficial it could be for our whole family dynamic to have a clear boundary of when I work and my child is somewhere safe, loving, fun and social and I can get down to business and make some money, instead of trying to hodge-podge and do little bits and pieces here and there while taking care of a toddler, usually eating into my mornings, evenings and weekends to try and get more work done and feeling like I’m ready to go jump off a cliff from the anxiety of it all.
It doesn’t help when whatever it is you are deciding to do and possibly feeling less than confident on, such as having your child go into a program during the week, is questioned by well meaning family members or friends. Take my situation. I have been the main caretaker for my 18-month old since she was born and I’ve also worked the entire time except for the first week after she was born. Now all be it that the amount of work I get done is all over the map since I have to try and figure out how to either get up super early in the a.m. then squeeze in an hour or two while she sits in front of the TV then a couple more hours while she naps and then if I have the motivation or haven’t gotten too bent on drinking my evening away, spend a few hours after she’s gone to bed doing more work.
My life has felt like one perpetual workload. I feel like I’m weighted down by either always taking care of her, rat racing to make a certain amount of money each week and always falling short, never feeling like I have a moment to myself and spending a lot of my weekends trying to play catch up to get some much needed hours of work in when my husband can take over watching. I know part of my love for drinking is to take this edge off that I constantly feel. The weight of never feeling like I’m ever a step ahead but always a few steps behind.
I’m sure my story isn’t that dissimilar from a lot of working parents’ stories. I’m sure like many of those parents if they haven’t felt so sooner, get to the point like I have where before you know it your kid is 18 months or older and you’re feeling about at the end of your rope, that you may not be able to hang on any longer if you don’t make some kind of change that is more suitable to your workload dynamic. I can’t even imagine how this feels with more than one kid. With their new found independence and mobility and inquisitiveness even just one toddler can radically change what you used to be able to tackle during the day with a newborn.
You start to realize you’re not able to work like you really need to be able to in order to get the bills paid. You’re not able to have a decent schedule for your family life, for your self-care routine, for anything other than the monotony of day in, day out trying to keep your head above water. The light at the end of the tunnel for me came at the thought of enrolling my 18 month old in a preschool program. It was the greatest relief in my mind to think okay, she could have somewhere to be with other kids getting socialized, doing activities throughout the day and I can spend a huge chunk of time ( like an actual real work day! ) actually sitting and working uninterrupted and actually bringing some more substantial money into the house. Why should I feel bad about this? Why should I feel guilty that I think this could be the perfect solution?
Now this isn’t to shame people who don’t have their kids go into a preschool program, who do feel they can handle their workloads and their children being at home all day with them. Or those who have the choice to be a stay-at-home parent who does not have to also work a job. If a family has that luxury that one parent can be focused completely on the child/children and not have to worry about helping pay the bills, that’s fortunate. It just turns out that’s not my reality and I do not have that choice. My income is absolutely necessary and what’s more, what I have been making doesn’t cut it, I’ve realized. I scrape by each week, filled with anxiety about the next bill coming in the mail, or whether if we had to scrape unexpected money together for some un-forseen cost, what would we do? I know my health suffers for it and I know I’m not the best parent I could be because of it and how preoccupied I always am. Nor does the time frames that I’m constantly trying to juggle around my responsibility for a toddler all day cut it. I feel stressed, resentful, joyless and triggered to drink often by this position I’m in.
I know something has to give, especially as I try to create a healthier more mindful lifestyle for myself. I think the best thing I could possibly do for our family and what our priorities are, is try out having her go somewhere at least 4 days a week. Ideally, I’ll be able to make enough to cover the cost of her preschool and also bring in more than I was before on top of that and on top of that, something money can’t buy, TIME to spend with my family. TIME to spend on myself. WEEKENDS where we can actually do things as a family instead of my husband and I feeling like we’re always two ships passing in the night.
Okay, so there I was a couple of months ago really researching the heck out of some local daycares/preschools. Found one we really liked that is 20 minutes away and had talked with the owner and got everything set up to come check out the space and enroll my daughter. After telling a couple of people what I was going to be doing, trying out a preschool, I started to get the questions that were filled with a tone of uncertainty in my choice. Or just straight up comments that made me feel guilty that I’m not going to “choose” to keep her at home with me, just because that’s what someone else was able to do with their kids and their telling me how beneficial that was as a parent and for the kids and how you don’t get that time back. A good parent would choose to just keep their child at home with them right? Make the sacrifices that I need to make to be that parent whose main priority is child-rearing, even if it means continuing the way I have on the verge of a nervous breakdown… I pulled the plug on enrolling her, I became so filled with guilt and shame and that I was a bad parent if she goes somewhere a few days a week that you can’t be both a great mother and a working mother.
The tables are turning now on my line of thinking and I have realized over the past week, I don’t think so. I don’t think it has to be an either or. I think I can be a working mom and admit that I can’t do it all while I have a toddler in the house every day with me. I don’t think it’s wrong to admit that preschool can be a great alternative and honestly, I’ve heard friends of mine tell me how much their child really blossomed and loved being in a program and able to socialize with other children. So it’s for her sake too to not have to sit around with me day in and day out not getting as much enrichment and developmental strategies instilled in her life as the preschool will offer. It’s not that I don’t sit and work on incorporating new and fun activities or little road trip adventures to different places or at the least a walk outside every day, but I know there are things I can’t offer that a program probably could.
Yes, I will own this decision. I’ve lined up for her to start right after Thanksgiving. If it turns out when I take her she does not do well and does not acclimate, I will of course reconsider whether or not she’s ready for that yet. But I’ll at least give it a shot. I decided as part of my sobriety journey I need to stand up for myself and my family and take some initiative and be confident in my ability to make the choices I need for my family even if not everyone in my life agrees with those choices or wants to try to tell me how to do it based on what they were able to do in their circumstances.
Stay tuned for some photos and stories of our preschool experience! I’m looking forward to starting a new chapter for us that will hopefully bring some peace and routine to our lives that I think we’ve all been needing!