Recently, my husband and I decided to send our (almost) three year old to preschool. Since I am mostly a stay at home mom, I got a lot of questions about why we think he needs to go to preschool if I am at home all day, and how we decided that he was ready. I assumed “because he is driving me absolutely crazy” and “I think we are both tired of being around each other” were not appropriate answers.
There were a lot of questions we had to answer for ourselves, like how often he should go to school, where he should go, and one of the most obvious…. can we afford this? Of course, questions about him also came up. What if he doesn’t like it? Will he socialize well with other kids? And one question that I most agonized over was, will people start to judge me? Will they look at me and think I am a bad mom for dropping my son off at school even though I am at home all day? Will they assume I am spending my mornings going to the gym and sipping lattes instead of taking care of my children?
With all of these questions, I made the decision-making process much more difficult then it probably had to be. As far as the school was concerned, I did research online (aka Googling every preschool in a 10 mile radius and then picking apart every review posted) and asked friends about their schools. The decision was ultimately made thanks to that good feeling you get when you know something is right. I could feel it when we walked in – both my son and I liked the teachers and the positive atmosphere, and all of the kids we saw on the tour looked like they were having fun. My son actually threw himself on the floor crying when the tour was over because he didn’t want to leave. The fact that it fit into our budget and had a flexible schedule was an added bonus.
I should have realized that the only way to see if he was going to enjoy school was to dive right in. Before the school search began in earnest, I tried for weeks to decide if my son was “ready.” I watched him at home and with his friends, and I didn’t even know what I was looking for! My son is two. He does all the normal things a two year old does – with more energy than I even knew a tiny human was capable of. It didn’t matter if he could identify all of his letters or automatically share every toy. It didn’t matter if his table manners resembled those of an animal more than a human. He will learn all of that as he grows up, whether he is with me or at a school. What is important is that he is happy with our decision. He wakes up excited to go to school and tells me about what he did when he was away. He shows me his pictures, sings me the songs he learns, and even owns up to how many times he gets in trouble each day.
As for my biggest worry, I finally came to realize that I was probably judging myself more harshly than anyone else was. I know what is best for my family, and that might look different than what’s best for other families. I know that I spend preschool time bonding with my younger son, finishing laundry, and buying groceries without a three year old tagging along. Ultimately, my preschooler gets to learn and nurture his independence, my youngest gets more mommy and me time, and I get the feeling that I am doing what is best for my boys – and we are all happier at the end of the day.