The first day of preschool is a major milestone for a kid, but it's also a pretty big deal for mom. In fact, the whole family transitions. The child takes another step toward independence, while the parents (or parent) come to terms with the fact that their baby is no longer a baby. It's challenging both emotionally and logistically, so it's important for every mom to take certain steps for herself and her child before her kid starts preschool.
My daughter started preschool very early and when she was just 18 months old. I'm not sure you can technically call it preschool at that point, but it isn't exactly daycare either. I'm raising my daughter bilingually. Although I'm fluent in Spanish, I knew she needed more native speaker exposure, so I enrolled her in a Spanish immersion preschool two days a week. This also allowed me to go back to work part-time. In fact, my first shift was on her first day of school.
After being a stay-at-home mom for over a year, making the change to the preschool schedule was heart-wrenching. I felt all kinds of guilt about the hours my daughter was going to spend away from me, but I also needed something for myself. I knew it was going to be tough, so I did a few things to make it just a little bit easier:
Spend Some One-On-One Time Together
I recommend lots of snuggles, books, and bubbles. Knowing you've logged some serious quality time with your kid will go a long way toward tempering the guilt you're bound to feel at drop off. My daughter and I actually took a trip (just the two of us girls) right before school started. Having that special time together, and at the beach, no less, was just what we needed.
Fill Up Your Phone With Photos
Am I the only one who gazes longingly at the clock (who am I kidding? I mean my phone AKA the watch I pay a monthly bill for) willing it to be my kid's bedtime? Then, once she's in bed, spends the evening looking and her photos and videos? I'm sure your iCloud storage is already full, but for good measure I suggest you make sure you have lots of pics of that adorable face to gaze at just in case you miss them while they're at school.
Meet The Teacher
Yes, by all means do the background check and research preschools and whatnot, but I say take it a step further. Go in and actually meet your kid's future teacher. I guarantee you, meeting the person who is going to be caring for your beloved child will make you feel a ton better about leaving them.
My daughter's teacher assured me that all the instructors were experienced moms themselves. I could just tell she was going to dote on my little girl. My kid loves the room assistant so much she asked for her while on my lap during Mother's Day tea. It sucked a little in the moment, but I know that bonding with her caregivers is super important.
Create A Project List
Pin all the pins! Do all the things! OK, you don't have to go full-blown Martha Stewart, but I find that it's helpful to have some projects lined up. For one, it keeps me distracted, but it also gives me a sense of accomplishment when I've done something I couldn't have done with my very favorite "helper" in the house. So yeah, I rearranged my sock and underwear drawer and I'm kinda proud of it.
Pack A Lunch
On the surface, this may look like a practical (if obvious) tip. For me, though, it was an act of love. I didn't do anything fancy, although I'd really like for someone to pack me a bento box full of Disney character faces. But lovingly cutting my daughter's grapes in half and her PB&J in "sailboats" gave me all the feels. I guess I imagined she'd open her hedgehog lunchbox and know that mommy did something just for her.
Brace Yourself For Tears
Keep in mind that this is often harder on us parents than it is our kids. Your child may cry when you hand them over, but chances are that will stop within a few minutes (like when they notice the amazing play kitchen). My kid was fine at drop off, but cried when she saw me for pick up. I'm convinced she was just trying to make me feel bad (that's sort of her superpower anyway).
Prepare To Treat Yourself
Trust me when I say you are going to want to locate the nearest Target, Starbucks, nail salon, or whatever brings you sweet, sweet relief. Seriously, get it programmed in your GPS before day one. I immediately injected a grande extra hot no water chai tea latte (yeah, I'm from Seattle) directly into my veins and let the good feelings flow.
Your kid might not be the only one crying. Make sure you have Kleenex in the car, your purse, even up your sleeve like your grandma. You don't want to be caught without one should you spontaneously burst into tears.
That being said, don't feel bad if you don't cry. I didn't.
If you're going back to work, like me, this is easy. I work remotely, so I settled into typing on the old laptop at the coffee shop. The time went by surprisingly fast.
If not, this is a great opportunity for a brunch date with a pal you haven't seen in awhile or to run those errands that have been on your list since, um, the birth of your child. Preschool Commandment #1: Thou shalt keep thyself busy.
Let The Guilt Go
You're probably questioning your decision to enroll your child in a preschool program. I know I was, especially because lots of people had lots of opinions on the matter.
Remember that the socialization is essential. I'm a former teacher, but I don't care about my daughter learning the ABCs. I'd much rather she know how to sit during circle time, line up, share, and you know, not be a heinous human.
So this is good for your kid, and it's good for you too, mama. Now go get your mimosa in the knowledge that your kid is happily making handprint walruses.