When I first got pregnant, I always envisioned myself as being a working mom. I figured I would take my 3 months of maternity leave and then waltz back into the office like it was no big thing. Of course, what you picture while pregnant is often much different than what really ends up happening. For example, I had no way of knowing I would lose my job halfway through my pregnancy due to my company’s refusal to allow me to work remotely while I was put on temporary bed rest. And I never anticipated that my baby would be born sick and spend two months in the NICU. When life came at me this way in full force, the last thing I could even think of was placing him, at that young age, in the care of others. The reality was that staying home with my son, instead of rushing back to work, was unquestionably the thing that made the most sense for my baby and our family.
Fast forward two years to now, and I am more than ready for my beautiful, now totally healthy toddler to begin spending a few hours a day at preschool, where he’s sure to learn new things and make some of his first friendships. Finding a preschool was tough, and getting over the idea of strangers watching him is still difficult (especially with all the horror stories I’ve heard about preschools, even though I know most of them are awesome), but I know it’s for the best. If you’re currently fraught with anxieties at the thought of placing your own baby in someone else’s care, you’re not alone. These are some of the very anxious thoughts I had before dropping him off for his very first day, many of which you might have had with your own kids:
“Will They Feel Abandoned?”
This is a very common thought. Some kids deal with separation anxiety when they first start school, but it generally resolves pretty quickly. Still, I fear scarring him for life, not because preschool is especially scarring (I hear that's, like, not what they're aiming for) because I fear that all the damn time about everything.
“Are They Going To Cry A Lot?”
My kid tends to cry when he sees me leave a room, so I imagined going to school would be no different; actually way worse, I feared. I knew he would cry at first. The question was, then, for how long? Would he cry all day? Only a few minutes? It breaks my heart to even think about it and he’s currently asleep next to me.
“Will The Staff Know How To Deal With Their Tantrums?”
Of course they will. They’re professionals and they’ve dealt with hundreds, maybe thousands, of other rugrats. Still, you can’t help but wonder if your child will be different and prove to be the single most difficult, un-soothable child known the all of preschool history.
“Are They Having A Good Time?”
Well, are they???
“Will They Get Along With The Other Kids?”
Toddlers are the worst at sharing and they they are the worst at communicating and mine is no different. I frequently worry that he’ll never get those social skills down, but if anything, I know preschool and frequent exposure to other kids will probably help this along. Still, this is a concern.
“What If Another Kid Hits Or Bites Him?”
I keep hearing about these biters and I’m afraid if my kid comes home with teeth marks I’m gonna have to, like, go in there and have to settle some sh*t. I don't want to be that mom! No one bite my kid, please. First of all, rude. Second of all, gross. Third of all, don't.
“Or What If He Hits Or Bites Another Kid?”
Ugh, seriously, what if my kid ends up being that little jerk you hear about? I sure hope not...
“OMG Wait — What If The Teacher Hits Them?!”
BIG GIANT FEAR. And it’s not entirely irrational. There have been many cases of mistreatment of children at preschools. It doesn't happen nearly as often as I think overly anxious parents like me think it does, but still, it could. And my 2-year-old doesn’t yet have the vocabulary to explain something like this to me. I don’t think I’ll ever get over this fear.
“They’re Going To Pick Up So Many Germs...”
That’s a given, but I am constantly thinking and worrying about it anyway.
“Are They Even Going To Remember Me After A While?”
I do sometimes wonder if he’ll end up simply not needing mommy anymore, buuuuuut obviously this is highly unlikely since mommy gives him toy cars and bounces him around the house and let’s him watch way more Mater’s Tall Tales than any child should reasonably be allowed to watch.
“Will They Actually Eat?”
This is actually a pretty rational fear, I think, given that my son has had feeding delays. I often am scared he’ll end up starving himself, or that I'll have to spoon-feed him into his 20s. Neither of those is likely, though, and I’m sure the teachers know tactics I don’t.
“What If They Fall In The Playground And Get Hurt?”
No, but seriously, what if he gets a concussion and NO ONE NOTICES?! IT COULD HAPPEN (it won't) IT REALLY COULD (this literally is not going to happen).
“Are They Getting Enough Attention?”
One of the reasons we’re moving our kid to a different school soon is the first one he went to simply had too many kids and not enough teachers (and the ones present seemed overly stressed). The point of this whole thing is for him to learn and be safe and have fun and that can’t happen without plenty of attention. So I'm gonna go ahead and say you’re OK to worry about this too.
“Will They Actually Sit Still For Anything?”
Barring using a seatbelt, I don’t know how this will fly. But I’ve seen it done — actual toddlers actually sitting for more than 2 seconds — and I wonder what kind of magic these teachers have in their pockets.
“What If They Hate Their Teacher?”
Ugh. What if my baby can’t stand this person who watches him all the time? I would hate to have to send him to see them day after day. This is probably unlikely but hey, so is the rest of this, so let's just live our best, most needlessly anxious lives right now.
“What If They Choke On Something? Or Swallow Something Poisonous?!”
I always ask if all the teachers know how to handle this because it’s a constant fear even though my kid rarely actually puts anything in his mouth of his own volition (not even food). And I would hope the school wouldn’t allow poisonous materials anywhere near toddlers, but what if?!
“What If He Somehow Wanders Out Of The Classroom, Unlocks The Gate, And Wanders Into Traffic?”
Alright, the chances of this are slim to none. But you’re gonna tell me you haven’t thought of this one, too?
“Or What If Some Gun-Wielding Mass Murderer Wanders Into Their School?!?!”
Sorry to take it here, guys, but I'm taking it here. How can I not? We don't just worry about the dumb stuff as parents. Just look at the statistics on mass shootings in this country. I know it’s probably going to be fine but I just cannot with some of these thoughts...
“What If They Catch The Flu? Or Whooping Cough? Or The Mumps? Or The Freaking Zika Virus?!”
I know he’s going to get sick, even if he has all his shots, but catching a cold is one thing. Zika virus? NOPE.
“Or...What If They Simply Stick Play-Doh Up Their Nose Accidentally?”
This is more likely, and it freaks me out to think of. Not being able to be in control of these situations is driving me a little batty.
“Is Their Personality Going To Change?”
I’m pretty sure the answer is yes because they're humans who grow and evolve and change, but then the question is more, “Will the change be for the better?” I sure hope so. Like, maybe some other toddler can get him to stop trying to jump off the couch. That's how peer influence works, right?
“Is This Even Worth The Money?
Preschool is so freaking expensive. Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t just quit life and snuggle with my kid all day. Probably not feasible, but the thought crosses my mind every month when I write that check.
“Will They End Up Having So Much Fun They Don’t Want To Come Home?”
I mean, I hope he has a blast. Just maybe not more of a blast than he has here at home. Not yet, anyway. Because I actually think that's the only real fear we have when we send our kids to preschool: That this will be the catalyst for making them not our babies anymore. And as exciting as that is in so many ways, it's also terrifying and a bit sad. And that's totally OK.