I remember being told once that it would get easier to drop the kids off at daycare. It wouldn't be long before it would just become routine, this person said. Unfortunately, it never did become routine. Sure, the tears eventually stopped (mostly), but the need to leave for work still feels like the proverbial cane pulling an old-timey actor off the stage. I am never quite ready to say good-bye to my sweet children. Sometimes they don't want to let me go, either, which usually ends in us all in tears.
I realize that I am wired differently than some mothers. I know several moms who love to go to work, and feel no sadness or guilt about leaving their kids in daycare all day, 5 days a week. This doesn't make them cold or heartless; it simply means they are able to compartmentalize. I'm not one of those moms.I also realize that the teachers at daycare (some of whom may be reading this) are more than competent, and they love my children *almost* as much as I do. My kids adore their teachers and their friends.
I can't discount the benefits of early-childhood education, either. Many studies have shown that kids that attended pre-K programs are better prepared for kindergarten than their counterparts who stayed home.
Despite all of this, I've never quite come to terms with the fact that the care of my kids is outsourced 45-50 hours a week. I am one of those people who ask, "why have kids if you can't take care of them?" I have yet to come up with a good response to myself when I ask that question. I'd rather lean out than in.
Over the past few years, I've come up with some ways to mitigate the stress and maximize the pleasure of having kids "part time":
- Relish every single moment with them ...: Turn off the TV, cell phone, and computer and give them your full, undivided attention for 5 minutes or 2 hours--whatever you can make time for.
- ... But don't beat yourself up when you don't: You can't see rainbows and unicorns in their eyes at all times. Kids are kids, so don't feel bad when you get angry or need a break. Remember: you just worked a full day; you need a break, too.
- Plan ahead: Make meal plans on the weekend that will allow you to spend more time with the kids and less in the kitchen. My husband and I cook slow-cooker meals 1-2 times a week, and each meal lasts two dinners. We often do prep the evening before, after the kids go to bed, and then turn the pot on in the morning.
- Make weekends count: Plan a zoo trip, hike, a day trip, or dinner with friends every weekend. We relish weekend mornings in our PJs, so we often make afternoon plans to get us out of the house.
- Work smarter, not harder: If you have to be at work all day, be efficient. Get your work done and leave early when you can.
- Give yourself a break: I'm a big fan of working out at lunchtime (though I often eat at my desk--see No. 4 above). I also enjoy an occasional drink with friends or coworkers after work. Healthy and happy moms are better moms.
I'm not going to lie--I don't always practice what I preach, and our system often breaks down. If I had it all figured out, I wouldn't be writing this blog. It's a constant work in progress.
Does anyone have any tried and true tips for balancing it all?