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School Now?

by The Next Family April 13, 2011

By: Stacey Ellis

the debate between two moms over a double date

So my husband and I decide to finally start using babysitters and getting out.  Our first big night out was to dinner and a show with some friends.  That felt great.  Next, we had a double date for dinner with another couple.  They have two kids and we have one.  Her kids are a bit older than mine so she has a lot of knowledge.  Also, she’s a stay-at-home mom, so she has more time to focus on every little aspect of parenting.   EVERY. LITTLE. ASPECT.

I learned this quickly on our double date.  She asked me if I had started to look into preschools. I was king of dumbfounded. I really didn’t know what to say.  I mean, my daughter is six months old.    Preschool?  That’s for when she’s like three or four right?   Sure we started looking at synagogues but mainly for the sense of community and Jewish involvement. We considered having her go to a Jewish preschool as well, but really thought that concept was years away and haven’t focused on it.  We certainly haven’t signed her up for any preschool and haven’t visited any preschools.

My friend said, “If you don’t get her signed up for preschool by the time she’s one, she’ll never get in.  And then, you have to start working on elementary school right away.”  I already felt behind.  While I was grateful to have the information – this is when I learned the difference between the stay-at-home mom and the working mom.  I – the working mom – only have three hours a day to focus on anything baby related – and those three hours are spent WITH my daughter, giving her my undivided attention.  I come home from work and we play together or take a walk and eat, then play some more, then tubby time, final bottle and sleep (her, not me).  Then my last two hours of the day, after my daughter is asleep, are bottles, laundry, paying bills, and well, sleeping.

My friend – the stay-at-home mom – who had a full career before becoming a mom, is now obsessed with everything for her children.  Those are not my words, those are hers.   She says she only becomes obsessed when she is with other stay-at-home moms since they start talking about all of the things they are doing for the best interest of her kids.  And then she comes home exhausted and exasperated that she’s behind.  So I was thinking to myself, why are you doing this to me tonight?!

So I changed the subject and we started talking about getting together at the park. I said, “Our daughter loves the swing.”  She looked at me intensely, “On your lap?”  I said, no in the black seat with the chain.”  She said, “You put her in the seat with the chain? Not even a full bucket?”  I said, “Sure, she loves it.”  I had no idea there was a problem with this.  She looked at me like I had two heads.  Then the debate between her husband and her ensued over whether they would put their one-year-old in a swing with a chain and not a full bucket.    I thought to myself, it’s not like I’m pushing her far. If she started arching her back, I’d be right there. I didn’t understand the big deal.  My daughter cracks up laughing and actually holds on to the chain.  Some days I think she’s trying to get me to push her higher, but I’m cautious since she’s so young. But it seemed the only way to be cautious enough for my friend was to never put her on a swing without a full bucket again.

Subject change: Napping.  Oops.  Again, not the best subject since my daughter is not on the perfect, by-the-minute schedule.  She’s close, but not perfect.  Her kids go down at the exact same times every day.  She even sent me a book and DVD on naptime and sleeping patterns.  They were very helpful.  The books definitely say a regular naptime is very effective, BUT the books even give a half hour of wiggle room on this.  So we work on trying to stay within that time frame – and on weekends if we are going to be out during nap time, we make sure she’s in a stroller where she can sleep for naptime.  I could tell while we were talking, she got quieter and quieter.  She makes sure her kids go down at the exact same time every day for both naps and they go to sleep at night at the same exact time, by the minute, every night.  She does not leave the house during nap time. EVERY.  Basically – she acted like she has it all under control and that is how to raise healthy, happy children.

But in reality, do any of us REALLY have it ALL under control?  Could I be a better parent? I think every mother feels this way – wondering daily if we are doing everything “right”.  But am I doing anything that will harm my child?  I don’t think so.  She’s happy all the time.  She’s healthy and gaining weight.  She seems well rested.  She already knows the signs for “eat”, “more”, and “up”.  She’s just amazing.  And I know some day, a preschool will see that as well.

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[Photo Credit: Women on the Fence]

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