Tuesday, September 17th, 2013...9:11 pm
Kindergarten Is Messing With My Working Mom Zen
It was hanging outside her classroom this morning amid all of the other requests for volunteers. Bring a book. Your favorite one, it invited. Sit down with us and share a story. Read to them. Sign up here.
I’d already thought of the books I’d choose. I pictured Nora sitting in the circle, smiling proudly at me. I want to read a book with her class.
But I can’t.
I won’t be one of the parents sitting amidst the kindergarteners on a rug marked with their names. I won’t read them Dragons Love Tacos or We Are In a Book or Claire and the Unicorn. Instead, on Wednesday mornings I will be with my own students. I will imagine other parents sharing books and illustrations, words that evoke laughter and thought. And I will wish I was there.
I knew it would be the books that would push me over the edge. When the teacher mentioned this plan on back to school night I wished and wished that story time would somehow fall in the small window of time I could make leaving campus for a moment work. I knew I wouldn”t feel as bad about not being there for cutting gingerbread cookies or for tie-dying shirts. Those things aren’t my specialty. But sharing books and reading with kids? That’s what I do. Who I am. What I’m good at.
At the end of the last school year I was past my working mom guilt. Working was working for me. I was validated at my job, receiving accolades beyond my imagination. I felt like I had things balanced at home most days. Our daycare routine was perfect. I decided that I could shout with pride that I am a working mom. I really, for the first time since I dropped Nora off at daycare five years ago, felt almost completely at peace with my status as a working mom.
I should have known it was too good to last.
I think the kindergarten transition has, ironically, been easiest for Nora. Miles had a rough time. Ken is himself starting a new job. And me? I’m back to combating waves of guilt when I will have to miss things that are important to me. I’m not the mom who hangs out in the classroom as the teacher starts her day, chatting with other parents or with the teacher. Instead I rush off to drop off Miles and then get to my own class. I tossed the papers asking to be a room mother. I know I just don’t have time. I won’t be one of the parents eating lunch with her child and I won’t be the mom who goes on all the field trips.
Nora will know, I’m sure, that her education is important to me despite my not being there. And I know there will be plenty of opportunities for me to help.
But just like I didn’t anticipate Miles struggling through this transition, this isn’t what I expected to feel either. Angst about my baby growing up? Fear of her not loving school? Worries about friends and bullies? Those things I had processed. But this whole messing with my working mom mojo? Just one more thing I hadn’t anticipated about this transition.
I’ll adjust. I know I will. I did five years ago when leaving my child seemed like the most impossible thing I could do. It took a while. But I got there. But for now the volunteer board will taunt me and I’ll ask Nora about the stories other parents are lucky to share and I’ll look for the ways that I can make this all feel right once again.
Incidentally, my blogging friend Cheryl had a piece on the New York Times Motherlode blog this weekend about feeling almost exactly the opposite effect from kindergarten on her working mom status. I read and I couldn’t yet identify. But I hope one day I will. If you haven’t read her post yet, you should.