Generally speaking, I survived my toddler’s first month of preschool like most months as a first-time mom – with caffeine, wine and a prayer.
In more specific terms, it entailed overhauling my routine and my wardrobe. Trying to fight off illness and mom guilt. Resisting the urge to physically fight other moms. If you’ve been there, you can relate, and if childcare is in your future, read on and prepare yourself for the ride.
Aside from strategizing on how to get myself and a tiny human ready and out the door on time, wrangling with the anxiety associated with dropping my child off somewhere new, and melting in the Texas heat at 8 a.m. as I load up multiple bags and a 20-pound toddler, the first day is without incident. My struggle to hold back tears during drop-off is real, but she handles it like an apprehensive little champ, not really understanding what’s going on. I make it out with nothing more than watery eyes, thinking maybe I could have worn eyeliner after all. Not that I had time to apply it or anything.
Two days in, I get my first call from the school. I panic, of course. Is she sick? Hurt? Do we have a behavior or hygiene problem, namely, is she clawing at the eyes of her new friends like she does our poor dog using the talons I forgot to cut AGAIN last night?
Nope. She is totally fine. Mommy, on the other hand, has put her darling classmates at risk of anaphylactic shock, sending her to a nut-free school with a peanut-butter sandwich packed for lunch. This mom fail is commemorated with the daily email we get from the school showing a picture of her eating whatever they fed her in lieu of my death sandwich.
Upon pick-up that day, her napping linens are already dirty, and I’m unprepared for this, not yet having washed the backup ones I just bought. The day ends as you would expect it to when you attempt to simultaneously wash sheets, cook dinner, feed a toddler and prepare a grilled cheese sandwich for tomorrow’s nut-free alternative – it ends with an inedible, burnt-to-a-crisp grilled cheese. Followed by ALL the wine for mama.
Oh, week two, you’re a doozy. The week kicks off with me waking up nauseated in the middle of the night, and hubby following not too far behind, both victims of food poisoning. This is apparently what happens when mommy is overwhelmed and daddy steps in to help by cooking dinner. He now thinks this is his ticket out of having to ever cook again. He may just be right.
To add insult to injury, our teething toddler is having the worst bowel movements ever. There is nothing quite like a 6:30 a.m. diaper blowout when you’ve been puking your guts out all night.
If you have a toddler, you know you can’t make this sh*t up. Literally.
Week two is also when the curiosity of the new classroom wears off. She is fully aware I’m dropping her off and not coming back for eight hours, and she doesn’t like it one bit. Every morning is met with tears, and the mom guilt creeps in as I question whether I’m doing the right thing for my daughter.
On the heels of week two, as I’m second-guessing this preschool decision, a mom from one of the older classrooms approaches me. Upon asking and learning that my daughter is under 18 months old, she proceeds to tell me her 2-year-old isn’t here yet because it’s “just too young for childcare.” My daughter is too young for childcare. This makes me want to cry and maybe punch her in the throat, because, like most moms, the decision was made more out of circumstance than preference, f%ck you very much. I make a mental note to find a sweet Southern way to say “mind your own business” to quell future mom-shaming encounters.
Speaking of noses being where they don’t belong, this new germ-filled environment has the toddler’s perpetually runny. For three straight weeks. I hope my sweet girl is simply building immunity instead of transforming into a snotty-nosed brat, because I’m sure that’s coming, but I’m not ready for it just yet. At the end of week three, she and I both have colds.
By week four, I’m finally feeling like I may have this thing down, but at a price. I’ve traded in my heels and stylish dress for flats (which I loathe!) and casual work attire, because if I must break a sweat loading the car each morning, I’m going to be comfortable doing it, damn it. This sort of thing is what active wear is for, not corporate wear. My Michael Kors has been replaced with a weekender bag in an effort to consolidate the lunch bag, handbag, gym bag and toddler backpack that now accompany me out of the house each morning. I officially look like a toddler mom.
Taking my cool quotient down another notch, mimosa brunch Sundays have been relegated to baking and meal prepping for the week, and I refer to myself as the Muffin Mom, because toddler muffins are saving my life right now.
It has taken some adjustment, but I think I will be OK. And she’s going to be OK, too, as evidenced by the huge smile, wave and “Hiiii!” she gives her classmates on the last drop-off of the month. Cue the tears from mom, at last, as my baby runs into her classroom like a big girl.
About the Author
Merrisa Milliner has a journalism degree and has been writing in a corporate setting for nearly 20 years. She is mom to a darling daughter and a beloved yellow lab. In this mythical thing called her spare time, she blogs about her experience adopting her baby girl and life as a new mom at muchadoaboutadoption.com. Find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.