I dropped my baby off to her first day of kindergarten this week, which I have long dreamed of, but wearing her cutest face mask, which I couldn’t have predicted a year ago. The mix of emotions is real, but I want to offer encouragement to moms sending their kids back to physical school this year.
It was not an easy decision to send our kids back to school, just as it wasn’t easy for those who chose to do remote learning, or to homeschool, or who didn’t have a choice at all. I don’t blame or shame any parent who made a thoughtful school decision for their family. We each made the best decision we could, but that doesn’t mean we feel fully at peace.
This rush of emotions is not what I had expected for this school year that would have been momentous for our family even without COVID complications. I am a stay at home mom, and this was a year I’d been looking forward to practically since my oldest child was born ten years ago. This year, all the kids would be in school all day and I would have more freedom.
Don’t get me wrong; I have been grateful to get to be home with my kids in the youngest years. It was a choice we had the ability to make in our family, and I have not regretted it. But I have still looked forward to running weekday errands alone and, as I began freelance writing/editing in the last two years, having more kid-free time to work from home.
School plans shifted
Then coronavirus hit in March, and even the last year of partial-freedom preschool was interrupted. We followed a very loose remote learning plan from home for the final months of school. As summer began, our district seemed set on returning to in-person learning in the fall with safety precautions, but details were scanty.
A solid plan emerged at the end of July, with the option to do all in-person learning with masks and distancing or all remote. My husband and I didn’t need to think much about it: the kids were going back to school.
Luckily, we have no underlying health issues in our family, so we think we have a fairly low risk of becoming seriously ill. One of our children in particular had a hard time doing the remote learning in the spring. They all missed the social interaction of school, especially since we’ve only lived in our town for a bit over a year, almost half of which was during shutdown.
That doesn’t mean I have no concerns. That doesn’t mean I won’t worry. That doesn’t mean I won’t pray daily for their safety at school. But I have never been able to guarantee their safety despite my many precautions, and I feel fairly confident we have made a good choice for us.
And I think you have too. School is important to children. Normal is important to children. And while this school year won’t be last year’s normal, it will be closer than what they’ve had in months.
I am also encouraged that my kids were saying they were ready to go back. They’ve missed their friends. They’ve missed their routines. They’ve missed having someone other than mom challenge them to learn and grow. Even when they weren’t as sure, I knew it would be good for them.
We need normal
Moms need normal, too. Whether you work or stay at home, you’re supposed to have a community to help your children learn and grow. Most schools and teachers are working hard to provide your children a safe environment, and it is OK for you to use it.
The mom guilt is real no matter what school decision you made, but we need to stop focusing on it. If you care enough to have mom guilt, you probably cared enough to make a thoughtful decision in the first place.
I do feel a bit of that guilt and second-guessing after I dropped off my youngest for her first day of kindergarten. I feel the celebration I expected as well. And a bit of the sadness that I didn’t really expect despite it being the end of an era in our family.
But underneath it all is a mom’s love, which only wants the best for her children. Whether you’re sending them to school or not, you’ve made your decision with love. So sit back and watch them rock those masks.