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Surviving a Traumatic Preschool Drop-Off

Our family dynamic is unique. My husband is a preschool teacher who gets to bring our 3-year-old twins to work with him! Most days I enjoy riding to work alone, iced coffee in hand, but on occasion I regret not being there for preschool drop-offs.

For a six week period this summer (due to scheduling conflicts) my husband and I swapped roles! The kids were excited to ride with Mommy to camp and get some extra alone time with their full-time working parent. I was excited for the extra time as well of a slew of other perks! I’d get more face time with their teachers! I’d connect with the other moms at drop-off! I’d be the last one to hug the twins goodbye as they ran off for their day of fun! Everything was fantasized in my mind prior to that very first day.

I should have anticipated the meltdowns by my daughter’s recent clinginess. Gone are the days of our Daddy’s Girl. My work schedule can be grueling, so when I am around, my daughter is like my shadow, always by my side. “Uppa, Uppa!!” she screams as she constantly demands to be picked up. Lately, I am the one who has to do everything with her at night, pajamas, teeth, baths. Even her twin brother gets in on the action as they fight for my attention prior to bedtime.

As we approached the playground on our very first day of Mommy drop-offs, I could feel the mood shift. The twins were no longer excited to be with me, but terrified of my abandoning them! My son’s lip quivered as he shuffled along, looking down at his shoes. My daughter went into full spider monkey mode, clinging to me for dear life as we walked toward the playground. I think you can imagine where this is going!

That first day of dropping off produced waterworks like I’ve never seen! The teachers they adore were no match for these epic meltdowns! In their eyes, Mommy was abandoning them for work again and this time Daddy wasn’t there at school to calm their nerves. After approximately 50 hugs and kisses my kids were pried from my chest. I could hear them wailing my entire walk through the parking lot. I felt a crushing sense of guilt as I drove to work that day. I was a terrible mom and also a terrible employee, arriving to work 30 minutes late.

Each passing drop-off has gotten a little bit easier this summer, but just a VERY little bit. The twins are still visibly sad every time I leave them. Something that I had romanticized as a working parent has become a stinging reminder of just how little time I get with my kids during the week. They crave my time and drop-offs are a representation of that void.

Pretty soon our schedule will go back to normal and my summer drop-offs will be a distant memory. The trauma, however, will stick in my brain as a tiny reminder of how my kids crave my attention. It’s hard as a working parent to balance it all! It’s especially hard when the choices you make are reflective in your children’s behavior. I know I am not cut out to be a stay-at-home mom. Working full time is my choice, not only for financial reasons but also mental health reasons!

But, what would my kids choose for me? No doubt they would want me around more. I wish I knew of a way to make everyone in our family happy. All I can hope, is that one day they will come to terms with my absence, and are better for having a strong working career Momma! But for today, you can find me crying into my coffee at work after a particularly hard drop-off!

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