I'm facing a truly heart-wrenching dilemma.
A neighbor emailed me yesterday to let me know that the toddler program her kids have all been enrolled in has an opening for an under 2 year old. The opening would be for Mondays and Wednesdays, from 9am to 1pm. Gabe would be one of six children, 2 others around his same age and 3 over the age of 2. The cost is pretty reasonable and would run from September to June.
The program is somewhat structured, with playtimes, snacktimes, reading and music time, lunchtime, and even weekly baking! We stopped by the woman's house today to see her space and have her meet Gabe, and she seemed friendly and sweet. She has three grown children and has been doing this for several years. My neighbor had nothing but good things to say about her program, and said that her kids all loved it. I also have a call in to another mother who is sending her fourth child there this fall, an eighteen month old.
At first glance, I jumped at the opportunity. A toddler program would mean 8 hours of free time for me. 8 hours to run errands, go to doctor's appointments, clean the house, do laundry, exercise, take a nap! Come December, 8 hours would mean time alone with the baby! 8 hours would mean socialization for Gabe, structure, stimulation, learning to listen to someone else's discipline, lots of fun. 8 hours would also mean time away from my sweet boy. It means that someone else will have influence on him besides me. It means that he could pick up "bad" toddler behaviors that I've been studiously avoiding thus far. It means that I have to let him go, just that little bit.
I've realized over the past couple of months, though, that I need to find a way to get a break sometimes too. Josh works a lot. He leaves around 6:30 every morning and doesn't get home most nights until 7:30 or 8pm. He often is able to play with Gabe for half an hour, and then holes himself up in his office until 10pm or later every night. He has been exceedingly stressed lately, and it is exhausting for me to be alone with Gabe all day, cook dinner alone, clean up alone, do laundry alone, do all of the upkeep for the house, plus all of the errands, and then deal with an occasionally cranky husband (and child, of course).
I'm unbelievably grateful to Josh for how hard he works, so I don't want this to sound like I'm complaining about him. I'm not. He's awesome. He bends over backwards to help during the weekends, but still, it's hard. I need a break sometimes too, and since we've never even hired a babysitter before (mostly my fault due to nervousness on my part and not wanting to spend the money unnecessarily), the vast majority of the work falls on me.
So bottom line, I need to either get a babysitter or do a toddler program. I can't keep doing it all with minimal help, especially not with 002 on the way. Letting go is always hard, and although he is so big these days, he still seems like such a baby to me. I don't want him away from me for so many hours every week, but I acknowledge that he'll likely be fine and welcome the change of scenery. It's a hard decision to make, though. Any thoughts? Did anyone do a toddler program at 20 months? Is it too much? Am I being ridiculous?