Wednesday, August 06, 2008

how early is too early?

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?

17 comments:

Rev Dr Mom said...

I think the toddler program sounds awesome. Gabe is old enough that he will enjoy being with the other kids, and the time (as you note) will be good for you.

The Kid was in day care long before 20 months (no choices there) but I have to day I think him being with other kids was more positive than negative--germ exposure and all.

Ninotchka said...

I did it much earlier and I highly recommend it. Especially with #2 on the way. It's hard to leave them at first but when you see how much fun he's having and how much more relaxed you are for having that break, you'll be glad you did it!

Beth said...

Daisy started daycare at 6 months! Talk about bad mother ;) She really enjoys the time with other kids, she does a lot more stuff than I would do with her at home (activities and you say baking?! when was the last time you did THAT with Gabe?), and I LOVE the break we have from each other (even though I am just at work). You can get stuff done, and it makes the time you have all the better as you are (both) refreshed and will have renewed love and appreciation for each other. I say go for it - sounds like the perfect chance and you certainly need/deserve it.

Chatty said...

ha ha- what Beth said! When was the last time we made time to bake with the kiddos??

The Sweet Nephew has been going to a similar program which is actually a daycare, but highly individualized and sounds like it's run the same way this toddler program is run. He absolutely loves it, and so does my sister and my brother in law. If I were going to send my kids to a fun program, it's exactly what I would chose.

Butterflyfish said...

Sounds like you feel good about the place but are buying into the notion that a "good" mother lives every waking moment for her child. You will be a much happier and attentive mommy when you've had a little "you" time. And he'll enjoy it, even if he clings to your leg sobbing when you leave (impending separation is rough for them, but once you're out of sight, he'll settle in to play and greet you with smiles on your return.)

Nadine said...

I think it sounds like a great idea for both him and you.

Maribeth said...

Sounds great, do it! You won't be sorry. Gabe will learn early how to interact with other kids. And it will be good for you too!

Anonymous said...

I did not put my daughters in a program when they were that little (my second was born when my first was 20 months), and I seriously regret it. Reading your post, I was thinking YES YES YES!!! You do need the break, and I think that his being used to several different people - the caregiver, the other kids, the other kids' parents - will offer him skills and exposures that a 1:1 babysitter cannot.

Do it, do it, do it!

Alyssa said...

I have been a lurker for awhile, and I thought I would take this opportunity to leave a comment since we just went through a similiar decision. My 20-month-old son has been home with a nanny two days per week since I went back to work part-time when he was four months old. But recently we switched him over to day care on Tuesdays and Thursdays so he could spend time with other children his age. (It's also saving us a lot of money, but that was not our primary motivation). He visited twice and then spent his first full day there Tuesday. He LOVES it. The only thing that did not go so great was naptime, as he is only used to sleeping in his crib or pack and play. But I am hoping that goes better today, and it sounds like that will not be an issue for you. But, I warn you, because I do not think anyone impressed this upon me... be prepared for sickness. Lucas picked up a cold from his visits, before he had even spent the whole day there. Then, of course, I got it too. But my friend who's a ped said it's either now or when they go to preschool or kindergarten. He has been so healthy to this point, so I think we are in for some immunity-building!

Anonymous said...

It sounds perfect. He'd have some fun and eperience with other kids and being away from you. Don't get caught up in the current myth that he needs you 24/7. More to the point, you need the break. Once you have him in the routine when the new one arrives he'll be used to being out of the house and believe me, you will be very grateful.

one day in the life of me said...

I think it would be good for both of you.

I don't want to think about what it's going to be like for my older DD to start school. She's is always with me. But I know how great it will be for her self esteem, etc.

I am even thinking of putting the baby (17 months now) in a 2 yr preschool program next fall. Scary for me but at the same time given what our situation will be like during that time frame it will probably be a good idea.

Good Luck on what every you decide.

Infant Attorney said...

I'm sure that Gabe would benefit positively from interaction with other children. Not to mention that it would allow you to keep your sanity.

ccw said...

It sounds like a wonderful program for both of you! Plus, you can always change your mind if he starts and you don't feel comfortable.

OneTiredEma said...

It sounds lovely. I'd do it.

Eight hours a week is NOT that much, but it can be a real sanity saver. I put #1 in "preschool" when she was just over 2 because #2 was an infant. Just being able to grab a nap with the baby while my toddler was safe and playing with trusted adults could really turn my week around.

ppolarbear said...

I know nothing of these things, but you seem to intuitively trust this program......

Meika said...

Oh, that sounds AMAZING... I don't think there's anything like that around here, and it's exactly what I would love to do for our 18-month-old (also with 002 on the way). Now to read the next post and see what you decided... :)

Knit and Purl Mama said...

I started Sean in September in a separation program. It was at the Y, and basically I went for the first 5 weeks which was only once a week for that and then it goes in Oct to twice a week and I start separating from him. Then last week I got a spot in daycare. So he started. I pulled him out of the Y, (losing a deposit) and now he goes to daycare from 8:30 am around until about 4pm.

You are NOT selfish for putting him into daycare/toddler program. Every mother needs it. And I understand how Gabe is - Sean's the same way. A handful. In everything. Too active. Sean needed socialization with other kids, and I needed time with Mack and to do errands and chores and catch up on your blog for example! LOL

You're going to be sick of me by the time I'm done catching up, I'm sorry :)