Yesterday I was chatting with a fellow mom whose daughter had just switched from our preschool to a new one. She was terrified. Not of the teachers, or the principal, or for her daughter’s success. She was scared of the other moms.
“They do their hair and wear heels. To pick up their kids,” she whispered. “And they participate.”
“Yuck,” said another mom nearby, and we all nodded sagely.
And that was the moment I realized I had rather inadvertently picked out the best preschool for my family. Not only because my son flourishes there, though he does, but also because I love my fellow preschool parents. You see, we’re all busy working parents who understand just how damn hard it is to be a busy working parent. And our school gets it. Here’s why that matters:
1. Participation is encouraged—but cash is always accepted.
Sure, my son’s preschool asks for a fair share of parent participation, but very little of it is mandatory, unlike most of the other preschools and daycares we checked out. If it’s easier for parents to cut a check for the school fundraiser, that’s fine too. Because busy working moms don’t have time to sell bed sheets.
2. Themed days are kept to a minimum.
Whenever I hear moms stressing about the Dr. Seuss hat they left at home, or the pictures they forgot to bring for sibling photo day, I begin panicking on their behalf. How do they deal with that level of stress on a weekly basis? I’m lucky when I remember my son’s sheets and blankets. But the best part is, I know my fellow parents feel the same way. This year I stayed up late to create homemade Valentines for all the kids in the class—but only a couple other parents did the same. I loved it. I looked like a super mom, but now I know next year I can totally be a slacker. Because busy working moms don’t have time for homemade cards, thank goodness.
3. Dads participate as much as—if not more than—the moms.
On my son’s first class field trip, each toddler had a parent tag along, but here’s the unusual part: Most of them were dads. In fact, I’m as likely to see dads at pick-up and drop-off as I am to see moms. Because busy working moms don’t have time to handle pick-up and drop-off every single day—not when there’s a capable dad in the picture.
4. Judgement and drama are basically nil.
I’ve come to learn that no school exists in a drama-free zone, but our preschool is blessedly free of one kind of angst at least: judgment from other moms. To be frank, we just don’t have time. Emails are friendly, short and to the point. We couldn’t care less what other moms wear or where they live. (Unless it’s close to the school, in which case, would you like to be my best friend?) If we don’t have time to chit chat, or for playdates, it’s no big deal. But if you do, great! Let’s get it on the calendar right now before we forget. If another mom is running late and needs me to pick up her daughter, I totally get it—and I know she does too, and will return the favor.
All of this is to say, if you’re a busy working mom looking for the perfect preschool or daycare, by all means, chat with the teachers, check our the classrooms, read the online reviews and look for red flags. But if you want to find a spot where you’ll feel comfortable to be your hassled, harried, overworked and overtired self (and you do, I promise), look to the fellow moms on the tour. If they look sweaty and rumpled like they just sprinted over from a work meeting that ran late, you’ve found your sisterhood.