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An Open Letter to Certain Preschool Parents

Photograph by Getty Images

To the other parents at preschool:

I've noticed that there is a difference between parents like me and parents like some of you.

I'm not talking about the difference between those of us who feed our children a lunch packed with fresh organic food and those of us (raises hand) whose children's lunch boxes include Cheetos and high fructose corn syrup-juice. I'm not talking about the difference between those of us who work outside the home and those of us who stay home with our children. I'm not even talking about the difference between those of us who are moms and those of us who are dads.

I'm talking about the difference between those of us who have preschoolers and other, younger children and those of us whose youngest are the preschoolers.

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I'm in the latter camp. My 3-year-old is my youngest child. He has two older brothers. I have no baby and no plans to have another baby. But some of you have a preschooler and a younger child—a baby, or a toddler or sometimes both.

And I want you to know: I see you.

You're the ones who don't really get time to yourself while your older child is at school. You're the ones who huddle in the hallway at pick-up time, with infants wrapped in slings and toddlers perched on your hips, and you have that look on your face that says, "I wanted to get so much more done today, and I didn't. I couldn't."

I see your desperation. I see your frustration.

Sure, you might be down one child for a few hours. But that mostly means instead of juggling a set of fiery knives, you're just juggling plain old knives while your older child is in school.

At least that's how I felt when I'd drop my older sons off at preschool. Preschool was a bit of a break. Just not a real break. It wasn't truly time to myself if I still had a baby and/or toddler to care for.

I know what's going on. I, too, used to lament lost time when my baby would refuse to nap during his older brother's preschool hours. I, too, used to nurse my baby in the back room, wondering if I'd ever get my time and my body back. I, too, used to stare enviously at the moms and dads who could drop off their kids, go back to work, run errands or grab coffee with a friend—and then return somewhat refreshed and ready to scoop up preschoolers in their arms again.

And I, too, used to wonder if that stage in life would never end. Despite all logic. Despite knowing full well how time works. In fact, a friend of mine recently referred to this parenting stage as "living in the shitter." It's an apt description. And that's not because there is nothing redeeming, or even wonderful, about it.

Still, sometimes when I look at you I think to myself, 'I'm so glad that I don't have to do that again.'

It's because there is no break from the swirling mess of parenting when you're caring for small children. It is a marvelous, desperate, amazing, frustrating time.

I see your desperation. I see your frustration. I see it, and I want you to know that I remember what it was like.

Sure, I see those moments where you are completely wrapped up in love and adoration for your little ones, too. I remember those moments. I'd be lying if I said that I didn't miss them just a bit.

Still, sometimes when I look at you I think to myself, "I'm so glad that I don't have to do that again." I don't mean to gloat, to rub my situation into your faces. I say it to give you hope, at least during those times when you are feeling more desperate and frustrated.

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Someday, when you drop your youngest child off at school, you'll also be able to skip out the door, arms swinging free, no one but yourself to care for. And the lightness and joy, the recognition that you finally have time to yourself again, will make you feel as if you're floating.

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