by Lauren Young
School hadn’t even started yet, but I already failed one of my first assignments as the parent of a newly minted preschooler this week.
Let’s just lay it all on the line right now: I missed the all-important separation workshop at my son’s school on Tuesday. (Cue up sound of a gasp.) That’s the important one the school recommends that all new parents attend before classes start on Thursday. I had every intention of going to it. I even arranged to have our caregiver stay late. But instead of learning about the side effects of stranger anxiety and working through transitions, I was, alas, stuck at work that evening.
Believe it or not, this does not happen often. In my four years of working as a writer at BusinessWeek, I can count on one hand the number of times I needed to work late.
Back when I was in my 20s and employed by another news organization, I often stayed at the office well past 9 p.m. during the week. Okay, much of my motivation in those days may have been social since everyone else at work stayed late too. It certainly helped that we could order dinner for free and take a taxi home on the company’s dime. We were young, carefree, and having a lot of fun at the office. Maybe too much fun, in hindsight. But I digress…
My priorities changed a lot once I had a baby. So did my work habits. As many working moms will attest, we are among the most efficient creatures on Earth. Thus, we can get everything we need to get done during the course of a normal business day. (In my case, this happens between the hours of 9:30ish to 5:30ish, with a heavy emphasis on the “ish.”) Aside from writing and reporting, I magically find time during the work day to dispense career advice to interns and colleagues, plan birthday parties, file expense reports, blog about parenting as well as investing, meet with mutual fund managers, coordinate work-life events for my company’s women’s network, tape television segments, go to the bank, meet sources for lunch, work out at the gym, and, most recently, tool around on Facebook. Of course, after I get home from the office, and put my toddler son to bed, I normally log back on to my computer and do some more work.
But I couldn’t do that on Tuesday. I needed to stay in the office to make sure some all-important, last-minute changes were made to an article before it got shipped to the printer.
So now I’m a parenting failure. When preschool phase-in started on Thursday, I felt like I was wearing a scarlet letter on my lapel. (“F” instead of “A”, naturally.) Overnight, I’ve become one of those mommies: The ones who bring Oreos to bake sales and flake on volunteer commitments. Okay, I might be hyper-sensitive about this, but did I also mention that I was also the only parent in the classroom wearing a suit?
In my own defense, I think it is healthy to acknowledge this guilt and angst now. While I have aspirations of baking cookies or stuffing PTA envelopes with the other parents in the school years ahead, I just know I’m going to blow it again. Perhaps it is better that the administrators and teachers at my son’s preschool already have low expectations about me and my capabilities. After all, if you set your expectations low, you might be pleasantly surprised by the way things turn out.