The Scarlet Letter.

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?



My daughters school didn't have a pre-k orientation. We just dropped our kids off and they cried or didn't cry. I have a daughter in pre-k and 1st grade. I might sign the permission slip for the field trip, but alas, I forgot to send the money needed to go ON the field trip. Schools are understanding. Also, on my daughters first day of her preschool 4's class, I had to hurry and get my 1st grader to orientation so I just threw my youngest into the classroom and asked if I could come back later to sign her in. Bad mom! We all do it.


There is no way to get around mommy guilt. Even after I spend two full afternoons with my kids (2 and 5) and they drive me up the wall, I still feel guilty for leaving them at aftercare and preschool till 4pm the next day. Meanwhile, I'll be up till midnight finishing my project due tomorrow. And my husband...he's at the bottom of the list! It's impossible to do everything but I guess the peace lies in embracing that truth.


Don't forget - not all of those in sweats aren't working, either. I dropped my daughter off at preschool, was holding the infant in a sling, and was on a con/call for work with a vendor - while in sweats. And let me mention that my usually composed, independant toddler was clinging to my leg, crying and screaming how she wanted to go home. You can imagine how the school loves to see me coming! You are not alone - don't forget us work force working and mommying from home!


Thank you for being honest about how we squeeze it all in. I truly believe it all comes out even in the end, but your article reminds me I'm not alone and many other women are sqeezing by as well. Thank goodness work has become more an activity rather than a location! Hang in there...many more years to go!


This is why my preschool and my daycare are the same thing. It is easier to be part of a group where all the other moms are in the same boat as me.


I too forgot my daughters pre-k orientation, the first day of school (and I'm the carpool!). I have to dash out in the middle of my work day to pick my daughter up at pre-k and drop her off at daycare where her two brothers have already put in 4 hours! GUILTY.


You are so not alone here. And don't set your expectations low- you have a lot going on - you were the only one in a suit! If it makes you feel better, I'm one of two women sending her son to class with the nanny. Ick.