As Baby approaches 1 year, I had started to put out a few feelers for Montessori or other nursery schools. It seems ridiculously early, I know, and I never ever wanted to be a parent putting my Baby (and myself) through the agony of long waitlists, auditions, and just otherwise stupid antics. (At least not until kindergarten anyway).
But the reality of living in a big city (or, for all I know, anywhere these days, thanks to the general sh*ttiness of education in American public schools combined with the parenting instinct to give your child the greatest advantages in life that you can) is that you gotta start early. The highly rated preschool for 2-5 year olds on campus? Yeah, they have babies on their waiting list who HAVEN’T EVEN BEEN BORN YET. So when my dreams of having Baby right here on campus with me, learning and developing at some beautiful, highly respected, preschool of excellence were squelched? I decided I needed to get on the ball if she was going to end up in any halfway-decent school someday. So, dear interwebz, that is how you may find yourself, like I did, on the path to becoming the very person you despise, but let me continue.
I know what I envision when I think of shipping Baby off to preschool is a nurturing environment very much like the one I grew up in (I went to a free-choice nontraditional elementary school, way back before it was cool). A learning environment you just don’t see in public schools. And second, I know everyone thinks their school systems suck, but Arizona’s really, really suck. Getting her into a good school in Arizona is probably equivalent to getting her into the most mediocre of schools pretty much anywhere else.
But, dear reader, I know this will come as a shock, but my research shows that Montessori caters only to elitist, pretentious, upper middle class folks. In other words, whitey. Without exception, the Montessori schools here are:
- At least as expensive as infant daycare. For half days.
- Unable to define “half.” Without exception, all define a “half day” as fewer than three and a half hours.
- Unable to accommodate demand, and so implement all manner of pretentious interviews, evaluations, and auditions.
So the expectation is either that I am ridiculously wealthy and can afford
- a nanny for the rest of each day once the ‘half’ day session is over, or
- daycare for the rest of each day
- Well, that, and a chauffeur, because it’s not like I can dash out of work at 11 a.m. to go pick up my kid who I couldn’t drop off before 8:30 so that I can then shlep her from nursery school to daycare, or
- to not work.
Even though the educational credentials and teachers may impress me, none of what I’ve seen sits well with me. I can’t afford it and I can’t beat myself up because I can’t afford it either.
People act like the whole working mom thing is hard due to the emotionally and culturally-fraught decision of whether one’s identity as a woman who has offspring is tied up in what one does not accomplish at home because she works or what she does not accomplish at work because she is home. No, at least not for me. What is difficult is that the choices for high-quality childcare are so prohibitive and few and far between that only the parents who are both: financially *able* to not work AND also choose not to work have access to the quality of early childhood ed I would want.
Anyone out there wealthy enough AND willing to sponsor me? I’ll gladly stay at home AND ship my kid off to an excellent program. Anyone?