Today I had the most amazing revelation. I was having a conversation with my sister and she relieved my mind of something that has been plaguing me all year. Up until now, I’ve put my son in after care for a few days a week. When I’m out of town he goes to aftercare every single day that I’m out of town.

Often times my mom would pick him up early. She believes that a 5 year old being in aftercare creates a very long day for a little kid. She firmly believes that having a mom at home with her kids is the absolute best alternative if at all possible. She was home with us the whole time growing up and she and my dad sacrificed a lot so she could stay home with us kids.

I remember having her at home. After school we’d get some fresh baked cookies, some cut up apples and then head out to see who was around. I remember playing kickball with the neighborhood kids, pickle, Batman and Robin and good old fashioned hide and seek. We also played “Mother May I”, “Simon Says”, and “Barbie’s” for hours on end. There were made up games in the backyard with my best friend Leda, and swim parties at Meg’s. It was a great way to grow up and always lots of fun.

Fast forward 30+ years and what do you have? Today we have Moms and Dads working, and kids coming home to empty houses and turning on the TV or video games for hours. The kids aren’t allowed to go outside without parental guidance most of the time because why? It’s not SAFE! We’ve all heard of the kids who have been swept away from middle town America by the freaks who prey on children. We all swear that it won’t be our kids, so we do whatever we can to protect them:

We keep them indoors!
We send them to a neighbors or babysitters!
We put them in every sport or activity imaginable!
Or, we send them to AFTERCARE!!!

When it hit me that the fun that we had playing after school growing up can really only be repeated at AFTER CARE; that is when I loosened up and lost the guilt. First of all on days that I’m not working full time, we’ve learned to use “after care” as a reward that has to be earned. Our son gets to go to after care if he’s had a good day with good behavior. No wonder he loves it so! They run, they climb and they kick the ball with their friends. They get lots of exercise, have a healthy snack and get to play without being inside watching TV. On rainy days they go to the gymnasium and play basketball or football and run after each other. The older kids do homework together. There is real camaraderie even among the older kids. They LOVE it!

So why did I feel so guilty? I guess I’m living with a very old set of rules. I’m remembering what it was like for ME growing up and playing in front of my house. I knew that my mom was steps away and there was a certain peace in that. But how much did I actually SEE her? Besides having the snacks, it was GOOD BYE MOM until dinner time!
If I were to allow my son to ride his bike around or play outside with all the other kids at age 5, you better believe that I’d be there watching every move that he made. I would be making sure cars didn’t drive too fast, or that teenagers didn’t pick on him. I’d be sitting in the front yard yapping on the phone or with reading materials or with my laptop, but there I’d be… in the front yard watching him and the other kids.

Working moms often accept having guilt as part of their life. If they work full time they want more time with their kids. If they are “stay at home moms” then there is often guilt with not bringing home any income. Part time is usually a great alternative but it isn’t available to everyone all of the time.

But I threw out the guilt today! I’m celebrating my new found sense of giving my child the best possible scenario for the way we live our lives today. I’m giving him the opportunity to play freely without a mom hovering over him watching his every move. I know he’s safe. I know who is watching him and I know who he’s playing with.

And now, I know that I can work comfortably with the peace of mind that I longed for… and at 5PM, I’ll race over and pick up my child and make him dinner, tuck him into bed, and know that I’ve done the best thing for him … by sending him to after care!