Dealing with After School Guilt

Parents talk about putting their children in after school programs, and how to help a kiddo who might feel lonely or left out because of it.


Original Poster:


“Hoping you can help with moral support or words of advice. My older son started pre-k this week at a great public school and loves it. The only issue: the afterschool program. He's the ONLY ONE from his class of 17 kids who goes to afterschool 5 days a week. Meaning he has to wait by himself with a teacher watching all his classmates happily greet their parents or nannies and then he has to be escorted alone to another space for the afterschool program. Yesterday was the first day, and he cried. (It just so happens that four kids do afterschool every day in the other pre-k class.)
What makes it worse: technically I don't need to do afterschool right now because I'm between jobs (my company was purchased earlier this summer and I volunteered for a buyout package) -- but we wanted him to get used to the routine of afterschool and hold his spot for when I go back to work soon.
I know it's an adjustment and we have to give it time, but I just feel terrible that he's being singled out like this.”


Replies, in full:


“I am definitely feeling the same way, and I thought about changing my work schedule to take them out at 2:30pm, but I really need the twins to be there. Ugh, the guilt though! They are in a program with just one other kid (so far), not just one kid from their class, I mean one other kid total!  I guess I'm grateful they have each other, given the circumstances you are describing, but it's still hard.
I know it will get better, but right now it's an unpleasant feeling. 
I'm sure he'll start to click with some of the other kids from the other classes once he starts to get used to it. My oldest LOVES after school if that's any cosilation.
Yours in Commiseration.”


“My kids have been in daycare full day (8:30 to 6 pm) since 4 months and are now in after school until 6 pm all five days of the week. They are now in kindergarten and 4th grade. 
Most years lots of people from their class did after school, but we had one year when it was only two kids. The teacher made it easier by separating the after school kids from the other kids before the parents/babysitters arrived. 
I recommend suggesting that your child be taken sooner to join the other four after school kids so your child is not left without friends and doesn't have to see all the parents/babysitters pick up. 
I also recommend telling other parents in the class how great the after school is and encourage them to have their child try it out.  I've convinced many of my kids' friends to join them in after school.  
My kids still complain about after school some, but overall it has been great.  My 4th graders best friends are those who have been in after school with him consistently, and they get the opportunity to do a lot of activities and have time to just play during after school. 
An afterschool sitter is great too, but I have had too many friends have their sitter not work out or move on to something else because it isn't enough money. Even though you aren't working now, I recommend staying with the after school as it sets up a routine.
You can pick up earlier from after school on some days too.”


“I'm in kind of an odd situation, but perhaps unusually able to give reassurance. My older sons are 13 year old twins, and I'm on maternity with my 3 month old, feeling a ton of conflict about when I go back. I started med school when the big boys were 3.5, so they were in preschool + every day after care. My husband was in grad school at the time too, so we used every minute we had. Since that time, my hours only got worse, and I felt particularly bad about the worst hours of all when they were in 2nd-4th grade. Anyway, in my current round of mommy guilt, I asked if they minded how much I was gone, and they said not at all, but if it was any more, they would have been upset. Anyway, they turned out pretty great, even if they were often the last ones out of after care, sitting forlornly with the teacher.”


“I was worried about my son going to after school when he was at K280 a couple of years ago...
I was like... It's such a long day.... Maybe I should get a nanny to bring him home to relax.... blah blah blah.
In the end....
The after school (kids orbit) was his favorite part of the day!
And sometimes he was pissed that he had to leave at 5:30.
I would say, give it a little time... he'll probably make some new friends.
Good luck.”


“My heart hurts for you just reading this. It's frustrating they didn't at least put another after school program child in the same class.
A couple thoughts:
- Is there something special that he could be doing while everyone else gets greeted? I realize it's extra work for the teacher initially but it might give him purpose and pride and help counter the feelings he is probably having. Like setting up something for the next day or making an art project? Ideally something that could easily become a routine for him.
- While you are in the interim, can you go over and bring him to the after school program?  Or at least accompany them if you can pick him up/drop off? That way he can get used to the other program but ease into the feelings. Even if you don't do it every day, it could help both of you.
Good luck!”


“Poor little guy! :(
These might be stupid questions or a lack of understanding on my part, but could you maybe ask the school to escort the other 4 kids to come collect him, so he feels like he's being picked up for something fun rather than he's been left alone? I expect they wouldn't need to do it for long before he's happily racing off to meet his other 4 new friends.
Or could they just switch him to the other class so he's one of 5 rather than one of one??
Hang in there!”


“My daughter is in school […] She isn't in aftercare quite yet but will be very soon. Until recently, she was in full day 8a-6p starting at 6 months old. Often she would be dismayed if I picked her up earlier from school because she was having too much fun. Don't worry too much. He will ease into it!


“My suggestion, if you can swing it, would be to ratchet down the after-school to 2-3 afternoons and not all 5. 5 afternoons is a lot for a 4 year old.  does the preschool allow you to knock it back to 2-3 per week and then if/when you get a new job, go back to 4 or 5?
My 4 year old did do 5 afternoons all day for spring of his UPK at age 4 when we let our nanny go/move on, before we hired a part-time sitter - and so my experience was that it was a bit too much for him.  in k when he was 5, his new school was ad hoc for afterschool so we could tamper it back which was better at that age.
What we found worked the best was having a part-time sitter for 2-3 afternoons and doing after-school for 2-3 afternoons, and we did that from age 4-5 through to 5th grade.  it breaks things up nicely and that way if there's more homework in later grades, they can focus it on the non-after-school days.  even now my kid in 7th grade has after-school MWF so he can chill or catch up on homework TTh - or at least that's the idea.  It costs more for a sitter but if it's 1-3 afternoons per week it's not that crazy much and it is sanity for some kids.
Mom to a 12 year old aka this too shall pass and eventually you'll be worried about them taking the city bus or subway solo, believe it or not, and sad that they don't need you to come with them to the local movie theater since they can walk there with their friends.”


“I hear you--we've been in that same boat.  
I would second the recommendation to talk to the school about a better way to make the transition-can your child be taken over to the program first so that the witnessing does not happen (or at our Pre-K the parents are out in the hall and the kids that stay behind are in the room and I think they try a bit to separate it).  The other things I have done to ease the guilt and make my child more comfortable is to let them take a toy or book they like with them--(label it). Not sure of the rules there, but often my son liked the last part of the day because he enjoyed the one-on-one time and would have the teacher read to him (like whole chapter books...but that's his thing) and he liked getting to play with his toys.
Finally, as a working mom with some flexibility, I've ended up deciding it is better to have more coverage than absolutely necessary. When I have the time, I like to pick my kids up early and try to do something fun or even just bring them home and get an early start on dinner and all the evening activities...I have to give myself permission to not use the resource and be okay with spending the time I can and also taking the time I need when I do need it.
I wish this time could be more fun and less fraught! Best of luck!”


"Last year when [my child] started preschool we had a really tough time with the extended day at first -- even though she loved the rest of the school day. I was considering pulling her out and trying to find a babysitter instead. But lo and behold, after about a month, it was totally fine. she was happy when I picked her up and often didn't want to leave. she made friends in the extended day program and got to integrate more with the whole school community, rather than just her own class.
She does still LOVE it when she gets picked up at the end of the regular day! so we made a point to do that every so often. I think her favorite part was that she got to sing the special goodbye song (instead of the "walking to extended day" song or whatever ;).
I will say that this year I changed my work schedule so that I can pick her up from Pre-K at 2:40 a couple days a week. but that was more about being able to actually interface with her teacher on a regular basis."


"You've gotten a lot of good support already but let me throw mine in as well.   
My kids have been in full day care since 4 months old and honestly it's been GREAT for them.
My 1st grader's best friends are from afterschool at CBE. 
I still feel mom guilt about it though - like her teachers have planned a picnic for this afternoon so the families can all meet each other but it's from 3:30 -5:30. 
WTH!? When both parents work, that's just not fair.  
The deck is kind of stacked against us.  But I also think about the person I want my daughter to be and I want to be a good role model.  I want her to be independent, and I think working full time gives her that inspiration too!"


"My son's school has a ton of kids in after school in kindergarten (he just started), including some in his class and lots in other classes too. There are multiple afterschool programs on site and others that pick up. So don't think it is universal that only a single kid per class would be in afterschool. Also FWIW both my kids have gone to daycare/after school until 6pm and it has been totally fine and sometimes the highlight of the day. My son's closest friends are the ones he was regularly in afterschool with."


"My mom was a single mom and we went to after school every day unless something special was going on.
Yes, I treasured the days when we were picked up early because I loved seeing her early. Yes, I had to re-adjust after long breaks or holidays, and there were tears. As a dramatic child, I once refused to get on the bus to after school altogether and caused a huge hubbub, forcing my mom to come early from work. I was the only of my classmates, along with my brother, to go to after school.
That said, I have cherished memories of my time spent in after school! It was a community. We had great snacks, played great games, had exciting adventures on the playground or playing kickball or digging in the sand, and I made lifelong friends there. I have suffered no lasting ill effects and am very glad I went. As a single mom now, i can also appreciate what a help it must have been to my mom to be able to work or get the groceries shopped before our five o clock pickup.
I know it sucks at the beginning, but he will adjust and he'll have lots of fun!
There's nothing wrong with being the only kid going to aftercare. Some people pay a nanny to do pickup, some people do it themselves, and some kids go to aftercare. Make sure he understands that his afterschool situation is not inferior to anyone else's - make sure you understand that too! Be kind to yourself. Aftercare exists because people need it!"