Owl is joining a cooperative school. I mean, we are very much all joining. Neither Erik nor I have ever been members of a co-op before, but when we thought about what we wanted out of Owl’s first school experience, two of the top things were a tight community and a close relationship between parents and school. I take the child-rearing “village” very seriously, and I wanted to be with other parents (and teachers) who feel the same. So far, the co-op we’ve joined seems to be great on this front. We feel very happy with our choice.
Another thing about a co-op, though, is that it is a lot of work. There are no paid staff at our school, except the teachers, so parents are responsible for everything from scrubbing the toilets (and buying the toilet brush and restocking the cleaner!) to helping shape the curriculum. And since it’s a two-year program with the work load potentially doubling in the second year (when most returning families take on board positions within the school), it’s a serious commitment.
I haven’t been formally employed in more than a decade, and even that was only part-time. I think I have a lot of skills and people experience, but it’s been a long time since I had any kind of role within an active organization. (I mean, I head a Meetup group that currently has more than 1800 members, but it’s my group; I’m not answerable to anyone but myself; I can let it go dormant for months at a time, or kill it without fanfare.) I’m a little apprehensive that somehow this lack of experience will show in my work at the school — which is silly, because if “stay-at-home mom” is a qualification for anything, it should be running a co-op preschool!
To tell the truth, though, I am also kind of excited about doing the work, because there have been so many moments, in parenting a baby and then a toddler, when I have thought, “I got a master’s degree for this?!” I like planning and researching and problem-solving and devising systems that run smoothly. I like nitty-gritty organizing and I like brainstorming big-picture trajectories. And for three years I’ve been just itching to use my brain in this way, but not sure how to do it in a way that fits with my (often overstimulating) parenting life.
So I’ve actually felt energized, looking at the forms and handouts from the school, inputting their calendar into ours and figuring out how everything is going to go together and how we’ll make it work. This is a part of my brain that childcare hasn’t had to use, and it’s excited to be up and running again.*
*I do use this part of my brain while doing art shows, but that’s more stressful because I’m doing so much of it alone, and that makes the stakes feel higher; I’m having to learn so much as I go, knowing that my show succeeds or fails on my performance. In the co-op, there’s a support structure and many other people’s experience to draw on.