“Choosing a Pre-School” easier said than done.

I recently went to a “choosing your preschool” information session at my job. (Baby E is only 14 months, but in NYC you have to start the process a year before you want your child to start! It’s like getting into college for some of these places!) What I find incredibly frustrating at these meetings is the lack of choices parents like I have. What I mean by this is the following: I am not poor, I am not working class, I guess I am considered middle-class, (perhaps “professional” or should I say “white-collar”?)  I do not make a seven figure paycheck, but I do not qualify for the low-income, Head Start programs or city sponsored daycare centers. So my options are limited because I cannot afford to send me child to a $20,000(or more!) a year nursery school (if some of you find this shocking… again, I live in NYC) and I make “too much” for the few “low income” options.

Growing up, my father was a porter, and my mom was a bookkeeper/stay at home mom. For Pre-K, I attended a city sponsored day care center, where you paid on an income based sliding scale, until my parents put me in parochial school. God only knows how they managed to do it, but they did it so that their kids could have more opportunities. It worked too; today we are both college graduates and professionals… It is at moments like these that I *almost* feel “penalized” for getting ahead and moving up in the world. I get a sense that this is a problem a lot of young professionals (especially from working class/immigrant families) must deal with at some point… being stuck in the middle, and not being able to afford one thing but being too “rich” to be eligible for certain programs.

Isn’t one of the things that make America so great the fact that you can get ahead and dream of a better life than your parents? So why do I feel like my opportunities are limited because I am indeed making a better life for myself and my family?

If I was in a lower income bracket, I would have an option, and an option that would mean I could put my child in a daycare that would be open all day (8-6- most private nursery school programs are only a few hours a day, thus leaving you the need to find yet more help, a babysitter to pick up your child from school, for example!—OY! another expense) and I wouldn’t have to worry about anything else. If I had millions of dollars, well I wouldn’t care how about the cost! But my options are indeed limited, they seem to be 1. Find the money, or 2. Find a suitable program at an affordable cost (yeah good luck with that) or 3. Leave my child home with a babysitter.

As every parent, I want my child to receive a great education, and to attend quality programs. I want him to be nurtured, and learn through play, and learn to socialize and to be engaged and explore the world around him. Is that so much to ask?  

The facilitator at this meeting said that the reason preschools were so expensive is because there weren’t enough slots (your basic supply and demand) for all the children that wanted to attend. So maybe the solution to this problem is to have more daycares! (Easier said than done, right?)Or, to make daycare more affordable! Are you listening educators and lawmakers out there? Please open up more affordable programs for parents like me, those who are “stuck in the middle.” We also want our kids to get a great education, at an affordable price.

ps. turns out it is not really you who “chooses” the preschool— it chooses you.

Diana Limongi
Diana a mom, activist, nonprofit professional, podcaster and writer from Queens, NY. She writes about motherhood, activism, raising my multilingual kids, culture and travel. She and her multicultural family live in Queens, NY.

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