Can you really prepare to send your child to a daycare?
Transitions are never easy and no one prepares you for them!
Last week, we started our baby, who is 17 months old now, at a home day care. It was probably one of the hardest things I have felt since breastfeeding. Only that it didn’t hurt me physically but did emotionally. The months before leading to this day, as I spent my mornings and afternoons taking care of my little bug, I would look forward to this day. I planned for how I would spend my free time, all the places I would go, all the blogging I would get done. However, on the day we were to drop her off at the daycare, it felt like I had a huge lump that started in my stomach, went through my heart and stayed in my throat. I realized that my baby may be ready for this change but I surely hadn’t prepared myself for it.
I woke up early on Monday (the week of July 4th), got a few things done and waited for my baby to wake up. She called out my name and I went in to get her with a bottle of milk in my hand. Halfway through her bottle of milk she pauses, takes the bottle out of her mouth, and goes ‘so gook’. She says and does the quirkiest things that makes all of us smile and laugh at the same time. After she was done with her bottle, I talked to her about the exciting day that lied ahead of her. All the friends she would make, the activities she would be doing and the yummy food she’ll be trying. As I talked to her about these things an uneasiness took over me, a realization that I wasn’t going to be the one feeding her, changing her or even putting her down for her naps. My baby would be taken care of by someone else for most part of the day and my heart just ached. Every time I think about it I feel the ache and a sudden sense of guilt takes over me. Guilt of not being there with my child, guilt of not having her here with me, by me at all times and the guilt of freeing time and space for myself. I know I should not be feeling this way, but this is motherhood. There are a lot of self-imposed guilts that we live with.
We dropped her off at the daycare. She was lost in this new environment, unfamiliar faces, unfamiliar toys, everything was new. Just as she was lost, so were we. My husband and I felt heaviness in our hearts. We waited about 20 minutes before messaging, the sweetest day care teacher, Miss K, how our baby was coping. We got a few pictures; she was already exploring the play room with her new friends. I felt a sense of relief knowing she was doing ok. We continued to get more updates throughout the day and were so happy to know that she was ok with this new change. However, my husband and I did not know what to do with our time. It was as if we just did not know a life without our daughter. We had so much time in our hands, a lot of chores to do, yet we had nothing to do. We lied down, scrolling through her pictures and videos, talking all about her and checking our watches to see if it was time to go pick her up. Remember all the free time I was excited about? Well, this did not feel that exciting. We made every effort to make sure that we prepared our daughter to be comfortable and at ease at the daycare so that she wouldn’t have separation anxiety, we did not even realize that it was something we would be going through. I imagine, this happens to a lot of parents and that’s ok. It’s ok to feel sad, it’s ok to be anxious, it’s ok to worry about your children because these emotions are your love being manifested to your little one. You don’t need to fill up all your time, being engaged, doing something to keep yourself occupied. You can instead stay with the feeling you have, know what it means and thank these feelings for being there because they are helping you grow and prepare for yet another phase of life.
That week, my husband and I spent a lot of time talking about priorities, what we wanted from life, for our children, and most of all for ourselves. We went to the movies, went out for lunches and chilled, just the two of us, which felt refreshing for our relationship as well.
The second and third days were particularly harder as she would grab on to us, crying, and did not want us to leave her there. I cried a little each time she did L. The guilty feeling kept creeping through my being. She also cried when we picked her up from the daycare, but the cry didn’t last long as she knew she was going home with mumma and pops. She knew she was going HOME. She got particularly cranky, throwing tantrums the first week and first day of the first two weeks. We have never seen her cry as much as she does now (she’s always been a happy baby) but that’s because she’s going through so many changes, she’s dealing with new people and new environment and that is tiring (emotionally). We talk to her to understand why she’s crying and what she wants. We give into certain things, like watching songs for 15 minutes but still work with her to explain that throwing tantrums is not ok. When we are home, we try to spend as much time with her as possible because she gets tired and wants to go to sleep early. We hardly get 2 hours with her. However, we know that she is in good hands, she’s learning about social settings, making friends, appreciating flowers and jumping and she’s happy. Knowing that she is happy where she spends most of her days, while we are working, is literally the only thing a parent could ask for.
It’s so important to make a child feel that their experiences are meaningful and important; whether it’s spending time at home or at daycare. For me, I don’t want her to associate daycare as a negative experience or a punishment. It’s not a place she goes to when she misbehaves. If the patterns she experiences in the day care are replicated at home, she will adjust to the change a lot easier than having two to adjust to two different lifestyles.
Update: it’s week 3 and our daughter looks forward to her play time at the daycare. She enjoys her friends, her teacher and is learning new things everyday. We get a big hug when we drop her off and a huge smile during pick up. This is bitter sweet moment. Like I said, no one prepared you for the transition 🙂
For all the moms and dads out there: I know so many parents living in the US need to send their kids to daycare at such early ages, some as early as 3 months. I can’t imagine how hard it is but also as a parent no age seems like a good age for your child to be away from you. We are all doing our best to raise our kids, give them the best life and live a life that matters for ourselves. Whatever you are doing is for the best of your children based on your circumstances. Every parent and child have a different path and a journey and no two journeys are similar. So, you do what is right for you, without worrying about judgements and guilt. You know the best for your family. Enjoy your time as a family, as a couple and as individuals, we all deserve it.
Please feel free to share your experiences: What were some of the things you did to prepare for daycare/pre-school/kindergarten and deal with your emotions?