I'm a work outside the home mom. We had no plans for me to do anything other than return to work after giving birth two years ago. I took 12 weeks of maternity leave (4 weeks of 100% pay, 4 of 50% pay and 4 weeks unpaid).
Julia was 11 weeks old on her first day of daycare. It was scary. It was heartbreaking. It was necessary.
When I was about 30 weeks pregnant, I started contacting in-home daycares in our small town. I quickly realized that the hours of operation were not going to fit into our work schedules. In home daycares often don't allow drop off until 7:00 or 8:00 a.m. and we both start work at 7:00. It just wasn't going to work.
Our town doesn't have much but we do have a daycare center. My nieces went to centers and lots of friends had their children in daycare centers as opposed to in home care. This daycare was a second location of their main "branch" and very trusted. I visited, met the teachers and loved it. It was clean and fairly quiet (thanks to being brand new, they had low enrollment at the time). The classrooms were filled with happy kids, toys, books, art supplies. The director was amazing and the teachers were warm. That first impression said a lot.
When Julia was just a few weeks old, we visited again. We put down a deposit and she had a space in the infant room. It was scary. It was heartbreaking. It was necessary.
Julia just moved to her 3rd classroom this week. She has been a "student" there for nearly two years. Never once have I felt anything but comfort, love, safety and understanding from the teachers and director. They are family. They love my daughter. They care about me. When drop off in her new class didn't go well this week, I was embraced (emotionally and physically) by her current and former teachers. I was told by the director that upon getting to work on Julia's first day in her new class, she immediately asked the teacher how she did.
This daycare is the RIGHT choice for us. I have many friends who haven't been so lucky. They have had to move and change child care facilities multiple times. Not only would needing to uproot Julia to another location be challenging for us logistically but it would be devastating for her. She knows the teachers. She loves them. She has friends. She has a routine.
For those working parents out there needing to place their child in daycare, let me share my thoughts:
-You will be okay. Your child will be okay. It will be hard. It gets easier. Sometimes you still cry at drop off. But you will be okay.
-Exposure to germs and illness is GOOD. Sure, during the fall and winter, Julia constantly has a runny nose. She gets a cough a couple times a year. But in the long run, this exposure is GOOD. When she enters elementary school, I think her immune system will be able to fight off little kid germs really well!
-The learning! Oh the learning! Julia learned baby sign language. She knows how to trust people. She knows about friendships and sharing (even if she doesn't want to). She loves to paint and draw and read. She show affection to her friends. She knows the names of her friends and can recognize the parents who enter her classroom to pick up their children. It is amazing to me what she can do at just 2 years old.
-If daycare doesn't feel like a family, maybe it isn't the right fit. These people are caring for your child 10 hours a day. You should form a relationship with them. Even if it isn't your style to be chatty, BE CHATTY. Get to know them. Tell them about yourself. Tell them about your child's routine at home. Yes, they are busy and have a lot of kids to look after but I swear, this relationship building makes a huge difference in being able to walk away at drop off and feel good about your child being cared for by these teachers.
-Don't let anyone tell you sending your kid to daycare is bad. THAT IS WRONG. You are doing what is right for your family. Look at those other parents at drop off and pick up and know they are your community. Your community of parents making it work. And they aren't the only ones. Be at peace with your decision. Watch your child grow and learn and value their experiences.
You are good parents. You are doing the right things.