A few months ago, when my daughter was 15 months old, my partner and I decided to put her in daycare. I'd been offered a job teaching a writing class in a high school and simultaneously started writing part-time. With no family close by, and a need for a quick solution, we started our search. We found one option that didn't have a two-year wait list, and took the leap. So for three months now, I've been getting a crash course in the struggles only moms with kids in daycare can understand.
I became a mom through adoption, after a five year struggle with infertility, so while our financial situation didn't make staying home with our daughter for 15 months all that easy, I couldn't quite bear the idea of her being with someone else more hours than she was with us, especially for the first year of her life. However, by the time she turned 1, two things became clear. First, she has a social personality that made us feel confident she would thrive in daycare. And second, I started to feel like I couldn't give her everything she needed to learn and grow at home. I know some stay-at-home moms don't have that feeling, but I felt like she needed more than me and our little apartment and trips to the park in order to grow and thrive.
Overall, we've loved our daycare experience so far, and I am so grateful that I can mostly not worry about her while I work all day. Still, that doesn't mean these struggles aren't reality and a little exhausting for moms who have decided (and are financially able) to put their kid in daycare.
We knew it was coming way before our daughter started daycare, but gosh is it the worst. When your kid first starts, they catch everything. One morning when I was dropping my daughter off, I happened to notice the tell-tale signs of hand, foot, and mouth disease on one of the other kids and had a full-blown panic attack that we were going to have to deal with that on top of the never-ending circle of viruses we'd already been passing around. By some miracle, my daughter never caught it, but it could just be a matter of time.
Dropping my baby girl off in the morning is the hardest part of the day. We have a pretty good system, and I know it's a luxury a lot of moms don't get to enjoy. I can drop my daughter at 9 a.m. when the kids are about to have breakfast. I put her in her little high chair and put her smock on, and by the time I leave she's distracted by her breakfast and surrounded by her little friends. I kiss her goodbye, tell her I love her, and thank the daycare workers for taking such good care of her.
However, I can't look back as I walk away. Three months in and I still hate leaving her behind, on her own, without me to protect her every moment. So I take deep breaths as I walk out and remind myself that she's being well cared for.
Sometimes those deep breaths do absolutely nothing and I still have to have a cry in my car after I drop her off. It's not even rational, because I know she's in great hands all day, but that feeling of having to leave her behind is just bigger than me.
Even though we've only been at this daycare gig a few months, I get the feeling from talking with friends that there's always one kid you'd wish would move to a different town.Maybe this is just a precursor to what's to come in her school years, but we've got twins in my daughter's class and it is such a relief when they're not there. They're not the happiest campers and, honestly, just bring the vibe down for everyone else with their constant whining.
Every state has its own policy about how high a fever a kid can have and still be able to stay in daycare. My sister called me a few months ago and said her daughter had been sent home from daycare with a fever of 100.3 and their state threshold is a fever of 100. You never want your child to be suffering or feeling unwell, especially when they are needing extra snuggles and you can't be there, but it is tough to get that call when they have no other symptoms and especially if they're happy enough otherwise.
Every time I change my daughter after daycare, I crack up when I see her name written on her butt. The daycare providers write the babies' names in Sharpie to differentiate their diapers, but I always think it's hilarious when my daughter has her name scrawled across her bottom.
Clothes, bibs, sippy cups, they all need to be labelled as well. And if you forget, your kid will come home with Sharpie, too!
At least three times a week, I forget to put something in my daughter's daycare bag. She needs a bib every day, and two sippy cups, one for milk and one for water. She brings her blanket on Mondays and every other week needs a pack of wipes. I am that mom who is constantly forgetting one or many of those things.
Luckily, the daycare providers are as patient in reminding me about things as they are in reminding my daughter.
The other day, my daughter looked at a picture of a flower and very clearly (or as clearly as an 18 month old could) said "flower." I'm certain I've never taught her the word flower, but she learned it somewhere and that somewhere is probably daycare. She used to fuss every time I put her smock on before a messy meal, but now she sticks both hands out straight, ready for it when she knows it's meal time. Again, that's daycare.
So, while the struggles are real, I'm so grateful my partner and I have found the right people to take care of our daughter while we work.