Two weeks ago when picking up Jarvis from daycare I burst into tears on his carer’s shoulder. They were tears tied up in all sorts of emotions – sadness, pride, nostalgia and gratitude. This was the woman I handed over my eight-month-old baby to two years ago and now the toddler boy at our feet was walking out of the centre for the last time – we were changing day care centres.
She cried too and told me how much she loved my son and loved us as a family and told us to keep in touch. That night I flicked through his day care book, filled with photos of fun activities and messages about his development. At the end were goodbye notes from all the teachers he’d had during his time there, sharing what they loved most about our boy. I cried again.
It got me thinking about what day care has meant to our boy and our family.
Read any online story about day care and there will be a few inevitable comments along the lines of ‘if parents are going to dump their kids in day care, why bother having them?’. Day care is a hot topic for internet trolls and holier-than-thou keyboard warriors and the words can cut deep any parent who utilises day care in any shape or form. Especially first time parents, navigating the daycare labyrinth for the first time.
But for me, and all the parents I know who utilise day care, it’s got nothing to do with dumping my son and walking out to swan around pretending I don’t have a child. For me, day care at first was a necessity to allow me to go back to work to pay my part of the household expenses. I needed to work, no amount of budget wrangling would allow either of us to stay home, so it was something I knew was inevitable.
This didn’t make it easy, by any stretch. Despite choosing a centre which had a great reputation and with a philsophy in line with our approach to parenting, dropping my baby in for the first six months or so was torture. I was wracked with guilt, he would scream, I would fake my best ‘sunshiney’ voice to say goodbye to him and then the tears would fall as I walked out the door and started my work day.
But then it became something more than a service we used out of need. J grew to love his carers and the centre and began to thrive there. Tears were replaced with happy goodbye smiles and an eagerness to start his day. His carers shared his achievements with me and at times I was pleasantly surprised by what my usually clingy boy was capable of without me there. My confidence as a parent was helped by these exchanges and soon the nagging guilt subsided.
My clingy baby is now a confident and happy little boy. We went for a play date at his new centre a week before he started to get him used to the change and he was beside himself with excitement. I watched while he played and interacted with new friends and new carers without a backwards glance and I knew I couldn’t take all the credit for who he’s become and that’s OK. Our day care centre was an integral part of our ‘village’ helping to raise our boy and despite all the negativity out there about day care centres, if you choose wisely that’s exactly what a day care centre becomes.
My intention in writing this piece is to share a personal and positive day care experience, not try and insinuate that all children should attend day care. We should all be free to make parenting decisions based on our own circumstances without guilt and judgement.
I’d love to hear your day care experiences. Who makes up your ‘village’ helping to raise your child?