Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Finding Delight in Daycare

When I was pregnant with AK, I told the HR Director at my job, when discussing my maternity leave that I would most likely "come back after eight weeks" even though given twelve.  Although she knew me well, she knew my work ethic and she knew my passion for my job, she looked at me like I had suddenly sprouted another ear. And she very gently said, "Sarah, you will want to take every minute that you are given with your baby. I promise.  Let's count on you coming back after your thirteenth week."  I sighed and went to give birth to my baby.

Fast forward to about a week after AK was born. I looked at this perfectly pink little being and thought that there was no way I could EVER leave her.  Ever.  Then began my downward spiral into the Daycare Dilemma.  And spiraled downward I did.  Looking back, perhaps it was a little Postpartum Depression, but relinquishing the fact that my sweet little baby was going to be in daycare full time was something I just could not have conceived of (pun intended).  My brain just couldn't grasp it.

We had a daycare picked out for AK and she was on the "list."  It was Qualastar rated, and rated very well. The teachers were very nice when we visited.  It was a big, clean building with lots of colorful artwork hanging on the walls. It was as perfect as it could be.  But, it wasn't me.  It was someone else caring for my child - more than even me.

I know you're wondering when the spirit of this post picks up, so here it comes:

Putting AK in daycare, full-time even, was one of the absolute BEST decisions husband and I could have made as her parents.  I have now become an advocate for traditional day care and am even vying for a seat on her school's Board of Directors. Note:  I am the biggest admirer of those that stay at home with their children.  I think it is a job larger than most other jobs in the blue collar world.  However, it was something that my husband and I were unable to make work for us as a family and daycare was our only option.

That first day, with three bottles of milk in hand, husband dragged me into the Infant Room where I sobbed as I handed over my tiny baby.  It didn't matter than the woman I handed my baby to has been caring for infants for over 20 years and has the face (and demeanor) of an angel.  It didn't matter that AK now points and runs into the room to see this first teacher and another teacher who lovingly calls her "Princessa Babaloo."  It didn't matter that the third teacher was also starting her first day and developed an immediate connection with AK that continues into our personal world even today.  It didn't matter.

But, it sure does now.

AK stayed in the infant room until she was about fourteen months old.  I could not have imagined anywhere better to bring my child.  The care she received in this room was second to none and it was a hoot to watch her develop socially - she started making tiny little friends.  In addition, a bottle refuser she was and those patient souls would spoon feed her milk - every day.

She is now in the waddler room. They are becoming little people now. Today, the day started with a little fairy dress-up.

Another day of Fairy Play

Her developmental growth is out of this world - she picks up a new word, a new sign (they practice basic sign language at her school) or the knowledge of a new animal/color/body part every day it seems.  Her socialization is second to none.  She interacts beautifully with other children and respects the boundaries of those she does not know.  Her teachers adore her (Naturally, I say).

The honest truth: Getting to this very place that I rest now did not happen overnight. The first month was the biggest struggle of my adult life. But, thankfully, each month that passed got progressively easier and even more enjoyable. It wasn't long before I was looking forward to whatever adventure awaited AK at school that day.

I've learned a lot through this journey, about my AK, about myself and about how to be an even better parent.  Don't be afraid of daycare, it just may be one of the smartest decisions you make.

Here are some little things that have made my journey smoother:

1.  Be prepared.  Although these teachers likely knew their way around an infant, I created a one-page "download" on all things AK.  What she eats, how she eats, how she sleeps and any other nuances I wanted them to know about.  Although they likely chuckled at me once I left and rarely referenced my dissertation, it was a nice peace of mind for me.

2.  Go.  That's right - go visit.  For the first 10 months, I nursed AK every day during my lunch.  I understand this may not be possible for everyone, but I am grateful it worked for us.  During this time, I got to know these teachers and delight in who they were as individuals.  They became not just caregivers, but friends.  Even if you don't have this luxury, make some time to spend a few extra minutes with the teachers either at drop-off or pick-up.   I avoided treating daycare like my drycleaner (ie. "Here you go.  Thanks, bye.")

3. Expect illness. It's going to happen - period. Young children have no concept of hygiene, so germs and illnesses run rampant. If you're like us and lucky enough to have won the sick-kid-lotto, AK was sick more than she wasn't. Thankfully, another journey ensued and we have been able to proactively ward off many of these illnesses homeopathically. (I wrote about this particular adventure here ).

4.  Talk.  I talked.  And talked.  And talked.  To the teachers, to the Director and even to the other parents. I didn't over-share, but I made sure to express what I needed for AK, what I was thrilled about and any concerns I might have had.  This has helped me to avoid holding on to any negativity stemming from my own insecurities.

Delighting in Daycare!


  1. I appreciate your advice on how to make the daycare process a little more smooth. I am a first time mom and am looking for daycare. I am a little nervous and sad to have to leave my new baby. It seems like a good idea to find a daycare provider who will talk with you and answer all of your questions.

    1. Thanks, Rachel! We are two years in now and putting her in a daycare/preschool environment is one of the best things we have done for her thus far. Although it was the hardest thing ever at the time, it's now something everyone loves. Momma still gets her time to be professional and focused while kiddo gets her time to play with others and learn those integral social skills. Good luck and know that, from someone who thought I would never be able to handle giving my child to someone else for the day, I am so glad I pushed through and found the delight!