I ran into two moms this morning who were dropping off their babies at daycare for the first time and it brought me right back to Ellie’s first day and I remembered how much of a mess I was. I would like to think my reaction was typical: tears when I arrived, tears when I left, and then all day spent looking at pictures of her and racing to pick her up as early as possible. Everyone told me then – and it’s what I told both mommas I ran into today- it gets easier. It really does. No day is as hard as that first day.
The first one I ran into was a friend of a friend who I had referred to our little at-home daycare center. She was there with her husband dropping off her three-month-old son when I arrived to drop Ellie off. It was a total coincidence that we were there at the exact same time (I had forgotten their first day was today) but I could tell that they were so relieved to see a familiar face. It feels so wrong to be leaving your baby with anyone – let alone a stranger – while you go to work. I remember where my head was at: Really?! Work is more important than being a mother?! It seems so irrational and crazy and mixed up and what’s wrong with this world that I have to leave my child for 40 hours a week and that a “stranger” will spend more time with her than I will? And in every other country it seems, moms have something like a whole year to spend raising their child. But we have to leave them at such a young age for someone else to look after (while we spend every free minute at work strapping on a pump to keep up our supply). Anyways, I totally sympathized with her today; I hugged her, promised her baby was in good hands, the day would go by fast, and that it WILL get easier.
I offered up stories of Ellie, everything from my emotional first day to now, how she LOVES daycare and her little friends and is thriving and is so social and loves other kids, is great with other adults, and is learning a ton. I told them both that I wouldn’t change a thing if given the choice. I have found a good balance that works for me – and for my family. Ellie is in daycare three days a week. And those three days are actually MUCH easier than the days I act as a SAHM. By far! I have serious respect for moms who are home caring for their children every single day. Daycare has helped support certain transitions we needed to make, like breaking Ellie of her need to be swaddled for all naps, and they’re soon going to help us with potty training. She comes home having done and learned new things – and it has even encouraged me to keep trying new things and not get stuck in a rut with my parenting and routine. Ellie is growing at super speed and I need to keep up!
It’s hard to know how Ellie would be different without daycare. She’d of course have more mommy-time, which I like to think wouldn’t be a bad thing – but she’d have far less interaction with adults and kids. I know she eats better on the days she’s home with me (I’m a little neurotic when it comes to her and her vegetable intake) even though her daycare is pretty health-conscious. She wouldn’t know about Frozen, and we’d miss her hilariously adorable sing-a-long dances to “Let it Go.” She wouldn’t be obsessed with dogs or with Elmo and she wouldn’t say adorable things like “free my piggies” when she wants me to take off her shoes. She comes home with beautiful art projects, and is often covered in dirt or wearing some other kids’ clothes. I makes me happy to see her happy, and that’s what it’s all about. As long as she’s good, I’m good. Of course I’d love more time with her, but in no way has daycare taken away from my bond with my child. She knows who her Mommy is. And this Mommy is so grateful for daycare, and I have no doubt that the moms I ran into today will be saying the same thing in a short matter of time.