I stayed home with Isaya for the first seven months of her life. After that I went back to work. Because my wife works a lot of evening- and weekend shifts we were able to coordinate our schedules so Isaya didn’t have to go to daycare. I was very happy about this because I really didn’t want to leave my baby in the care of strangers. We were able to pull this off until Aya was one year old. Then things changed and we needed to take her to daycare once a week. I dreaded this, because even though she was a lot older now and loved seeing other kids, she was still very attached to us and didn’t want to be left with anybody who wasn’t grandma. So when the first day of daycare came around I was nervous and sad and scared.
Selecting a Daycare Centre
We had selected a daycare center when I was pregnant. On paper everything was right: an anthroposophical daycare, with a lot of regard for the individual child, where they play outside every day, serve organic food, celebrate the seasons, play with wooden toys and don’t watch TV. But in reality it was still a place where I had to leave my baby in the care of strangers, however educated and kind they were.
So obviously the first day was awful. She cried for half an hour when I had to say goodbye. I waited in the hallway, crying for the same amount of time. This did not feel good. It took every bit of restraint I had not to go back in, swoop up my baby and get the heck out of there. I did not want to go against my instincts, my gut, my every vessel and leave her there. But I had to, I had to go to work.
We felt terrible
The next week was equally awful. My wife came with me when I brought her and she pulled me out of the hallway. They called me when Isaya had stopped crying. I called twice a day to make sure she was okay and ask how she ate, slept and interacted with the other kids. They were very kind about this and answered all of my questions. Even though Aya hardly ate there and sleeping was a problem, she loved the other kids. I got a little solace out of the fact that she enjoyed seeing other babies and toddlers and seemed to learn a lot from them. My wife and I agreed I should not be the one to drop her off, because I felt so terrible and Isaya would tune into my feelings too much.
But every time I picked her up, she would see me, – her eyes would turn HUGE – cling to me and start crying. It was heartbreaking. Every week I found little things to be wrong. Aya didn’t finish her bottles: evidence of an incompetent staff. Aya came home with a bruise: other kids are mean and can’t be trusted. One time I came early and she was crying in her bed. They have these ‘cages’ for beds, so a couple of kids can stay in one room and my heart exploded when I saw her crawled up in the corner of her cage, crying. I pulled her out and was determined we would never come back.
Lucky for me it was time for our holiday break. We were now two months into the daycare dilemma and there was still no progress, so I really wanted this experiment to be over now thank you. My wife pleaded we should try it for one more month after our return from our family trip. I complied, not wanting to take Aya away from the opportunity to play with other kids. One month. I could live with that. But I was pretty sure it would be done after that.
The first day back in daycare after our trip was bad. A lot of crying (both me and Aya). But I knew it was temporary so I sucked it up. The next week, she only cried for a couple of minutes when my wife dropped her off. And when I picked her up Aya hugged me fiercly but then let go and started playing again. I was flabbergasted. Did my baby just let go of me? The week after that, the same and more! Again, hardly any crying and when I came to pick her up there was no clinging, just a happy hello and off again. I started to relax. This might be something good after all.
Three months in, I didn’t feel bad anymore about bringing her at daycare. I saw that she had grown attached to one of the staffers. I saw that she learned a lot from the other kids. That she could protect herself pretty well from the big kids. Also, she could walk by now, so that made her less of a sitting duck. The eating and sleeping were still a problem, but one we had at home as well, so I couldn’t blame the daycare center for that.
O Hi Mom
And then one day, I came to pick her up and Aya was sitting at the table, with the other kids. She looked up at me, waved excitedly and then turned back to her meal. I stood in the doorway, this time my eyes HUGE. What just happened? I must admit I felt a little hurt, but also happy. Happy that my baby seemed to have found her way. She felt at ease there and that made me feel at ease as well. The next week, when my wife dropped her off, Aya did not cry. She just came in, sat down, started to play, bye mama, see yah later and that was that.
So dear mama’s, if you are dreading the day you have to leave your baby at daycare or if you are struggling with this issue right now, here is what I can tell you. It is crappy. Like, seriously crappy to leave your baby. The amount of crappiness is going to depend on a couple of things. How you are wired. My wife had a lot less trouble going through this process than I did. How your baby is wired. Because we are talking about a sensitive mama and a sensitive baby here. How much you can allow yourself to feel about it, because of work obligations. And how good your daycare is. If it’s not good, please find something else, because it’s very important they are qualified and provide the best care for your baby!
I can’t say if I’m happy I went through with it. If I’m completely honest I would have wanted to wait taking her for at least two more months, so she would have been fourteen instead of twelve months when she started. Maybe that would have made a difference, maybe not. But what I do know is that she likes – no, I can honestly say loves – it now. It gives her the opportunity to learn and grow in a different environment. And she is so stinking cute, it wouldn’t be fair to the staffers if I didn’t bring her once a week 😉