I wrote this article nine months ago on the morning of my son’s first day of childcare. I still cry when I read it, as I remember how emotional that time was. I am happy to report that we have both settled into the routine of daycare, and my son genuinely does love it, but never underestimate how hard the separation can be for both mother and child.
My son had his first day of childcare today. For the last fourteen months, he was been my constant companion, not straying from my side for more than a few hours at a time. To say that I am feeling anxious and upset is an understatement. When I laid him down for his morning nap, safely in his cot upstairs in his room, he was oblivious that when he woke up, his world was going to change.
I packed his little bag, an impossibly small backpack, and ticked off everything from the list that the centre had told me to bring. His new water bottle, cot sheet, a change of clothes, his dummies for sleep and his bottle of expressed milk. Last night I slept with his favourite bunny, in the hope that it would smell like me, and bring him some comfort if he needed it. I cried the whole time I packed his bag.
When I heard him rustle around upstairs, signaling he was awake from his morning nap, I knew it was time to go. I did not want to delay taking him for too long in case I chickened out. I gave him a quick snack in case he did not eat lunch, put on his backpack, gave him an extra long cuddle and strapped him into the car. He was so happy and in such a good mood, I felt so terrible that soon I would be the reason that his mood might change.
It was time to go.
I made my husband drive to the centre, as I knew that emotion could overtake me at any time. It is a good thing I did, as when we drove into the car park, I almost completely lost it. It took all of my strength to fight back the tears and follow my husband in. I did not want my son to see me so upset, I did not want him to feel anxious. I also wanted to put on a brave face for the child care workers, although they must be very used to seeing upset parents.
My son was excited to be at the centre, they had baby chickens in an incubator in the lobby for him to marvel at, and we had had stay and play dates there before. It was already starting to be a familiar place to him. The child care workers were lovely. The Director very kindly but matter of factly took me through how to log in and whisked us straight into the nursery. After a quick chat with the Nursery Room Leader, where she showed us where to store my son’s backpack and bottle and took a family photo, we put him on the floor, gave him a kiss and left. He was off already anyway, happily playing away with his new friends.
How do I just walk away from him?
I felt lost as to what to do then. I didn’t have a job to go to, I was still looking for work. I felt too guilty to go out and do something for myself, but I equally did not want to go home to an empty house. So I went to the shops and made myself feel better by buying clothes and books for my son to give him when he got home. My husband then took me to lunch where I spent the whole time staring at my phone until he said I should call the centre.
Reunited at last.
I ended up calling twice. The first time I rang, the Director said he was very up and down, was happily playing right then, but had barely eaten lunch and had a few tears. When I called again two hours later, I was told to come and pick him up. I don’t think I have ever left my house quicker, and it took all my self control to not speed the whole way there. I basically ran inside, I could hear him crying from the lobby. When I saw him sitting there with tears streaming down his face and the room leader trying her best to calm him, my heart melted. I scooped him up and he instantly calmed, laying his head on my shoulder and cuddling in. I could feel all the tension leaving his body.
After a chat with the staff about what they did, reassurance that it would get easier, I took him home and put him to sleep. Once again he is upstairs, safely sleeping in his cot. Until we do it all over again tomorrow.
Never underestimate the difficulty of separation for both Mum and Child.
When you make the decision to put your child into childcare, you normally receive so many words of encouragement from your loved ones around you. The other beautiful mums in your life, who also have their children in childcare, and who understand exactly what you are going through, are so kind. Your partner who wants nothing more than to be but supportive, tries everything to help. You hear the words “he will love it, he will have so much fun” and “it will get easier as time goes on”. But truthfully, nothing will make me feel comforted at this time. The need to be with my child is too great, I can’t see the end picture yet.
I know for some, there is an excitement to get back to work. Some have a rewarding career that brings them pride and friendships at work that bring them joy. For others, the decision to go back to work is financial and they are left without a choice. Whatever reason we have to either stay home or go to work, the decision is never easy. For me, I love being a stay at home mum above all else. Of course I have days where I get bored and fed up, when my son isn’t sleeping, throwing tantrums or is sick. But I can honestly say, that most days I just love being home with him. I actually enjoy playing imaginary games, reading books and seeing the world through his eyes. So the decision to go back to work, even part time, has been a massive adjustment. I am doing it because I feel that I should provide for him the chance to develop in a new environment and to save money for the house I hope to eventually be able to afford to buy for him.
I have never felt so many emotions since becoming a mum. And I became a mum the moment the doctor told me I was pregnant. From that very second, every decision I made has been for the wellbeing of my child. The love is overwhelming, the fierce protectiveness all consuming and the pride at their achievements constantly bubbles over. I know my son will eventually be happy to go to childcare. There will come a day where staying with me is boring and he will want to go and play with his friends. Until then, I will be there on the wings, ready to scoop him up when he needs me. Feeling mum guilt all the way.
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