Daycare. The dreaded term strikes fear in the hearts of many mothers. I know because it used to strike fear in mine. I will never forget touring daycares and leaving my first in tears. It didn’t feel warm and inviting. Instead it seemed institutionalized and cold. Forget about the aesthetics, there is the guilt about “leaving” your baby and the stigma that society places on children that “had” to go to daycare.
The stigma is not discussed often. The benefits of daycare’s educational environment is down played by stay at home moms just as working outside the home moms taut it. It is as if acknowledging the benefits of one will hurt the existence of the other.
Leaving H for the first time was heartbreaking for me. I had always pictured myself as a stay at home mom. When I was faced with the reality that it was just not possible, I was devastated. In fact, I couldn’t physically drop H off. I made Andy take him the whole first week. Just looking at the daycare gave me a sinking feeling in my stomach. How would they know him as well as I did? He was a preemie. What if he had a need they neglected? Would he sit on a Boppie all day long?
When Baby C2 went to daycare it was a little easier only because I knew the teachers. Otherwise, it was just as difficult. I felt like I was somehow failing them. For me, the older they get the more they learn in an educational environment. H is in music, phonics and they have a lesson plan they do every month in his class to teach him about plants, dinosaurs, families, weather and so many other things. However, when they are so, little like 8-12 weeks, it makes it seem like you are throwing them to the wolves. “Here little baby, here is the big wide world. Jump on in.”
Baby C2 has been in daycare now for several months. He is thriving. He loves it. I recognize that he truly enjoys all of the play time and activities and so that has helped me cope with leaving him in someone else’s care for most of the day. However, I was reminded of the feeling this week as I watched a young mother pick up her baby boy from his first partial day. When I came in to feed Baby C2 I saw her standing in the classroom clutching her infant. She was talking to the teachers and holding him close to her cheek. As she turned to put him in his car seat she kissed him and said, “Did you have a fun? I missed you so much. Mommy missed you sweetie.” My heart went out to her. I walked over and introduced myself. I asked her how she was doing and she told me she was ok, but this was hard. I empathized. I told her it gets easier. I shared that I had a two year old as well and that he loved school. She smiled. We introduced our babies, but as she continued to talk more tears welled up in her eyes. I said, “Alice (we’ll pretend that was her name), would you mind if I hugged you.” “No, not at all and thank you,” she exclaimed as I hugged her hard around the neck.
Alice needed someone to understand. She is trying to be brave. She is telling herself it will be ok. It will, but doesn’t make it any easier because it isn’t easy. Although daycare has a lot of wonderful educational moments most moms never escape the feeling that they should be doing more for their children. However, not spending every second of every day with your child does not make you less of a mom.
As a woman and mother you should never feel guilty for taking care of your family. You should feel proud. Motherhood comes in all shapes, sizes and perspectives. There is no guilt and no stigma here.
How did you feel the first time you left your baby? Share with us.
Peace, Love and Respect,