As Canadians, we feel super lucky to have access to generous maternity leave policies. No matter when you go back to work after baby, it’s not easy to leave your little one in the care of someone else. Here are some tips from an experienced mom to help ease the transition.
From the day we find out that we are expecting, we spend our time worrying and loving this little baby inside of us as it grows and matures for the outside world. Before we know it, our pregnancy is a thing of the past and now, in our hands is this beautiful baby we have waited so long to meet.
Quickly, days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months and this little person isn’t so little anymore. The precious time we have spent at home watching them grow into the rambunctious toddler that they are is unmistakably the best and hardest time of our lives and sadly has to come to an end. If you are like the majority of households today, then staying home with your child forever is probably not an option.
Most households need a dual-income in order to survive and so the time comes to find child care that both you and your child will be happy with. I know from experience that this is no easy feat, especially the first time around. I spent countless hours searching, visiting and thinking about each and every daycare facility until I thought I was losing it. Making lists and asking questions and yet I still did not feel satisfied until after a few failed attempts, I finally found the right one.
Three kids later and I would like to think that I have daycare preparation and expectations down to a science. The truth is, nothing in life is perfect and the same can be said for daycare. The challenge and the ultimate goal is to find one that meets your child’s needs, provides a safe and healthy environment and has the most loving and caring educators that you can fully entrust with your child.
My rule is to go with your gut. When you enter, ask yourself how you really feel, are you comfortable? Does it feel safe? Look around and imagine your little one there, does it feel like right? First impressions are key but more importantly, don’t be shy to ask any and all questions you might have even if you think they are silly.
Once you have determined which daycare facility is the right one for your family’s needs, now comes the fun part, preparing both you and your child for the transition. Yes, it can be scary and daunting, especially for parents. After all you are handing over your precious child to complete strangers. Perhaps, look at it this way, you are handing over your child to loving and caring people that are going to nurture and care for your child, not to mention teach your child fun and new things on a daily basis.
The most important thing I have learned along the way is that it is far worse on mommy and daddy than it is on the baby/child. We do need to mentally prepare ourselves and get our emotions in check prior, because our little ones can sense our uncertainty and fear.
Prior to their first day, if it is not provided, ask the director/teacher for a list of things you will need to provide. Do your homework to know what is allowed and what is not allowed and then go shopping! I tried to make the start of daycare fun rather than scary and so I bought them a new knapsack, a new lovey to sleep with, a new sippy-cup and so on. I wanted to find the good in a seemingly stressful situation. I also took comfort in knowing that they had everything they needed and more!
Then comes the big day, and sadly no matter how prepared you are or how confident you are with how they will react to the new environment, you can never truly be prepared. I like to expect the unexpected and hope for the best. I have done the daycare transition three times and with each child, it was completely different. That is why I would suggest to not have any expectations if possible. I know, harder said than done, but in the end, expectations will only make it harder on mommy and daddy.
Keep in mind, their home life will likely be affected as well. We are so preoccupied with the transition itself that possible changes in behaviour don’t even cross our minds. From my experience, prepare to have a few sleepless nights or maybe even weeks. Prepare to bring home a cranky and fussy child at the end of a long day when all you want are hugs. For me the change in behaviour at home was the hardest part. After being apart all day, all I wanted was to cuddle but the change in routine sadly affected them more than I could have ever anticipated. But like everything else, it’s a phase that quickly passes, so hang in there.
We have to accept that most of us cannot be the sole caregivers for our little ones forever and we have to accept the fact that they do grow up fast and those days spent one on one are numbered. When the time comes to transition your little one to daycare, be as prepared as you can be. Most importantly, know that you are not alone. It’s a struggle that most families have to go through at one point or another but the rewards of watching them flourish for years to come far outweigh the few weeks of hardship and stress.
If it helps, remind yourself that you are only doing what is in their best interest and it most certainly will get easier with time.
What was your experience transitioning your little one into childcare? Share your tips in the comments!
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.