It’s only February, and the year’s already brought big changes in the Eubanks household. The biggest one: after almost two years of staying home with them at least part-time, the boys now go to a full-time daycare center. It’s my last semester of graduate school, and I’m back in the classroom, interning a full school day to finish up my M.Ed. On top of that, I’m personal training as well as teaching group fitness now and a few days a week, after school gets out I go to the Y to teach a class or train a client. So basically, I’ve gone from having 0 jobs to having 2 jobs, much like I went from 0 kids to 2 kids. I’m just not good at baby steps, I suppose. I used to cry real life actual tears at the mere thought of this day coming but when the time came, it all turned out to be okay, as scared as I was.
The transition actually began last semester. I was doing my field experience, the step before internship. I was only required to be at school until 11:30, so I’d leave them at the Y child development center, head to school, and be back to pick them up before lunch. We still had most of the day together, so I didn’t mind it. Plus, they were used to being at the Y since I worked out there so much and had started teaching group fitness there back in September. The Y childcare center is only open until 12:30, so to make this semester work, I had to find full-time childcare.
I looked at a few options. I researched local home daycare centers and posted on my town’s babysitter referral Facebook group looking for a nanny. Finally, I decided to put them back at the same daycare center that I initially enrolled them in at 5 months when I thought I was going back to work, before out-of-state certification issues prevented me from returning to the classroom. It was convenient – right near our house and my school – and we’d also already vetted it before they were born. I called and was surprised when they said they had two spots open in the toddler class and could fit us in right away – no wait list. I had a lot of concerns, though – one big one was the cost ($250 a week for the both of them.) But once I got past that, I was still feeling pretty nervous. What if they didn’t adjust to being away from me all day? What if they didn’t receive adequate care? What if people were mean to them? What if they stopped learning like they learned when we were together? Or, on the opposite end, what if they spent too much time there and started to love their teacher more than me?
I’ve been through every scenario in my mind, though, and I’ve come out on the positive. When I dropped them off that first day, even though they did cry, I was really surprised by how little guilt I felt. I didn’t feel bad for a few reasons.
1. They’re adaptable. They’ve been in situations before where they had to be away from me whether it’s been spending time at the Y with different childcare staff coming and going (especially in the summer months when the university is on vacation) or spending time with family members without me, they’ve always adjusted. They adjusted when we stopped co-sleeping and were sleeping through the night in their own room within three days. They love me, and they do experience some separation anxiety, but it’s not crippling. The first week of daycare was rocky and they cried when we left. But everyday, I’d call a few hours later to check on them and be told they’d calmed down and were playing nicely. Sure enough, I’d come pick them up and before even noticing I was there, they’d be all smiles. After a few days, a little apprehension, but no more crying at drop-off. A few more days and they’re now going straight to the table and sitting down, patiently waiting for the school day to start. Who were these grown-up big boys, ready for school?
2. We’ve had plenty of meaningful time together. Two years at home is a long time. They’ve gotten plenty of mommy time. Considering the fact that I was prepared to have to put them in daycare at 5 months, putting them in at two years old is amazing. We’ve had so many fun experiences together – all of the days in the park, at the playground, at the children’s museum, at tot gymnastics, at music class, at the library, or the days just playing at home. I don’t have to worry at all about them not having had enough quality time with me because I made sure I filled our days together with fun, learning, meaning, and love. Our bond is so great that while they’re building relationships with other adults that aren’t family, I feel confident that I am still the center of their world. Nobody replaces mommy.
3. It would benefit them to learn how to be in school. Next year they’ll be three – preschool. As an elementary teacher, I’ve observed that children adjust to kindergarten much better when they’ve already been in a structured, school-like environment. I like that the boys have a school schedule now. At their daycare center, they have a way more structured day than I would give them at home. They have breakfast, snack, and lunch at the same time daily sitting at the table in a real chair. They have circle time, story time, and nap time as well as scheduled diaper changes and play time. I’ve talked to their teacher and seen the things they were learning and doing and it’s honestly been very refreshing and exciting to see them, for the first time, as students.
4. They LOVE their teacher. Their teacher’s name is Ms. Ashley. After two weeks in her class, I was hearing her name all the time. “ASHLEYYY! ASHLEYYY!” They talk about her constantly. When we pull up in the morning, before we even say anything, they see where we are and start saying her name. From the time I’ve spent with her, she’s mild-mannered, kind, patient and a pleasure to be around and I am so thankful that they ended up with a teacher that I like and trust. More importantly, I am thankful that they care for her. Two-year-olds don’t know how to lie to protect someone yet.
5. I deserve the time to myself. Spring Break is coming up and I get the whole week off but even if I keep the boys at home with me, I still have to pay for that week of daycare. So you better believe they’re spending some time there while I spend some time to myself. Shopping alone, sleeping alone, eating alone, just being alone. Just last week, I left work early on James’ off day and we went and had an impromptu lunch date while the boys were at school. It was lovely to spend some time just the two of us without planning it, like we used to. It is okay to have someone else take care of my children while I practice self-care, and them being enrolled in daycare allows me to do that.
6. Putting my kids in daycare does not make me a bad mom. Almost everyone in my life that I consider a great mother sends their child to daycare or has a nanny or regular babysitter. I would never judge them for that and say they’re inadequate because of that, so why do that to myself? I was fortunate to be able to stay home with my boys, but that doesn’t determine whether or not I was a good mother.
All the fear and apprehension and sadness I had about putting my boys in daycare disappeared within the first day or so. I still get plenty of time with them and I know they still feel my love as powerfully as ever. I think our family was ready and I think this change will be great for us all.
How did you feel putting your child in daycare for the first time? Tell me in the comments below!