Thankful for: Daycare (One Year Later)


^^^ One of our many many many daycare parking lot selfies before dropoff. 

We are coming up on R being in daycare for one full year. Going back to work full time has been one of the hardest things for me to do, possibly ever. I know that not everyone feels that way. I have friends who work and don’t seem as bothered by it as I am. Everyone is different, and that’s okay! But I know for me, it has been incredibly difficult, and if you are a working mom and you find it difficult too, just know that there's someone (me!) who can relate.

I would like to tell you that after almost a year of being back at work and having R in daycare Monday through Friday, I never get sad. I would like to tell you that it wasn't so hard to drop her off, that I didn't think about her constantly during the day.

I would like to tell you that I never got jealous of stay-at-home moms. I would like to tell you that I'm doing great, that I don't have any problems being a full-time working mom.

And I guess some of those things are true, depending on the day. It isn't quite so hard to drop her off now. I trust the daycare and love her teachers, and I know she's taken care of. I do think about her constantly, but it's not as often in that yearning way where I text Jordan ten crying faces and scroll through pictures and videos of her on my phone every five minutes.

I do get jealous of moms who stay at home, but the feeling doesn't pop up quite as often anymore. I feel sad sometimes, but it's not all the time. I thought for sure that in a year I would be totally over it, totally fine. The fact that I'm clearly not is extremely frustrating. But I can see some forward progress.

One year ago, I was literally crying every single time I thought about dropping her off at daycare. And truthfully, the first few weeks were terrible. After picking her up the second day of daycare, I literally fell asleep nursing her at 7 pm and then woke up, laid on the floor in the middle of the living room, and cried for a half hour. I even dramatically told Jordan, "I can't live like this!" Thankfully for both of us, that was the worst of it.

This year was incredibly difficult for me, but at the same I'm thinking, okay, what exactly is your problem? No one died. No one had any major medical issues. There weren't any huge financial troubles. Tell me again what the problem is? You had to take your baby to daycare? But just because I didn't face anything "big" doesn't mean my own trial isn't worthy of mention. We all have to do hard thing sometimes, and I have to believe that the cliche really is true: what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.

This November, I’m choosing to focus on how thankful I am for this year. I truly see some wonderful benefits to daycare, and looking back, I am thankful for all this year has taught me. 

The following are, in no particular order, six things about daycare that I'm thankful for. I know that a year ago, reading something like this would have been really encouraging for me. There are many negative things on the internet about daycare, and I know I've only been doing this for one year, but I'm here to tell you that in my experience so far, there are good things too. Here are just a few:

1) They don’t have TVs at daycare, so she never watches it during the weekday, and on the weekend we are playing or out and about so we don’t really have it on very much! I love that she interacts with the world and not with a TV or a tablet the majority of the time. In her daycare room they either have KLOVE radio on or a baby CD of Bible songs, and I like that.

2) I have very intentional playtime with her on the weekends and weeknights. Obviously there are things that need to get done sometimes like errands and chores, and I sometimes I do text someone or check my phone when I'm with her (I don't believe you if you say you don't do that too), but I think because I’m away from her so much during the day, I'm careful that the time I do spend with her is quality time where I am playing with her intentionally. I do need to do some things when she’s around (like cook dinner or throw a load of laundry in the washer), but I try to leave bigger chores and household things for after she’s in bed.

3) R is 15 months old, and I don’t think I have ever once gotten tired of her or felt like I needed a break. Now, there have of course been times when I was sick or feeling really tired when I wished she would take a nap so I could rest, but in general I basically never get tired of her. I take her with me everywhere on all my errands and want her around all the time and I know I wouldn’t feel quite that way if I were with her all day every day. It’s actually the opposite problem: I have a hard time wanting to be away from her. This has happened more than once: my mother-in-law has offered to watch R so I could run some errands or just relax at home, and I’ve said no because I wanted to spend time with her myself.

4) At daycare, she learns to be cared for by other people. She has a tiny bit of separation anxiety and cries sometimes when I leave her, but she’s fine as soon as I’m around the corner out of sight. I like that she’s not attached to me and can be okay with someone else watching her. She goes fine in the church nursery and is fine when other people are around, and I think that's partly due to being in daycare.

5) She gets lots of social interaction with other kids. If I were at home all day, R would not get the type of social interaction she does at daycare, and for that I’m thankful. She plays with others and will hopefully learn about sharing and playing nicely with friends. I’m excited for her to get older and be able to have daycare friends that she can tell me about when I pick her up! Right now there’s a girl who runs over when we come in and says R’s name over and over, and I’ve seen the two girls give each other a hug. It’s super cute.

6) For me personally, this year has been a lesson in letting go of things I can’t control. It probably won’t shock you to know that I like to be in control and do things my way. (Lucky Jordan!) There have been so many times this year that I’ve cried (read: had a hormonal meltdown) because the daycare didn’t do something exactly like I would have. Maybe they fed her a bottle “too early” or gave her “too much food” for lunch or gave her apple juice with her snack when I only give her water or milk at home.

I know there are obviously some things you shouldn’t compromise on. And I absolutely know that I have the right as her parent and basically the daycare's employer to tell them how I want things done. At the same time, I also don’t want to be a crazy helicopter parent, and none of the things I was upset about were life threatening. They weren’t even wrong; they just maybe weren’t exactly what I would have done. 

It’s been a good lesson for me to learn that even if it’s not what I preferred, she’s still going to be fine. The world won’t end because she didn’t eat exactly what I wanted her to eat for lunch or she drank juice for a snack. Probably all parents learn this at some point, but it’s been forced upon me this year, and while I didn’t necessarily like it, looking back I’m glad I learned it.

This year was hard, but I learned a lot and I'm hopefully a better person and a better mom for it. I just hope to continue to take steps toward thankfulness and gratitude for our current working situation and pray for contentment and joy even when it's hard.

Other posts I've written about being a working mom:
On Thriving and Joy and Being a Working Mom
On Joy (Again)
A Day in the Life (from January, so things have obviously changed some!)
About Work
*You can also just click the "working mom" tab in the navigation bar under "topics"!
Paige @ Reasons to Come Home said...

Yes to the control issue!! I have really, really struggled with that and Baker's sitter. She's very old school and has raised many children but does a few things different than I would and it gives me the worst anxiety! Glad to know I'm not alone!

Everyone said after a few weeks, leaving her would get easier but we are 2 months in and I think it's actually getting harder! :(

The Lady Okie said...

Unfortunately it is always going to be hard in some ways, but I do think it gets easier eventually. The first few months were really rough, and then it started getting better after she had been there 5-6 months. There is hope :)

Katie @ Live Half Full said...

Oh man- #2 and #6 really speak to me. It was really crazy when I was looking back at my Thanksgiving plan from last year. I had Buel's feedings worked into my schedule and I was absolutely driving myself crazy trying to control everything. I'm glad I've learned to let go over the past year.

Audrey Louise said...

You're so self-aware and I think that's a huge virtue! I spent time in daycare as a child (and with my grandma) because my mom worked until my brother was born. To be totally honest, I remember nothing at all. I don't remember the days spent in daycare and I don't remember being home with my mom and brother once he was born. (I was 2 and a half.) My memories don't really start until I started school. That said, I don't think I struggled with sharing because a) daycare and b) my brother. I think there are a lot of benefits to daycare including everything you mentioned, plus building R's immune system and helping her socially. My mom went back to teaching when my brother started school and I had a very fun, fulfilling childhood with two working parents :)

The Lady Okie said...

Thanks for sharing that :) I know that having a kid in daycare and being a working mom is SO much harder on the mom than it is on the kid. She is having a blast and is doing really well. There's just a ton of mom guilt involved in being away from them all day, and there's a lot of negative things out there about daycare that only makes it worse. Hopefully this can be encouraging to someone else!

The Lady Okie said...

Yes! So glad you can relate too :) You are doing a great job, Katie!

Rachel said...

This year has been very difficult for me, too. And just because 'worse things could happen' doesn't mean you can't struggle with things that are still hard yet not "the worst". Glad you're finding a way to be grateful for daycare!

Torrie said...

I've seen a lot of good things that came from having someone else watch Raven for 9 months, many of which you mentioned above. Last month, Raven went to nursery for the first time at church (which is two out of the three hours we're there). And she handled it like a rock star! Pretty much every other kid will cry and really struggle being separated from their parents, but she was happy to explore and play with the other kids, and she was happy to see us when we got back. I really don't think that would have happened if she hadn't been watched by other people while I worked that first year.

erinhzauner said...

I love this and I hope that if I ever have my kids in daycare, that I can think like this too. I'm very lucky in that I work, but have a part time schedule and a mother in law who babysits most of the days we need care. Even with that, I still know how you feel. There are times when my MIL or the babysitter do things that I wouldn't, and my daughter's first time at the zoo wasn't with us, but with grandma. And I was bummed but the world went on turning. But I don't blame you for feeling any of your feelings, they are completely legitimate and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Also, you are doing great mama.

Laura Darling said...

I like how honest you are about how tough it is to be a working mom, but that there are some positive things that come with it. We are thinking about our plans for when kiddos come along and it's nice to have perspective like this!

Allison said...

I truly admire your strength and honesty. It is not easy being a working Mama even for me when I leave Aiden with his Grandma's in our own home. I think you are wise to find things to be thankful for about daycare...your reasons are all excellent especially the one about tv. It is so easy to just turn on an episode of Thomas the train or Daniel Tiger and not actually interact with your kid. And that's nice they put on Christian music for the kids at daycare too. You are doing a great job Mama. Keep your head up. XO

Jenny Evans said...

You have such a good attitude.

The Lady Okie said...

Thanks so much! I'm really glad there are people out there who understand how hard it is being a working mom. I know being a SAHM is hard too, but leaving your baby for an entire day with someone else is a very different and specific kind of hard. It do love that they play Christian radio and songs. Her daycare is at a church so they do chapel once a week (don't ask me what they do in there. I have no idea! Ha) and they read Bible stories and stuff. I love it. I don't think R has ever watched an episode of any TV show yet! She will only sit still to watch her Praise Baby DVDs, which she absolutely loves for some reason.

StephTheBookworm said...

As a fellow FT working mom, I have many of the same struggles. Caleb doesn't go to daycare (Jerry and I work opposite shifts and my mom is retired), but I still feel the envy of SAHMs and wonder what I'm missing out on during the day. Ultimately, I know I'm doing what I need to for my family and I am certain our kids will realize that and be proud of us when they're older. :)

Nadine said...

I love that you are focusing on the positives of daycare. I never thought about the tv thing before but you make a great point! I will be a full time working mom soon enough and I cant imagine how hard the first few months are going to be. I think that we all have things to be thankful for in each situation though and SAHM and full time moms will always thing the grass is greener on the other side in some aspects.

The Lady Okie said...

For sure the grass is always greener, and I know that. Being a SAHM is really hard too, and I don't want to discount their particular struggles. But there is something about having to leave your baby all day long that a SAHM just won't be able to understand and doing that can be really hard for a lot of people (and of course some people don't find it that hard too and that's okay!). I really don't hear many SAHMs wishing they were at work, whereas working moms often wish they were at home. But it isn't impossible and you can totally do it! There are a lot of things to be thankful for and reasons that I do like being a working mom even though it can be really hard, especially in the beginning as you're getting used to it. If that makes sense! You will do great :)

pea said...

I wanted to agree with your suggestion that your time with her is so intentional because you work. This summer Patrick was away for a month and, though I work part-time, I didn't realize how much MORE I would be with them- for every outing, every wake-up/bedtime, EVERY moment EVER. And very quickly I realized that we had almost NO quality time together. It was interesting. I was so very exhausted by them that it soaked up all the quality time we had together previously. I felt like I hardly interacted with them at all except to put their shoes on or dress them. A pie chart of my day would have been confusing. If 40% of my time with them was "quality" before and 60% was errands, work, chores (essentially, not paying attention to them), somehow when I was with them MORE, the "quality" time was a way, way lower percentage. I just couldn't do it. The more I work/am away, the more quality our time. It's strange, but useful to know.

The Lady Okie said...

Thanks for sharing :) I really do believe that if I were with her all day every day, I wouldn't appreciate and treasure (cheesy word but it's true!) the time I do get with her, and I am thankful for that. I admit that it's very easy for me to romanticize staying at home (who romanticizes going to work?!), but there are hard things about each situation.