“Where is Zoey while you are at work?” One of my older coworkers asked as I walked into school after a four month maternity leave.
“She is at a daycare,” I responded slightly sniffly. I had just dropped her off for her first full day at daycare and my first full day back at work teaching.
“Oh. Well. You really are the best thing for her,” My coworker replied with a tone of disapproval and some pity in her eyes.
And so the guilt of being a working mom began.
I was able to have four wonderful months at home with Zoey since I am a teacher and Zoey was born over the summer. It was blissful to be home with her. Our early days together were relaxing and a bit lazy even though they were filled with endless feedings and minimal sleep. We would venture out of the house to visit museums, explore the library, and take walks around the lake with a mom group I had joined. I cooked delicious dinners to share with Rob when he got home from work. I spent a lot of time staring at my new daughter.
Before Zoey was born, Rob and I toured five daycare facilities. Any pregnant ladies reading, you need to get on on this as some of the daycares had a two year waiting list. We weighed the pros and cons of each and chose one that we thought would best fit what we wanted Zoey to experience during her day.
Though I was hesitant to leave her, and cried briefly in my car when I dropped her off for her half day trial run at daycare, I was also ready to go back to work. I wanted to have other people to talk to, other things to talk about, and a bit of that fast-paced feeling that comes with working. I was looking forward to getting back to what I know I do well.
That older coworker was not the only person, and still is not, to give me a small piece of shame and guilt for putting my child in daycare and working full time. Even if I did not financially need to work, I would want to. I would want to have Zoey in daycare for all the benefits it has brought her. For instance:
She loves her teachers and her teachers love her. Whenever we drop her off, Zoey practically leaps into the arms of her teachers. We have even had a few of them tell us how much they enjoy having Zoey in their rooms.
She gets more influences than just me. I like to think that I am a positive, upstanding citizen who will be nothing but a good role model for my daughter. However, having other adult influences in her life is going to make Zoey more aware of her surroundings and the way people are. I am so thankful that she has other people in her life to give her those influences.
She is learning so much. One day, when Zoey was around six months old, her teacher told us it was time to have Zoey start holding her own bottle. Simply for the nostalgia of my baby growing up, I was apprehensive that it would work. Later that day, I got a picture of Zoey holding her own bottle like she had been doing it forever! Along with that, she has learned to crawl, clap, dance, and a few sign language motions all from daycare.
She is getting socialized. If I was home with Zoey, we would join mom groups, go to baby time at the library, and stay as active as possible around the community, but the majority of the time she would not be around other children. At daycare, she is in a room with up to nine other children watching, learning, and playing together. That is invaluable to me.
I’m a better mom when we are together. With this first year of learning how to mom and work, I lamented the lack of time Zoey and I got to spend together. Typically, we would have 2-3 hours after work to go for a walk, or play, and then do dinner, bath, books, and bed. Knowing that I only have that small time with her, I make sure that I am 100% present in those hours. I’m not on my phone, I’m not worrying about my work to-do list, and I’m not mom-exhausted.
I have more to talk about with other adults. After about three months of maternity leave, I found myself not having much to talk about with other adults apart from baby stuff. Even though I love talking about all things baby, I was bored with myself. With Zoey in daycare, I’m able to have an outside life and bring more interesting things to conversations with others apart from bowel movements (though I still talk about that more than I ever thought I would).
She will be immune to everything by the time she is three. Oh, the daycare cough. It is real. The sharing of germs is very present. While Zoey may have constant sniffles, or a bit of a cough, because she is a daycare kid, it just means that by three years old, she will have the immune system of an ox. (I do not actually know the specifics of an ox’s immune system, but I am assuming they are really good.)
Even though I am confident in my decision to send Zoey to daycare, I still have my freak out moments where I worry about the time I do not get with her. I trust that this is the right decision for my family. I trust that Zoey is learning and growing exponentially because of daycare. I trust that I am a better mom because I get to work full time.
What other reasons make you confident about putting your child in daycare?