I work full time. My kid goes to daycare. More often than not when people ask who is watching Sam during the day, and I tell them he’s in daycare, they give me this weird look that is mixed with sadness, pity, disappointment, skepticism. I’m serious. It’s uncomfortable.
We put Sam in daycare when he was 7 months old (my teacher husband kept him during summer break). I dreaded it. Everyone made it sound like daycare would be awful, expensive, full of germs, and cause severe separation anxiety (on my part). And the waiting lists! I’d be lucky to get a spot—but, ultimately, unlucky to be a working mom.
Against my expectations, Sam did great in daycare his first week. He had mild bouts of fussiness, but the daycare workers would pick him up and he’d be fine. And, I did fine. There were no tears. No welling up of intense sadness. I did miss the mid-day texts from my husband, full of updates and pictures. But, overall, it didn’t affect me too much.
By week two, he didn’t even care if I was saying goodbye and kissing him on the cheek. There were other kids. Bigger kids. Fascinating kids. Who cares about Mom when he sees me every day? My feelings may or may not have been a little bruised by his nonchalance about me leaving him.
I like that Sam is in daycare. I’m not sad about it. I don’t regret it. I actually think it’s good for him (gasp). I quickly found, though, that I started feeling guilty about not feeling guilty that we put him in daycare. Part of me felt like an essential aspect of being a mom was feeling bad that I couldn’t be with my kid at all times. But I don’t feel that way at all. Then I thought I must be a bad mom if I didn’t feel guilty–I must not love my kid enough. I must be selfish.
I had to tell myself that none of the aforementioned is true. I don’t need to feel guilty at all. Feeling guilty does not make me a better mom. So, I choose to focus on the reasons why I do not feel bad about putting my kid in daycare:
- The germs. That’s right. I’m actually glad that Sam is exposed to germs. I don’t love that his nose is snotty most of the time, but I am glad that his little immune system is getting exposure and building those antibodies. A recent study showed that kids who go to daycare get sick less once enrolled in school, so they often miss fewer days. About a month into daycare, Sam got sick for the first time—fever, upper respiratory infection, and ear infection. It was not fun. But, he got better and has built up his immune system a little more. (We also got sick, which you do not see on this list.)
- The other kids. I love when I pick up Sam and he is playing with other kids. Its adorable. And I love that he can’t wait to get out of his car seat when I drop him off so he can crawl over to the other kids. I’m sure he’ll pick up some bad habits from them, but he will pick up some good habits too. (I also love that he gets excited and crawls over to me when I pick him up.)
- Independence. I like that Sam is learning that he is not the center of the world. Sometimes he has to wait. Sometimes he can’t play with that toy. Sometimes his favorite teacher is holding someone else and can’t hold him too. It is important for him to learn patience and that he can’t always get what he wants. And, I love seeing him learning it. We all laugh at him because when he gets mad he makes fists and screams—kind of like the Hulk. Its hilarious.
- Helping me let go of control. I will not be with Sam every day for the rest of his life. I will not always be able to control what he does and doesn’t do. And I certainly can’t control other people. Putting Sam in daycare has helped me let go a little. He’ll be fine. It’s been easier for me to make him wait for something. I don’t have to orchestrate everything he does. And sooner or later, he’ll be getting on a yellow school bus—completely out of my control.
We love our daycare and the teachers–and they love Sam! Of course, I would love to work less and be home more. I would love daycare for to be cheaper. I don’t enjoy when Sam gets sick. Separation anxiety has just started for him so it is harder to leave him, but overall, I think being in daycare is good for Sam (and good for me). I’m not going to feel guilty about it anymore. Ain’t nobody got time for that.