*A huge chapter in our life came to an end today. To celebrate our 5 1/2 years at daycare I am sharing my story of what being a daycare mom was like for me. Whether you are a working mom or a stay at home mom the hardest role in this world is being a mother, but if you are faced with the difficult decision of not being able to stay at home with your children I hope my story can bring you some comfort.
It was the day after New Year’s. How symbolic. New year. New changes. She was only 5 months old but it was time for me to go back to work. While I loved being home and going through every moment of those first few months of her life I also had another responsibility –my career. One of the hardest moments was dropping her off at daycare with nothing but diapers, breast milk and an insane amount of hope that I was making the right decision. I was placing complete trust in strangers I didn’t know to take care of her. Unless you are in that position I don’t think anyone can possibly understand how gut wrenching and scary that is.
I cried my eyes out that January morning that I left her. So much guilt flooded my soul. It was a struggle. Her dad worked nights, she didn’t sleep through the night and I’d have to get her dropped off at daycare and get to work by 8am. EVERY SINGLE day was a challenge.
While the struggle never went away it did become easier. I saw my reflection pass by me every morning at drop off. Not in a mirror but in the faces of the other daycare moms trying to hold it together like me. I could tell. You battled 2 tantrums before even getting to finish your coffee and you haven’t even made it to the office yet. We were the ones to have kids who got sick A LOT and cringed every time you saw that notice planted on the sign in sheet warning there’s been another outbreak of pink eye, the stomach bug or strep throat. At times I felt terrible for having to leave her there. It was like I was throwing her into the germ pool and wishing her good luck. I’d say to her don’t touch anything or anyone. Ha. Who am I kidding? But that’s the reality of being a daycare mom.
But overtime you form a tribe with the other daycare moms. Seems they are often the only ones who get what we are going through. We loathe snow days, sick days and all those absurd holidays that kids have off when they are in school. We nicely listen to our stay at home mom friends talk about their afternoons at the park or their play dates with the other stay at home moms.We hear similar struggles of balancing a household and taking care of the kids, but we get the added stress of also managing full time careers. Our two days off are never enough time to get get the chores done and make up for the time we missed out on all week. How much Barbies, park outings, play dates and laundry can we cram into 2 days off?
I am not gonna lie. I missed a lot of firsts. I wasn’t there for her first steps. But I heard every single detail from her teacher. She knew it was her first step and she helped me relive it as if I was there. I wasn’t there when she went down the slide on the playground by herself for the first time. I wasn’t there for her first bus ride or school trip. I wasn’t there when she wrote her name for the first time by herself. But for every moment missed I have a picture or a drawing from one of her teachers or other parents that helped me have a bit of that memory. Going back to the tribe. They will be your rock.
But I don’t feel guilty for any of it. I taught my daughter from an early age that it’s ok to be independent and to work. I am not less of a mother than the ones who decide to stay home and raise their children. The moms who flood your feeds on social media that they made choices that allow them to be there for every moment. Congratulations. I’m happy for you. But the choice I made gave her so much more than I possibly could’ve given her had I stayed home.
In the 5 1/2 years that we were at daycare my daughter made friendships that will last a lifetime. She was molded into the little person she is today. Confident, social, independent and so prepared for the next stage in her life. I never could have exposed her to the things and experiences she had if I stayed home with her. I always wanted more for her. The lessons and memories she had in daycare have 100% shaped her into the person she is today. She is no less attached to me than had I stayed home. If anything we are closer and more bonded.
To my tribe of daycare moms out there — never feel guilty for the choices we made. We taught our children that we are strong mothers who work so they can have more and placed trust in teachers and caregivers who could enrich their lives.
To the moms contemplating daycare — it’s one of the hardest choices you’ll ever make. Period. As moms we want to be the ones who nurture and care for our children. But know that you giving your little ones opportunities and experiences early in life that will shape them into confident children.
And to the teachers, friends and staff at The Lincroft Center for Children — thank you. Thank you for helping me raise our daughter. Each and everyone of you have changed our lives. Summer is who she is today because of you. You have become a second family to us and I can’t ever possibly come close to thanking you for the memories, the guidance and the lessons you have given Summer. As I took one last look around the playground this morning I saw the teacher who rocked her as a baby, the one who potty trained her, the one who taught her to write her name, the one who taught her to read. My eyes filled with tears. We have so many years of education ahead of us but you have set the bar high and you have given Summer a toolbox to prepare her for this next stage in her life. All the tears, smiles, laughs and stories we shared over the years will never be forgotten. From the bottom of my heart — thank you.
As I look at each of these photos in this post I am reminded that she grew up at TLC. She is a daycare kid. Always was and always will be for each stage that she went through happened with a second family of teachers who were very much a part of it. From infant, to toddler, to preschooler and now on the verge of kindergartner — her daycare molded her into who she is today.
I cried leaving you that January morning and I cried picking you up today. The memories of our years at daycare will stay with us forever.
And one thing more to the daycare mom — I can only hope your experience will be as enriched as our’s was. Don’t let the guilt hold you back. Let your little one blossom and feel confident in your role as a working mother. You are not alone mama even though you may feel you are at times. Find your tribe. There’s a ton of us out there. Just look around you at drop off. We are easy to recognize — just look for the women who clearly needs another cup of coffee, running like mad into the school with a screaming child attached to her leg. You can’t miss us.
**Thank you once again to the staff of The Lincroft Center for Children. Our family is forever grateful to each and everyone of you.