This morning was my son’s first day at daycare. I wheeled him in, chatted with his carers and educators about his routine, passed them his bag of formula, clothes and toys and then happily strolled out, grabbing a coffee on my way back home to work.
Many parents feel conflicted about sending their children to daycare and I can’t say I miraculously managed to dodge this rite of passage altogether. For weeks I’ve battled anxiety over whether he’d be ready. At 6 months old, Teddy’s already lived through nationwide bushfires, a pandemic, and the world on the brink of collapse. Should I really put him through more turbulence?
But the more I thought about it, the more the simple answer emerged as ‘yes’. Indisputably.
There are a multitude of specific reasons I think this way, but what it really boils down to is this: It’s good for him and it’s good for me.
Living through COVID-19 hasn’t just meant isolation for me and my partner, but for Teddy as well. As a chatty, engaged baby, I often question whether he’s getting the stimulation he needs being with me every day. I sing him songs, read him books, play with him, take him for walks and show him all the love. But I also get tired, bored and fed up. On days I’m sleep deprived (approximately 80 percent of the time) we seem to spend a lot of time at the supermarket… or watching Bluey…or eating an inordinate number of biscuits and rusks.
But when I dropped Teddy off at daycare this morning, I was reassured that he would have a day full of new experiences; new things and new people.
Early childhood educators are consummate professionals. They’re trained to ensure our little people are integrated and socialised into the world in the best way possible. They’re experts in building up hard and soft skills and equipping our babies and toddlers for the years ahead. They’re paid grossly inadequately for the vital role in society they play.
I’m Teddy’s mum. And while I consider myself to be a pretty good one, I definitely don’t cover all the bases of what he’ll need to grow into the best version of himself.
And, as importantly, I need to consider what it takes for me to live as the best version of myself– including being the best mum. The truth is, I need to work. I need to compartmentalise my life again, and have time to think clearly and freely away from sippy cups and Hairy MacLary books. I need to remember who I was and who I am away from my baby. This doesn’t make me a shitty parent. In lots of ways, I believe, it makes me a better one.
Everyone has their own approach to parenting and their own beliefs around what is best for their child/ren’s development. Diversity of thought is a wonderful thing. It makes sure we’re always innovating our practices and bettering the ways in which we live, parent and work.
But for those of us sending our kids off to daycare for the first time? Try to fight the guilt! Our babies are in safe, capable and loving hands. And while we’re crying at the steering wheel, they’re likely having a blast.