Voilà. My year of maternity leave and spending every waking (and sometimes groggy) moment with my awesome daughter is coming to an end. The countdown of my impending return to work has passed the T- 1-month mark and that means finding the right people to take care of our VIP while I go off and bring home the bacon (while my other half brings in the dough – we clearly enjoy well rounded brunches… lol).
Since we recently moved to a new neighborhood – one that I’m totally in love with for its typical suburban-tree-filled-middle-class-multiculturalness (yeah, the city girl in me still can’t believe I’m enjoying suburbia) – as soon as my Internet was connected, I began the search for the right daycare for Z. My husband and I had already talked about what our priorities were in regards to daycare, so I had something to work with:
- It had to be within walking distance or a short public transportation trip from the house so that we weren’t dependent on our car to transport her to and from;
- It had to be an in-home daycare with few kids so that we knew Z would get the attention she deserved (and also because viruses and illnesses would come and go much quicker when shared by fewer kids);
- It had to have schedule-flexibility (evening services available) since we both work at an agency that sometimes requires overtime in order to meet tight deadlines. Although we fully expect to tag team in order to ensure she always comes home at the same time, we wanted the peace-of-mind that a Plan B was available to us if we needed it;
- It had to offer a healthy and substantial warm lunch menu and whole snacks;
- It had to give Z the space and time to enjoy the independent play she’s enjoyed since she could lift her head as well as offer a variety of group, artistic, educational and physical activities;
- It had to be recognized by the Quebec government so that, if it wasn’t already a 7$/day daycare, we would have access to the advanced tax credit payments in order to comfortably afford quality care.
It’s a pretty substantial list and we were ready to roll with the compromises – I knew that finding a RIE-inspired daycare center would be next to impossible, but wanted to find one that naturally came in line with most of the philosophy -, but we lucked out on our first visit and discovered a great in-home daycare right down our street that answered every single one of our needs and then some.
One of the unexpected bonuses of our area was that this daycare was very multi-ethnic – actually, so much so, Z is currently the only Caucasian child there! That means a lot to me because I vow to raise a blind child: color-blind, religion-blind, sexual-orientation blind, etc. Vee and I were raised in a way that promoted inclusiveness and that was a very important trait I wanted to impart to my own child.
So this Monday, off we went to integrate Z into this new routine with her new play group. I can’t say it was something I took in stride – although I was very excited for her to have the opportunity to play with someone other than me and her family, socialize with kids, much needed energy expenditure and exposure to different foods and flavors, I knew I would miss her a lot and that we would both go through our own change-driven anxiety.
Day 1, we loaded her up into her stroller, grabbed her diaper bag with all the items recommended by the daycare director and headed off after her morning nap. After transferring her confused little body into Miss S’s arms, staring at her with a big smile on my face (trying to conceal my own heartbreak), down the stairs they went and out the door I went. After fiddling with the stroller uselessly just so I could overhear potential cries of separation anxiety, I finally walked back to my house, surprising myself with my own hot tears welling up in my eyes. My mind was a whirl with thoughts of “I didn’t tell her I love her! I didn’t kiss her goodbye! She’s going to be upset with me…”
I got home and busied myself with odd jobs you normally accumulate when moving into a new house. And then, at 12:30 my phone rang… and Miss S’s name showed up on my caller ID… Stomach, meet feet.
Thankfully, Miss S just wanted to call to tell me Z was doing great and was chatting away while eating her lunch and that we’d see each other in a couple of hours. I really appreciated that one little call – she helped calm me down a lot. When I brought her home later that afternoon, I had an exhausted and slightly fussy baby who actually slapped my face away when I tried kissing her… I was sad but figured it was a normal reaction to being gone all day. After settling into her rocking chair and nursing her, she cuddled up into my arms, fingering my sweater and hair, and she slept for a good 2 hours. All was well and I found my smiley baby when she awoke, back to her old self.
Yesterday was still hard; same awkward thoughts that I hadn’t said goodbye properly, that she looked confused when Miss S picked her up, but later in the day we had a major win: she actually napped! I still brought home a slightly cranky baby who tried pushing herself out of my arms when we got home, but again, as soon as she started nursing, she snuggled right back into my arms and enjoyed the rest of her afternoon among her own toys.
Thankfully today’s drop off went much easier for both of us. Hopefully we get another nap win, and if we don’t, that’s okay. The important thing is that she’s safe, she’s learning, she’s socializing and gaining life skills with very competent people. It’ll make my return to work that much easier knowing that she’s in great hands, even though I wish they were my own. But part of my happiness is also fulfilling my career objectives and putting my talents to good use; that’ll be good for Z to witness and empowering for her, too. And it’ll make our time together that much more special.
Photo source: Evolutionary Parenting