Friday, June 27, 2008

The Choice of Daycare

It will be okay. It will be okay. This is my mantra as I watch Lucas put pebbles into a dump truck in the yard of the daycare that he will be attending. He is totally pleased with himself and his truck and could care less that I am there "transitioning" him, and much less about the other kids and daycare workers. But five minutes earlier the world was ending as everyone got up into a line to go outside. He followed them for a minute and then didn't realize what was happening, starting crying and turned around looking for me. He squeezed past everyone into my arms. I did my best to keep a smile on my face and follow in line with the rest of the kids, all the while restraining myself from just hightailing it out of there, him under one arm.

I knew there would be mommy guilt, but I didn't know how it would really feel or when it would crop up. It weighs heavy on me today as I face the reality of daycare. The reality of what has to happen to enable me to go to work full-time. Well, I guess there is Daddy's career too, but something about being a Mom makes me feel like I am the one making the choice between staying home and putting him in daycare. Maybe it's because of society. Or maybe it's because I actually thought was a possibility for me.

I remember life pre-baby (vaguely) and the way I viewed motherhood as a way to change my life. To stop being a slave to working 9-5, and to be at home raising my kid(s) and writing was like a dream. Six months into mat leave, I no longer romanticized what being home was about - hard work, monotonous, and draining - but I still could not imagine leaving my little one with anyone. By ten months, I started to feel interested in being at work as Lucas became more independent and I sought out challenges for my mind. And now, having been at work for two months, I can't imagine going back to being at home.

I remember reading an article that said that working moms are happier, and I completely didn't believe it. I thought they were so busy they much have deluded themselves into thinking that. But I totally get it now. I love work way more than I did before (and I always did have a love/hate thing for work), and I love being at home more than I did when I was on mat leave. It is the balance of the two that make both so enjoyable. When I'm with Lucas, we chill out, we eat, we play, we go for walks, and I get to see the world through the eyes of a 14 month old, where trucks and clocks rule. And I also deal with his moodswings, his poopy diapers, his tears of frustration, and not being able to do much for myself. When I'm at work, I get to brainstorm, build relationships, work out logistics, talk with my team of awesome people, and try and see the world through the eyes of my students, where school, relationships and facebook take precedent. But I also deal with the unending emails, the working at night, the committees that take forever, and being away from my family. Both are wonderful and both are hard, but having both in my life makes me appreciate the other. At times, I give up sleep and eating well in order to do both, but I'm having a lot of fun with my very full life.

And so comes the need for daycare. But it doesn't come without a sickness in my stomach and a pull on my heart and this pressure inside me wondering what daycare will do to him. At this age when he is a little sponge, will daycare instill things in him that change him forever? With all we have done to encourage and preserve his true self, will daycare make him fall into line with what they think a toddler should be? In the forms we had to fill out, it asked, what can we do to help his transition? I wanted to write "honour his spirit", and then burst into tears when I couldn't think what to say. How can these people take care of him when they don't know him?

And yet this morning, I saw the way they cared. They call them by name, they treat them with respect, they give them clear instructions, they redirect them, they show them different things, and they leave them to be themselves. As they enabled the kids to be independent, washing their own hands, grabbing their water cups when they need them, coming when their name is called, I realized my boy was totally ready for it. I also watched how they cared for kids in their individual ways. Like the big boy who was so hyper, they redirected him and talked to him like he was older. Like the little girl who doesn't like being outside, so got some special attention from the staff. I may be the "expert" on Lucas but I need to remember they are the experts in dealing with toddlers.

So, it will be okay. It will be okay. I will even try and convince myself that daycare can provide him with stimulation, challenge and socialization that we can't. And if it isn't working, we will find other solutions. But... I can't knock the mommy guilt. I can't help feeling that it's my choice to go to work that forces him to be in daycare. My choice to put myself first makes it so that he has to deal with situations that he may not have had to otherwise. It's one thing to make choices for yourself, but quite another when your choices completely change the life of another. That's where the knot in my stomach comes from. Is it my right to do this? And then again, I remember what I believe... that we are our own unique individuals and we create our realities. This wouldn't be happening in Lucas' life if he hadn't in part wanted more. So, I hope this new reality for him answers some of his wanting - for more trucks or more outside play or more who knows what he asks for - and allows us all to grow and develop as individuals. It will help me sleep, anyways, believing that.


Anonymous said...

Hi Leisl, I really enjoy reading your posts. This one, in particular, I just read this morning as Jonah is napping and I just finished scanning my list of daycares for the one possible daycare that might jump out at me and scream "pick me! I have availability and I actually care about your son!" That didn't happen, so I look fwd to another round of calling tomorrow. But having read your post I can at least feel like there is a reason I am doing this... thank you :)

liesl said...

Hi Lena - thanks for reading! I can totally totally relate to your daycare dilemma. I can hope for you that it will get better as it did for us - but it's not an easy choice by any means. I have another piece somewhere on here where I wrote about how grateful I was for the daycare - that might make you feel a bit better about it all. Feel free to pop me a line or give me call if you ever want to talk about the whole transition (for Jonah AND you!)

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