^^Photograhy by Shadi Garman (Mommy and Charlee on their way to daycare!)
^^Charlee with her baby friends at Daycare! She is on the top left with the bow 🙂
I want to firstly preface this post by saying that I now, today, LOVE daycare. My daughter is thriving and happy and learning SO much daily. The other day I walked in to pick her up and she smiled at me and started clapping her hands. I didn’t teach her that! Her amazing teachers at daycare did. Charlee has little baby friends, is stimulated by books and songs all day, and has learned to nap in a noisy and bright environment. Despite all the frustrating parts of making the transition into daycare that I am going to discuss in this blog post, I couldn’t be happier that we have Charlee in Daycare. I also want to say that this is 100% my own perspective and reflects no one else’s. I want to share with you all my experience and hope to offer some insight and perhaps even calm your nerves if you are going back to work and putting your baby in daycare!
Going back to work after baby is probably one of the hardest decisions a new Mother has to make. Continuing to work was important to me but I certainly didn’t feel ready to go back as soon as I did. Unfortunately for American parents, FMLA only requires 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually for mothers of newborn or newly adopted children. This is one of the lowest levels of leave in the industrialized world! None of this leave is required to be paid. This forces a lot of Mother’s to head back to work way earlier than they would prefer and sadly, makes the transition that much harder. I was able to take 13 weeks off of work. When I filled out my FMLA paperwork (literally 4 days after giving birth), three months felt like a good chunk of time. Let me tell you that three months was definitely NOT enough time to be home with my baby and within the few weeks before heading back to work my anxiety started to flood in.
Even before Charlee was born, I knew I wanted to be a working Mom. Matt and I had decided that daycare would be the best route for our family. We had heard amazing things about the benefits of daycare including the socialization and engaging activities. Daycare was also always open and never took sick days which a Nanny could potentially do. Daycare is also more affordable than a nanny, and to top it all off, the daycare we wanted was literally in the same apartment building as ours! All fingers pointed to DAYCARE! NYC is kind of nuts and waiting lists are a real pain so we had Charlee pre-enrolled when I was only 12 weeks pregnant and pre-paid months in advance to make sure she made it in. Pretty nuts right?!
Fastforward to a few weeks before heading back to work and me realizing how hard it was going to be to go back to work and leave Charlee in daycare. I decided to put her in for a few half days before going back to ease into it. The first day, I had Matt come with me to help with drop off and setting everything up. It was the hardest moment of my life you guys. I literally didn’t speak to anyone because I thought I was going to throw up! By the time we left the building I was dry heaving and sobbing! Needless to say, I went back to get her two hours later haha! I also think I may have traumatized my husband!
I put Charlee into daycare on a Wednesday and by Friday I was SO ready for the weekend and to have time with my baby. I was dreading Monday and going back to work, but I felt at least more comfortable having done the drop off three days in a row. Monday morning came, and I was able to keep my composure and go back to work. It was an emotional morning, but by the time I got to work and saw all my old co-workers, took myself to lunch without worrying about my baby, I started to feel OK! It was actually really nice to be at work and be talking to adults and using my brain in a different way. I watched the clock by the mid-afternoon and shot out of my office at 4:59 P.M. to pick up my girl. When I arrived, she was doing tummy time with other babies and as happy as a clam! I was so relieved.
Seems great right?! Well, fast-forward to three days later (only a week after being in daycare) and Charlee woke up with her first fever. I will spare you the stress and all the details but after a day of fever and a horrible cough she ended up being admitted to the hospital for an overnight stay. Charlee had contracted RSV from daycare and they needed to monitor her oxygen levels. This meant that not only was my poor baby sick, but I had to stay home from work to care for her. It was extremely stressful, terrifying and it completely freaked me out. I felt like a HORRIBLE mother leaving my baby at daycare with all the germs! Over the next few months, Charlee was sick more than she wasn’t to be honest. It took about 10 days for her to get over RSV and then the next week she had another cold. It was so stressful. I’m not telling you guys this to freak you out, but I wish I had known that this is common and happens! I knew babies get sick from daycare but I just didn’t realize what you need to do in order to keep your family and YOU from the stress of it. I put together a list of tips and tricks as well as things I wish I had known before starting the daycare track. I really do love my daycare now and just wish I had been a little more prepared before I enrolled Charlee for what was to come. Hopefully this will help you guys!
Tips and tricks for daycare:
Have sick day care lined up. As I mentioned in my anecdote above, I had no idea how sick babies get in the first few months at daycare. We don’t live near family so when Charlee was sick, I had to take a day off of work to stay home with her. My husband has a very intense and demanding job so it always fell on me to be home with her. This was extremely stressful because not only was I dealing with a poor sick baby, but I also was neglecting my work! I eventually was able to set myself up with a fabulous rolodex of sitters to take care of Charlee when I needed to go in to work. I would have them come for a half day so I could run into work and get some things done. It was really helpful!
Have a conversation with your Boss. Heading back to work full time is a transition and it’s important to be honest and forthcoming about the flexibility you will most likely need in the first few months of Daycare. I was so lucky to have a boss that was super supportive and understood when I needed to work from home or step out early. I think being pro-active and talking to her first helped a lot. She knew that I cared about my quality of work and appreciated that I came to her.
When you go back to work, try to enroll your baby a few days before your back to work start date. This will let you get used to your morning routine as well as emotionally help prepare you. You’d be surprised how much of a circus it is to get everything ready and packed. Having practiced a few days in a row really helped me feel confident on my first day back to work.
Don’t go visit your baby during the day unless you are picking them up early. I know this sounds really weird, but this is just my advice. One time, very early on after I went back to work, I decided to go visit Charlee over my lunch break. I came in and scooped her up (she was doing tummy time) and we had a little snuggle session. It was magical! Then I went to put her down so I could get back to work. Well, she was NOT happy about this and started sobbing. I tried to soothe her but she was just not having it. I started stressing because I had to go back to work for a meeting! One of her daycare teachers picked her up and was soothing her by the time I went to leave but I was so shaken up! I could barely make it through the rest of my day! That was the last time I went to visit. Instead, if I am missing her, I just go get her early.
If you can, prep the bottles and pack your baby’s items for daycare the night before. I have plenty of time in the mornings to do all that I need to get Charlee ready for daycare, but I love to spend that time playing with her instead. Sometimes I do the bottles that morning, but I always pack her bag the night before so I don’t have to worry about it in the morning.
Your daycare will tell you to do this but spend a few days labeling your baby’s clothes, bottles, spoons etc. I recommend these labels for clothes and these labels for bottles. Both sets are waterproof and I have used them every day with no problem! The clothing labels actually work on bottles and I use those to date and label what is inside her bottles every day since it changes daily.
Get to know the teachers! In the beginning, I was so worried and wrapped up in whether or not Charlee was OK, that I forgot to get to know who was watching her! These wonderful women were caring for my daughter and I was running in and running out wrapped up in my head! Once I got to know the teachers, guess what?! It was SO MUCH EASIER to leave Charlee because I felt comfortable. I try and do really nice things for the teachers as well. I bake for them and always bring them all holiday presents from Charlee. I think they really appreciate it.
Don’t be afraid to speak up! Just because your baby is in daycare doesn’t mean you can’t ask for certain things do to be done a certain way for your child. There have been days where Charlee struggles to nap, or comes home a little cranky from lack of sleep. In the beginning, I just figured it was out of my control in that environment. Then I decided to ask what was up! I spoke to the main teacher and asked her what they do to help babies fall asleep. I gave her some pointers on what worked for Charlee and low and behold, her naps got better with some of my directions.
Remember that it gets easier!! I like to compare your first days of Daycare to the first days of Motherhood. The more time passes, the more comfortable you get! I am so comfortable with daycare now and what is even better is how much my daughter loves it. These days, when I take her out of her stroller and she sees her teachers and baby friends, she starts to clap and is just so excited. I couldn’t ask for more!
I hope this gave those of you considering daycare a real look into what it’s like. Nothing about leaving your child in someone else’s care is easy, but seeing my child thrive in a new environment has made it all worth it.