Childcare was the number one stressor for me as I prepared to return to work. It’s something I had to think about early on because if I wanted to go the daycare route, I had to get on waiting lists...a YEAR in advance. Yes, you heard that right...ONE YEAR in advance to find childcare. Daycare was always what I thought I wanted for my baby--I didn’t even consider a nanny mostly because of the cost.
However, once I started touring daycares, my heart was breaking. I couldn’t imagine leaving my baby with strangers at 4 months old. Strangers that didn’t know what each of her cries meant, strangers that wouldn’t pay attention to her 24/7 because there were 8 other babies in the room, strangers that I didn’t know or trust. These are all the crazy thoughts that went through my head:
“What if she cries and no one picks her up to soothe her?”
“What if they pick her up and can’t soothe her?”
“Will they remember that she needs her pacifier to fall asleep?”
“What if she gets hand, foot mouth?”
“Will she be sick all the time? Daycares are germ fests right?!”
“Will she be happy and loved?”
“Why am I letting strangers spend more time with my baby vs. me?”
“Shouldn’t I stay home to take care of my baby for at least the first year?”
“She’s so helpless--she can’t talk or tell them what she wants--she’s only 4 months!”
I could go on forever about all the thoughts that went through my head. I was a mess. I remember finally finding a daycare Ben and I liked. I went back to give them a deposit and when I walked in, I saw a baby laying in her crib crying and no one paying attention to her. I ran out of there so fast, security deposit in hand and in tears telling my husband “I can’t do this!”
I took a break from the daycare search and tried to focus on enjoying every minute of maternity leave with Liv. About a month before I was heading back to work, I got a call from the daycare I originally wanted (a nice little year+ waitlist). We immediately signed up and secured our spot and I felt so much better. I still hated that I had to leave my 4 month old baby in the care of someone else, but knew this place had a good reputation. It also gave me comfort to know my sister-in-law worked at a daycare when she was younger, and I knew how much she loved and cared for each of those babies (thank you for helping reassure me Allison).
To prepare for heading back to work, I did a couple trial daycare runs. For the first trial run, I planned on finally doing some self care; getting my nails done, doing some shopping, and maybe even working out. I walked out the door after dropping her off and immediately burst into tears. I made it to one store, got a coffee and was already headed back to the daycare 45 minutes later. The second time was a little better because I had a plan. I went to an event and it helped get my mind off worrying about her 24/7. I made it 3 hours that day...baby steps right?
I had so much anxiety about leaving her for the full day, that I made the daycare employees in the infant room a “instruction manual” on Olivia. I remember emailing it to my mom and sister saying, “Is this okay to send to daycare? Will they think I’m crazy?” My sister Lindsey said, “No why would they think that?! It’s perfect. Olivia is your baby and you say whatever you want.” My mom said “No that’s great! At the bottom put “first time mother”--they will laugh but can use your info.” Their responses were perfect and exactly what I needed to hear at the time. Thank you both. For your viewing pleasure, here is a copy of the doc:
This is embarrassing to read now but I wanted to make sure they knew as much as possible in terms of taking care of Liv. My favorite part is "New Trick! Put the Pandora station “Piano Lullaby #2 on. Instantly calms her down.”
Once I was back at work, I thought about Liv 24/7. Is she okay at daycare? Is she crying? Does she miss me and need me? I counted down the minutes to get back to her and spent the evenings holding her. Daycare was harder than I thought; coordinating pick up/drop offs, trying to get us out the door to get to work in time, planning bottles and her food for the day, etc. I was a hot mess and in tears most days. Yes, I forgot bottles and jackets and extra clothes frequently. Yes, she got sick A LOT the first year she was there. I started to wonder if I had chosen the right option for Liv so I started looking into a nanny option. I started a Nanny vs. Daycare pros and cons list (for those of you that know me, you know I do this for all important life decisions) which went a little something like this:
Pros of Nanny:
Sick less often!
Less stress for mom
Help with house + meals
Cheaper if I ever have a 2nd
Another adult that loves Liv
Help with grocery shopping
Consistency for Liv
Works with my schedule
Not learning bad habits from other kids
Better quality food/more control
High turnover at daycare
Pros of Daycare:
Interaction with other kids @ daycare
Safety in numbers
Structured space and hours
More cost efficient
Everything except cost was leading me towards a nanny (double what daycare was), but in my gut I always knew I wanted to go the daycare route. It was the stress of figuring out this new working mom life that made me want to change my mind (along with some outsiders opinions). I decided to stick with daycare and we moved Liv to one closer to our house. My husband and family members were able to help now with pick up/drop off so it wasn’t all on me. As she got older (she’s 19 months old now), she didn’t get sick as often and I loved watching her play with the other kids. While it was hard in the beginning, it HAS gotten easier and I know I made the right choice.
For any moms struggling to choose childcare, I want you to know that whatever choice you make, make the best choice for you and your baby. No one else. And there is no wrong choice. You will figure it out, you will get through this, and your baby will thrive either way. Some days will be harder than others, but the most important thing is that you love your baby.