We all have things we swear off when we become parents—things we hate or judge before trying them or being forced to try them.
For me, one of those things was daycare.
The stay-at-home mom versus working mom issue had never actually been on my radar. I had no judgments against other women about either decision, but I did know that if at all possible, I wanted to avoid daycare. The biggest reason for that, outside of wanting to be the one with my children each day, was the cost.
I had worked on and off, both full-time and part-time, after having my twins. But for the most part, I was able to avoid child care outside of my own home. When I landed the title of single working mom, I had no choice but to send my boys to daycare. I found myself inside what felt like a personal war of my own broken dreams versus my new reality. Torn between my hope of being able to stay home with my children and the reality that I no longer had that option. Truth be told, that option was ripped away from me even before I was an official “single mom.” But eventually, the hammer dropped all the way down and I had to come to grips with my fear of daycare.
I struggled to find an option that provided quality care for my sons and left money for my bills. After changing their daycare situation four times, each time increasing the cost, we finally found our match. To be honest, the financial burden is a heavy one. But when it comes to our babies, knowing they are well cared for when they’re away from us is priceless, and we simply do what we have to do to ensure that happens.
Today, I can confidently say it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. My only regret now is that I didn’t do it sooner.
My boys are thriving, happy and healthy. They’ve stopped screaming like I’m throwing them in a fire every morning as I leave. They’re not weird and distant when I get them home. They wake up happy and excited to go to “school.” And my heart no longer feels like it got dumped on the side of the road when I drop them off each day. Every day when I pick them up, they are beaming. They have the most adorable projects they did that day, proud to display them on the fridge at home. They love their teachers, and their teachers genuinely love them.
Knowing that your children are being loved, educated, and treated like they deserve to be treated when you can’t be with them is the greatest gift a parent can give—both to themselves and their children.
Of course, I wish it was me, and I definitely wish it was less expensive, but at this point I sometimes feel guilty that I love daycare so much. In all honesty, I don’t know that they’d get more from me than they get at their daycare. The rules and values I have at home are shared at daycare. We work as a team and because of their loving teachers, there is consistency and routine in their day that mirrors what they would get at home; only it’s a little bit better than what I feel an exhausted and depleted me can provide for those eight hours Monday through Friday.
They have friends. They learn to share. They learn to respect authority and listen to other adults. They are being prepared for kindergarten, and they are learning social skills they simply might not get otherwise. They have learned that they can survive without their blankets all day. They have learned they can survive without me all day. And I’ve learned I can survive without them all day too. I miss them something awful, but the time away makes our time together that much better.
The heaviness of leaving my children in the care of someone else was almost too much for me to bear at one point. But now, although we had no other choice initially, I wouldn’t trade it. I’m a better mother because of my sons are in daycare. They’re better people because they have found reassurance in this place filled with people who pour into them and love them so well.
Every family has to do what is best for them. For us, daycare was the only choice, and while I fought against it with all I had, I have developed a deep sense of awe and wonder for the daycare teachers who give their time, love and energy to our babies all day. I have grown to truly love this place, and my boys have too. I drive them to “school” each morning with a grateful heart, because though I miss them while we’re apart, I know they’re getting what they need. I see it in their eyes and their excitement as they tell me about their day each afternoon at pickup. I see it in their joy each morning and their freedom each night.
As a working mom, finding the right place for your kids is a hard process. But it’s so worth the time, money and heartache once you find the right fit.
Never say never, Mama. You may swear off one of the best decisions you’ve ever made.