I will never forget Easter of 2015.
It was a day of feigned joy shadowed by impending doom. A day seared into my mind for eternity.
Easter 2015 was my last day of maternity leave. The day before my child was thrown into the dreaded depths of “daycare”.
The next morning was a mixture of tears, exhaustion and daycare guilt.
How could I possibly leave my child with complete strangers for 8+ hours? What if he doesn’t like it? What if he’s scarred for life? What if he misses me?
Although we all survived our daycare experience, there were a few bumps in the road and definitely some things I’ll do differently next time around. Here are my tips from the trenches so that you don’t have to repeat my mistakes.
Is Daycare Bad?
Let’s just start off by abolishing a myth.
Daycare is not bad. It’s not a four letter word of parenting or a scarlet letter. Although it is always a good idea to consider all of your childcare options, sending your child to daycare is not a sin. For many families, daycare is the best option. That in no way makes you bad parents.
Three after our rocky daycare beginning, I can confidently say that both my son and I are better people because he goes to daycare. Follow the steps below and you can be a proud daycare momma too!
8 Simple Ways to Beat Daycare Guilt
Daycare Guilt Buster 1: Choose your daycare well.
Don’t just throw your child into the daycare around the corner. (I tried it..it was bad.) Not all child care centers are created equal- there are some really great daycares and some really awful ones. Use this list of questions to do your research, shop around and find a daycare that you trust.
Especially during the early years when your child cannot tell you what he did at school that day, it is super important that you are leaving him in a place that makes both of you feel safe.
Daycare Guilt Buster #2: Daycare is a Partner, Not a Replacement
For most of us, the biggest fuel for daycare guilt is the fact that your child ends up spending more time with her teacher than you during the week. However, that doesn’t mean the teacher is replacing you.
You, the parent, are your child’s first and most important teacher.
The teacher is your helper and guide. She can tell you what to work on with your child, give you ideas and support you through struggles but she in no way wants to replace you.
View daycare as an extension of your family- a partner in raising a happy, healthy child.
Daycare Guilt Buster #3: Communicate During Drop Off
As with any relationship, communication is key. Make sure that you and daycare are on the same page every day. Be clear about any concerns or expectations you may have. Share anything relevant that happened the night before or that morning.
As a previous child care worker, I can assure you that we would rather know too much than nothing at all. Quality communication during pickups and drop-offs increase your child’s quality of care and allow you to head off to work with a clear conscience, knowing that your child is in good hands. Here are some great tips for communicating well with your childcare provider.
Daycare Guilt Buster #4: Know the Benefits of Daycare
A high-quality daycare can enhance your child’s learning and development during these important early years of development. By going to childcare, your child is learning basic social skills like sharing, taking turns and cleaning up after play.
She is also learning to control emotions and developing social confidence while interacting with other peers and adults.
Through circle time, enrichment and other organized activities, your child is developing early literacy, math and science skills that will help prepare her for school.
Thanks to daycare, your child is becoming a more well-rounded child. So instead of daycare guilt, add some daycare pride to your toolbelt. It comes in handy when you need to fend off guilt-inducing comments like: “Oh, he goes to daycare. That must be so hard..”.
Daycare Guilt Buster #5: Find a job you love.
Leaving your favorite little person to slave away for 8+ hours in a job you hate is a recipe for never-ending daycare guilt.
Don’t settle for just a job.
Find a job that leaves you inspired and energized. This will not only ease your daycare guilt, but it will also enhance your life and give you the energy to be a better mother and partner during your time off.
Here are some great tips for finding a job you love.
Daycare Guilt Buster #6: Take Days Off
If your job allows, take days off to spend with your child. Instead of rushing to daycare and work after a doctor’s appointment, spend the day at the zoo. Enjoy time with your child during the week as much as possible to ease the daycare guilt and enjoy these precious early years as much as you can.
Daycare Guilt Buster #7: Enjoy the Evenings/Weekend
Between dinner, clean up and bedtime prep, the evening is usually a blur. Add some calm to your routine.
Ask your child about his day. Let him choose an evening activity you do together. Even if you only have 30 minutes to spare, devote them to spending time with your child, reconnecting and enjoying each other.
The weekends are another great opportunity to make up for lost time during the week. Instead of spending your whole weekend getting things done, take the time to stop and play.
Plan to go on an adventure. Allow your child to help you with the menial cleaning tasks and make them fun by singing and dancing together while you work. Play games, take walks, dress up like superheroes. Above all, have fun together.
Daycare Guilt Buster #8: Believe You Can Work and be a Good Mom
Not everyone is cut out to be a stay at home mom. Personally, I think that being a stay at home mom is one of the hardest jobs in the world.
For years I felt incredibly guilty for not being able to give my son “the best start” by staying home with him. I dreamed of finding a job where I could work from home with him at my side.
Then I found one and realized I hated it! On the days I was working from home with my son, it was a constant battle between him and work. I wasn’t really giving myself fully to either and honestly, I ended the day more frustrated and exhausted than if I had gone to work.
I recently read “I Know How She Does it” by Lara Vandkamp- a successful author and mother who works from home and sends her kids to daycare. For me, a lightbulb went off.
I don’t have to stay at home with my child to be a good mother.
In fact, I am a better mother because I am a working mother who takes her child to daycare. I have my creative outlet, adult interaction, and alone time all scheduled into each day. That allows me to enjoy my time at home with my son, instead of looking for the nearest escape route.
Remember, Daycare Enhances You
Although I will never forget Easter 2015, I can now say with confidence that yes, my child goes to daycare, and I’m 100% OK with that.
Will daycare ever be as good as time with mommy? No way! And that is exactly how it should be.
Daycare does not replace you, it enhances you. So, go to work with confidence momma, your precious baby is in good hands.
Vanessa is the proud mother of a three year old boy, a bilingual early childhood educator and a frugal living blogger. She is constantly on the search for unconventional ways to help her readers save money and live their best life. Did you know taking a break from social media can save you money? Find out more here.