Maternity leave has been wonderful and you have already made many wonderful memories bonding with your baby. But the day is looming when you will have to return to work and your baby will need childcare. The thought of leaving your baby with strangers everyday is certainly cringe worthy, but you are not the only one who has been through it. So many questions and fears run through new moms’ heads when it comes to putting their children in daycare. Being a working mom of two, I have been through it two times over … so here are some tidbits to help ease some common daycare fears:
1. Your child won’t contract Ebola at daycare… or polio, or brain eating amoeba, or whatever else your overactive mom brain is conjuring up. Yes, he may come home with the occasional cold or case of strep throat, but it isn’t going to be as bad you think or as people have told you it will be. If you are concerned about the spread of germs, ask any potential daycare center about their policy on germ safety. Ask questions such as: how often are the toys cleaned/bleached? What is their hand washing policy for the children? What is their sick child policy… at what point is a sick child sent home … what are the conditions for a sick child to be able to return to daycare, ect?
2. Your child will always know who her mom is. This was a big fear of mine. I was worried my daughter would spend so much time with her daycare caregiver that she would be confused as to who her mom was. It seems silly to me now, but I know this a fear that many new working moms have and I am here to tell you that it is unfounded. The relationship between the daycare workers and the children in their care is comparable to the relationship between teachers and students. They care about your child and they want to nurture her and help her to grow into a smart independent kindergartener, but they are not cuddling her or singing her lullabies. There is only one person who kisses the boo boos away, cuddles during bedtime story time, and takes care of her when she is sick, and that is you. Trust me, daycare or no daycare, you will always be number one in her book.
3. You won’t miss all of your child’s firsts. This was another biggie for me. I was so worried that she would begin to crawl, sit up, take her first steps, and say her first words at daycare and I would miss them all. But … she didn’t. She did all of those things at home. The daycare providers take care of my children in a classroom like environment. They take very good care of the kids, but they aren’t sitting around playing pass the baby. That sort of thing is reserved for Mom and Dad at home and home is where she is most relaxed and comfortable, thus where she is most likely to accomplish those firsts.
4. Your child won’t pick up bad habits from the other kids at daycare. At any daycare, there are going to be certain children with behavioral problems, but you shouldn’t worry that those behavioral issues will rub off on your child. Do your research and be sure to pick a daycare with strong behavioral guidelines. If you are worried about how your child will be punished if she acts out, or how another child acting badly toward your child will be handled, make sure to ask about their policy on bad behavior. At my children’s daycare center, they utilize the time out method where the child is placed in time out for the number of minutes that correspond with their age. We follow this method at home as well for reinforcement. If one of my children is hurt or treated badly by another child, we are provided an incident report that details what happened and what action was taken by the daycare to both care for my child and address the incident with the other child. This type of open communication adds to my comfort level of leaving my children in their care.
5. Your child won’t be scarred for life. Like many children of the eighties, I grew up with a stay at home mom. When it came time to put my daughter in daycare, I worried that spending her childhood in daily daycare would somehow take away from her childhood and her relationship with me. Six years later, I see those fears were unfounded. She and I have a strong bond, we have always had our special time in the evenings and reading at bedtime and we take trips to the zoo and park on the weekends. Of course being at home with me would be wonderful for them and me, but I can see advantages of going to daycare as well. Through daycare they have developed strong social skills, learning to share and work well with others. My daycare center also starts teaching them classroom style following the BEKA program when they are just two years old. Due to this, my daughter was already reading by the time she started kindergarten and tested well above the level she needed to be in most every subject. The transition from daycare to kindergarten was a breeze, as she was already used to a classroom environment, the teacher/student relationship, and getting along with other children.
The most important factor in making the most of the daycare experience is making sure you pick the right daycare center for you and your children. Make sure to pick a daycare center that has an active learning program, so that your children are at an advantage when they start kindergarten. Tour as many daycare centers as it takes until you find the one that feels right for you. Write down all of your worries and concerns and ask potential daycare providers to answer all of them. Any daycare center that truly cares about the children in their care and their relationship with the parents will be happy to spend as long as it takes answering all of your questions so that you feel comfortable with them. You can also ask for references of other parents who have their children in daycare there, to further help ease any concerns. Take the effort to find the right daycare, and the experience can be rewarding for you and your children.