As a mom who went back to work, I evaluated every option here and ultimately settled on putting my son in day care. Now that I’ve been through the whole process, I now know that this is one of those things about motherhood that was *so much harder* than I could have anticipated.
Why? You ask… well, preparing for day care comes in stages.
Stage 1: The Glowing Librarian
Look at you, pregnant momma, rolling down that check list of “to dos” before your belly even pops. You’ve researched pediatricians. You’ve written a birth plan so you can feel in control (ha ha ha ha) and now it is time plan for your inevitable return to work. You make lists of all the nearby centers. You read reviews and evaluate curricula so you will be PREPARED. Alight with pregnancy’s glow and rocking your sexy librarian glasses, you are in control. You’ve got this.
Stage 2: Down the Visitation Rabbit Hole
Your hormones got this, lady. You had a list of smart-sounding questions for these facilities, but as soon as you walk in and see a smiling woman strategically placed in a rocking chair with a baby, you melt. Look, that baby is so cute. They will LOVE your child here.
Conversely, the first center you walk into that has the audacity to feature a crying baby will be vetoed. These people will beat your baby, you can just feel it. And you are damn proud that your maternal instinct is kicking in already.
Stage 3: No Room at the Inn
How is it possible that no one has infant spots? That job you weren’t so sure you even wanted to go back to before is now the best job in the world and you are FRANTIC with the knowledge that you might have to leave it. So all of the centers with hand-painted educational murals depicting morally superior children are full. Perhaps you can be a little less strict about the rigor of their six-month-old activity plans.
Stage 4: Just Take My Kid
You swear you will take the first open spot you find as long as the place doesn’t have visible crack pipes.
And FINALLY, you slap down that deposit and your spot is SAVED. Sure it is a 20 minute drive and $100 more per week than you can afford, but this place has no crack pipes! This will work!
And now, you forget about this for months.
Stage 5: You Have a Baby
This is the point at which you realize that you’ve been focusing on all of the wrong things. Your birth plan? Ha. Did anyone actually read that? What is important now is this perfect, screaming, wonderful, exhausting baby. Work is so far out of your mind.
Stage 6: How do is it already time to go back to work?
Didn’t 12 weeks sound like such a long time about 13 weeks ago? You just got the hang of this and now the impending first day is coming. You cry and grimace as you realize you have to stop wearing yoga pants every day. Mostly, though, you stare at your perfect baby and wonder how anyone else will know that he only sleeps if you play him Billy Joel.
Many women warned me that dropping my baby off at day care for the first time would be one of the hardest days of my life. Until I had my baby, it sounded melodramatic; however, they were right. Walking away from your baby is heartbreaking that first time … and to make matters worse, the little jerk doesn’t care AT ALL. Mom? Mom who? Oh, you mean the walking boobs that have been feeding me these past few weeks?
Stage 7: Mommy Guilt
You went to work and started pushing through your backlog. Somewhere about 3 hours in, just as you were wondering if anyone did ANYTHING while you were gone, you realize that you haven’t thought about your child in 20 minutes. Worse yet, maybe you even find that you are enjoying being needed for your brain and not your breasts. You determine that you are the worst mother ever. Your first day back doesn’t need to be a full day, right?
Stage 8: Your Baby is Fine
You arrive at day care, waiting to hear tales of how your kid cried all day or he just crawled right over to that Trump for President sign on his own. What you find is that your baby is fed, rested, and happy. You watch as his teacher holds him and notice that she really seems to care and have this under control.
Stage 9: Lady, give me back my baby
This one doesn’t end. As your child gets older and drop off gets easier, small things will start to happen, like the first time you see your kid really smile at his teacher and want to knee her in the gut for it. Then your brain will say “umm… shouldn’t you be happy that your kid is happy here all day?” and your heart will say “but does he have to be so happy with her? Doesn’t he miss me? Should I really be working?”
And welcome to the true hardest part—Mommy guilt and Mommy Jealousy
So yes, the decision to go back to work is a grueling one, and there is no easy answer. The good news is that your kid will be fine at day care, and you will likely actually enjoy some grown up time. The bad news is that you will likely always feel like you’re just not getting enough baby time. Nonetheless, your child will still love you most, and maybe one day you’ll even laugh at the memory of how you sobbed that first day.