Daycare. It is a grueling, difficult decision for many parents to research, visit and find that right person and place to take their child. You make calls. There aren’t openings. There is a waiting list. You debate. You wait. You ask your friends for recommendations. Finally for those of us who have been working moms, we come to the time where we have to take our baby to a new place and entrust the best thing that has ever happened in our lives to often, a stranger.
The plight of the working mother is a balancing act but the truth is that it is a plight of any mother, no matter our choices or decisions regarding work outside the home. Some of us have to work and want to stay home with our kids. Some of us want to work and need it to balance our role as a mother. Some stay-at-home and regret it and never admit it. Some stay-at-home and love it. And there are 1000 other ways mothers have found ways to balance being a working mom, a stay-at-home mom, a part-time working home, a working from home mom and the list continues.
There isn’t a handbook that tells us how to do it because for all of us, it is a different road we need to take for our children and families.
As a mother, I needed daycare for my kids. First, I was a single mom to one young boy. Then I eventually became a married mom of three children with a career and the need for full-time daycare. During a long stretch of time, my kids labeled me “The Last Mom” as in the last mom to show up at daycare to pick-up kids or at an event. But at least, I was there. I have always been a present mom (and blog to tell about it.)
Now I am still on a mom just doing the best I can, still juggling but less concerned with the definitions of what type of mom or what type of daycare my kids need. But the daycare chapter is changing now at our house.
Years ago when my son needed daycare, I visited daycares, called the childcare referral agency, asked friends and had to make changes a couple times with daycares based on schedules, locations and his overall happiness. I had oodles of options though and found what worked for us.
Then I moved to a rural area, pregnant with Miss E.
My daycare search in a rural area and small town has been vastly different then when I was in larger towns in seas of strangers and people I did not know trying to get the best recommendation and onto the best waiting list. Our small town daycares are in homes with people that everyone knows and trusts. There is no big daycare center. There isn’t a private preschool. Daycare providers are our neighbors, people we go to church with and see at the one and only grocery store.
For the past five plus years, Miss E has attended two home daycares. First it was “Ora’s” and then it was “Lori’s”. Both are dear friends to us and loved Miss E as their own child. In between home daycare, my sister came to be a nanny one summer. My mother-in-law and mom have been huge helps during stretches of travel I had in my past career jobs. My desire to be a career mom while juggling motherhood has been a long, winding, experimental road but one that could not be if it weren’t from the support of our daycare providers, family and my husband.
Earlier this year, I made the leap to be home more with my kids. But my kids have not quit daycare and they never will. They have had a leisurely summer, sleeping in and spending five times more time with me then any time ever before in their life. We have reduced our daycare hours for our family routine. I have this little window that I can see is closing to be more hands-on, at home, now. But our kids love daycare. They love the kids and they love their daycare provider.
Daycare is comforting and friendly. Lori makes them huge homemade meals, rocks them, reads to them, takes them on walks, to the park, to the pool and once even to the zoo, 100 miles away. She has “Mother Goose” time which is a preschool program. Miss E’s treasured memories from daycare will never be lost or forgotten.
But the daycare chapter is closing today for Miss E and Lori. They are close friends. Really close friends. We will still visit when we pick up Miss A at Lori’s daycare. But we have already had tears. Our new routine allows me to take Elizabeth to and from school, or her high school brother can or her Nana who lives across the street from the school is available.
I will never regret having these years as a working mom. The network of people that helps us raise our children are loved and appreciated more then they will ever know. To show a bit of the appreciation we feel, Miss E gave Lori a special gift yesterday, made just for her. We ordered it from my friend, Kara of KLG Designs, who starts with sheets of metal to make beautiful and unique handmade jewelry. I think it sums up how many parents feel about the person or people who care for their children when they cannot.
And Elizabeth’s simple message, from our entire family…is on the back of the necklace.
Thank you, Lori. For the cups of coffee you have given me, the pickled vegetables, the listening, advice and hugs. Thank you for telling me I look nice when I am off to a meeting and regretting leaving my kids. Thank you for reassuring me my kids are happy and loving life. Thank you for dealing with this frazzled working mom and making me better. Thank you to all daycare providers who selflessly back up parents and help us when we need it most.
I am a better mom because of the influence of the daycare providers our children have had in their lives. If you haven’t, give a hug to your child’s daycare provider or any person that has made your role as a parent easier because of their love and support.