By Contributor Andria Milliard
The impending arrival of a child brings a whole mix of emotions into one’s life. There is the initial excitement of the thought of becoming a parent when you first find out and then the anxiousness of meeting this new bundle, followed by the nervousness as you reach those last few days. You wonder if you are going to be a good parent and if you are going to be able to handle certain situations. For most these worries quickly diminish the moment you have that sweet little bundle in your arms, as you have never been more in love in your life. You go about dotting on this little being and soaking up all the new firsts as they come and before you know it a year is up and it’s time to go back to work. All of a sudden you are met with an on slot of emotions again. You are excited to return to the working world and spend your days chatting with other adults. Enjoying hot coffee while discussing business deals instead of sipping cold coffee and discussing diaper changes in yesterday’s clothes with your mom friends over Facebook. And then again you are nervous; will my child be ok in the hands of strangers all day? Will they miss me? Will they make friends? Will they take their bottle? The list of will theys and what ifs goes on and on. Having recently returned to work full time myself I have realized in the end everything will be ok and the most important thing is to make the transition a positive one for both you and the child.
The most important thing is to find a daycare that works for you, be it an in home daycare or a daycare centre, go with what works for your family’s needs. When you do your research some of the questions you are going to want to ask are; are they licensed? What are their hours? Do they provide food? Will they cater to your cultural needs? Do they implement a learning program? We looked into several daycare’s in our neighbor hood, both in home and centers and in the end we were very fortunate to find a brand new centre that was opening just as I returned to work. I highly recommend taking tours of the centers you are looking at and making sure you look at what they offer for not only your age group but the next age group up. There is nothing worse than being with a center for 5 years and then discovering that they don’t provide before and after school care or transportation to local elementary schools. Finding a centre that will grow with you as your child grows will create another home like environment and give the child a place they look forward to going to.
When you are picking your centre see if you can sit down with staff that will taking care of your child on a daily basis. Ask to go over the centers schedule as well as your own schedule. See if they are flexible to your child’s schedule. Most are but if there is a chance that they only do nap and meal times at certain times, start transitioning your child into that routine a few weeks or a month before you return to work. There is nothing worse than not only being without mom or dad all day but to also be thrown in to a completely different schedule. It can be so confusing for them and if you get them into that routine beforehand it will come like second nature once they start daycare. If they are providing food for your child go over any allergies or special preparations during this meeting. One of the parents at our center asked how big they were cutting the pieces of food for their child. They weren’t worried that the child would choke but to make sure they were creating the same setting at home. They didn’t want to be serving their child mashed food at home if they were eating finger food at the daycare. This was something I had never thought of but makes perfect sense, keeping everything the same makes it comfortable for the child.
I highly recommend sending your child with everything you would normally use at home. Yes they probably supply their own sippy cups and bibs but if you send them with ones from home it again helps create a similar environment to home. They will recognize these items and associate with them right away. Send them with their own blanket and stuffed animal for nap times helps to create a comfortable nap setting. Most likely the blanket and stuffed animal will have your scent on it and help keep the child calm and comfortable. Just remember that anything you send along with your child should be labeled. I found that using a sharpie on the bottom of sippy cups and bottles has worked best to stay on. Labels tend to peel off easy or become caked with food that’s impossible to wash off.
One thing that we don’t tend to think about is the type of footwear our child is wearing. Unlike us most children this age aren’t used to wearing shoes for long periods of time. They are also most likely just learning how to walk and their feet are still developing. Therefore ensuring their footwear is comfortable is one of the most important things to think off. One of the things I found to be the best are soft soled shoes, like moccasins. They provide the right amount of grip for a toddler that’s cruising around but are nice and comfy, almost like slippers making them perfect to wear for long periods of time. If I send my daughter to daycare in something like sandals or runners, I always send her with a pair of soft soled shoes as well and most of the time she is wearing those by the end of the day.
Enroll your child early. What do I mean by this? Enroll your child in daycare a week or two before you plan to return to work. This will allow you time to enter them into full time care gradually. Start by taking them in for an hour and if the centre allows, stay with them read a book or play with toys. With you there you’re helping to ensure them that it is a safe and fun environment. Next drop them off for a few hours on their own and gradually work up to a full day. By being home when you drop them off for the first couple of full days it will allow you be there if you need to go and get them.
In the end the transition is probably harder on us that it is on them. After the first few days they are so busy having fun, playing and learning that they quickly forget that we aren’t there, yet we continue to wonder if they are ok. This is completely natural, we spent 9 months growing these sweet babies and a year cuddling and soothing them, it’s our instinct to worry about them. As long as you’ve done your research and continue to keep an open relationship with your child’s daycare you will have nothing to worry about and your child will thrive!
Have you enrolled your child into daycare? Was the transition difficult?