This post is a follow-up to The Daycare Dilemma | Part 1, a series of emails between me and some amazing women about an honest look at the decision to send our babies to daycare.
Before Fox was born I was pretty sure that I’d be able to swing working from home – at least try it out for a few months – maybe until Fox was 8 months old. I imagined that I’d have a baby perfectly content to sleep in a sling while I worked. I even had this vision of us in the backyard on a quilt – me blogging while the baby keeps himself occupied trying to master getting his foot into his mouth.
So imagine my dilemma when 6 weeks in I was freaking out about how reality looked nothing like the fantasy. I only had two more weeks of maternity leave left and no plan for how I would work and be a new mom. Because the truth is being a mom is both harder and better than I could have ever imagined. When Fox is napping I just want to hold him and stare at his perfect little face. And when he’s not napping I’m feeding him, or walking laps around the house with him, or simply being present with him. All of this does very little for my productivity.
Let me be very clear here: I love my job and I was looking forward to going back to work. I also love being Fox’s mom. I thought I could do it all, and it turns out I can. It just looks a little different than I had imagined. It looks like getting help – and that help comes in the form of daycare.
Fox has been in daycare for 4 weeks now and here’s what I’ve learned and would like to share about the experience and coping with the concerns most moms have when handing over their baby to someone else’s care. Please remember that I’m new at this and figuring it out as I go. What I’m sharing below are parenting choices and circumstances that work for our family. What works for my family may not work for yours – and that’s okay!
Choose gratitude over guilt
This is the first big lesson I had to learn. There is this huge culture of guilt among moms – and while I get it, I’m also calling bullshit on it. I started to fall into the guilt storyline when I started taking Fox to daycare. That is until I realized daycare is awesome. I am so grateful that I have the means to take my child to a safe space everyday where he can be nurtured and taken care of by other women who are now a part of our trusted tribe. I am beyond grateful for the space daycare gives me to nurture myself with dedicated time to work, write, meditate, and move my body. Guilt is one of the lowest vibrating emotions you can experience – so I choose love and gratitude instead.
Sharing a bed with a baby is not for everyone – but it is what feels best and most intuitive for our family. Never once has it felt dangerous or uncomfortable. So, one of my concerns with daycare was not spending enough time with my baby. The idea that he would spend more waking hours with his daycare providers than with me made me worry that he would be confused or feel unloved (this fear is unfounded, whether or not you co-sleep). That said, co-sleeping does give us more time together – and when it comes to bonding with a newborn staying close is what matters most.
If co-sleeping gives us quantity time together, then our daily rituals give us quality time. We spend an hour every morning cuddling in a wood rocking chair handed down from my mom. We spend every afternoon going for a long walk – only after decompressing with some skin-to-skin time after the daycare pickup. Then we’re usually guaranteed with a dance party once Jeremy comes home followed by the go-to-bed rituals of swaddling, walking, singing, and feeding. I know myself well enough to know that if I stayed at home with Fox all day I would still love these moments but I wouldn’t be soaking them up with the presence they deserve.
Fox is not my job, he’s my baby
The cliche that being a mom is the hardest job you can have is true. Or at least it’s true that being a mom is way harder than my job of coaching, business visioning, and branding for other creatives. I’m a great mom but I don’t want Fox to be my job. I want him to be my baby. I want writing, consulting, coaching, and designing to be my job. Daycare allows me to be really good at both my job and my role as mom and wife.
I’m learning new ways to care for my baby
One of the things I love about daycare is I learn new ways to take care of Fox. For example, I noticed one of his teachers swaddled him with his legs sticking out of the swaddle – meanwhile, I had been struggling for days trying to get his whole (growing and kicking) body contained, which was frustrating the both of us. I learned how to swaddle him in a way that comforts him and gives him a bit of freedom to move at the same time. I also learn little noises (like clicking) that make him happy. It’s awesome.
More love for Fox
Just today I picked up Fox and one of his favorite teachers was holding him. She told me about taking him on an adventure outside for 30 minutes earlier that day (at that point another teacher accused her of spoiling Fox). Another time she confessed to me that he was the happiest baby in the class. One time I surprise popped in to drop off some extra baby wipes for Fox and he was on his teacher’s lap being read to – and he seemed really happy. I get the feeling that he isn’t just properly cared for but he’s actually being loved by the women looking after him all day. It makes me hope that his daycare experience is expanding his capacity to trust, love, and be loved.
In closing, I get asked all the time – even in client meetings – “where’s the baby?” When I respond with “daycare” I am met with either “Awwww (that must be painful, huh?)” to “Good for you!” – and the truth is, it’s a little bit of both. Does it tug at my heart to drop Fox off or find him occasionally crying when I pick him up? Yes, of course. But does that make me want to give up my career to stay at home with him all day? No, not really. Being a mom is complex and often feels like a tug-of-war of emotions and decisions! Who knew (pretty much every mom ever).
Candid snaps by my amazing friend and photographer Greer Inez – she’s the best at capturing sweet family moments.