What I Learned from the First Few Months of Daycare
Planning is Key
There are different kinds of preparation that will ease the strain of daycare worries. Mentally preparing is very important. There is a big shift in your life, family and relationship with baby. The more mentally prepared you are for this, the better.
There is also actual planning to be done. Practical things like schedules can be more complicated than you think.
The pick-up and drop-off times, how long it will take you to get there, or how your work/daily schedule fits with daycare. For us, my husband was able to adjust his work schedule so that he works earlier in the day and I work later; this frees him up for pick-up and me for drop-off. Months later, we are still working out the kinks, but it was helpful to plan ahead to avoid resentment and frustration.
You are Going to Get Sick… All the Time
I had heard that little ones pick up colds at daycare, but I had no idea the level of sick we were talking about.
In the past few months, my daughter, husband and I have been sick far more often than we’ve been healthy. Constand cough and colds have made the snot sucker and nasal spray a constant companion for our poor girl. Zapping foreheads with the thermometer gun has become nearly as common as hearing good morning and discarded Kleenexes are absolutely everywhere.
There have also been more serious illnesses, including a raging middle ear infection (word to the wise, don’t let them drink their bottle laying down!), a couple of epic flus, and most recently, hand, foot and mouth disease.
Having a sick little one or being sick yourself has a bigger impact than I had anticipated. Not only does it cut down on everyone’s sleep which can cause a lot of tension in the household, it is also heart-wrenching to have a baby in pain and crying. There is just a generally low mood in the house. I was also humbled by having to take care of baby at home for a significant amount of time while we both worked full-time from home. I honestly don’t know what we would have done if we had both been working onsite.
Baby May Struggle
One way or another, going to daycare is a huge change in a little one’s life. Their routine is disrupted, they experience a crash course in socialization, their play and diet change drastically, and they are without their usual support system.
I have heard that a lot of little ones cry and reach for you when you drop them off or are generally upset at drop-off. We didn’t have this at all. It was actually kind of a kick in the pants when she was excited about the new adventure and barely looked back at us when we left her that first day and the ones afterwards.
What my daughter struggled with was coming home. She was happy to be picked up, but once we got in the house, it was intense crying and not wanting to eat or be put down (or picked up sometimes…). This was pretty shocking, but we did some research and found that this is actually quite a common reaction to being so overstimulated during the day. It was a relief to read that this indicated they are comfortable at home. There was also some physical discomfort from gas from her change in diet and the fact that she had physically been moving around so much and was exhausted. It was really hard to see our cheerful girl so upset and uncomfortable.
This has certainly improved over time, and we often have very happy evenings, now. But drop-off has become difficult at times. Like everything with a baby/toddler, it comes in stages.
Overall, I learned that adaptability, patience and open-mindedness are essential in a transition like this. Accepting that baby now has a life outside of you and your family is tough but also exciting.