“I don’t want someone else raising my child.”
The first time I saw this comment was on social media and I was in my early 20’s with a newborn baby. I had just returned to work after an unpaid, short six-week maternity leave and my baby was in daycare. I saw this comment posted on social media by an acquaintance as a way of explaining her choice not to work while she had young children. She was so lucky I thought, to have that option. I wanted to tell her how I cried the entire way to work every day after I left my son’s daycare in the morning for months. How crushing it was to leave this child that I was just getting to know and who had changed my entire life, five days a week, 8.5 hours a day.
I found myself constantly having to defend my choice to be a working mother for years. I tried to do every single activity I thought my child would want to do on the weekends. I put him on all of the “best” preschool waiting lists in downtown Charleston near the courthouse where I worked. For some reason, I became consumed with trying to make it up to my son that I was a working mother, and he was in daycare.
I tried to be perfect because I felt guilty for not staying home with my son and “letting someone else raise him”.
It was a difficult time for me even though I knew he was in good hands and my family needed my financial contribution.
When I had my second child, I tried to return to work after maternity leave again but two children combined with postpartum depression, exclusively breastfeeding, sleep deprivation, and a husband who worked nights 50+ hours a week made the decision for me to be a stay-at-home mother an easy one. Thankfully at this point, we were more financially stable than we were in our early 20’s.
A New Chapter
In the beginning, being a stay-at-home mom was amazing. My house was always clean, we took walks in our neighborhood almost every day, and we were able to do playdates on Tuesday mornings when we had the park all to ourselves.
But then, I slowly started to lose myself.
My identity, my free time, my independence, and my routine. I was stuck in the house all winter and it was all-consuming. I realized that I needed and wanted a career and that I wasn’t a bad mom for that. More importantly, my now two-year-old, needed time away from me for his independence, needed regular socialization with other children his age and needed to experience a structured environment.
I took tours of every daycare in Charleston that I was interested in, asked all the questions, and put him on the waiting lists of the ones I liked. Then, a job offer fell into my lap. It was close to home, allowed me to make my own schedule and utilize my education, and it paid well. My oldest was entering full-time kindergarten and I was waiting on a spot to open at the daycare that was my favorite based on my tour and research. My husband and I hired a babysitter until the time that my youngest could start at his new school and I began working. Shortly after, when my youngest began daycare, I immediately knew this was the right decision for all of us.
My youngest is now 4.5 and still at the same daycare/preschool he started at age two. I’ve never experienced caretakers at any of our previous daycares that are truly so happy to be there and be with those little people. They are flexible with our ever-changing schedules, their smiles and hugs at drop-off reassure me every single day that while I am at work, he is being loved and taken care of.
He is learning math skills, having Spanish lessons, playing with googly eyes and playdough, having dance parties, looking for insects, and even being taught yoga. He is laughing with his best friend, making pinatas, playing soccer, and painting. He comes home and tells me about police officer visits, water bead dinosaur finds, and holiday parties. He is special and taken care of there. He is becoming more independent.
I have now found the perfect work/life balance that allows me to work part-time from home while my youngest son goes to daycare/preschool two days a week and my oldest goes to his school during the year. In the summer, they both attend summer camp together at my little one’s daycare.
This is the best situation for our family.
Every family is different. Some children and parents thrive at home together and I think that is wonderful. There is no one-size-fits-all decision. But for me, I need to be a working mother and have care for my children who I trust 100%.
So, to my son’s daycare…Thank you. Thank you for always being there, for supporting us, and thank you for helping me raise my children.