I saw you today. I saw you walking back to your car full of guilt and uncertainty. I saw you wipe a tear as you got into your car. I saw you sit in the car taking a deep breath. I saw you doubt your decision to put your precious child into the hands of strangers at the local daycare center.
I saw you and I wanted to hug you. I wanted to tell you that it gets better.
You might be using childcare because you are going back to work, because your little one is ready to go to pre-school or because your circumstances have changed in some other way but whatever the reason I know you are wondering if you did the right thing. You are thinking of all the horror stories you’ve read on the internet, all the scenarios that people have told you about their friends, sisters, cousins, husbands, best friend who had a bad experience with a childminder in a random place you’ve never been to and you are fighting your every instinct to run back to the nursery and snatch your precious child back out of that strangers arms and take them back home where they belong. You at this moment and time feel like the worst parent who has ever lived.
It gets better. You know what you are doing and you’ve made the right decision.
You’ve selected your nursery or pre-school carefully – you’ve probably asked every person you know what they know about it and you can probably recite the OFSTED report if you were asked to. You’ve packed them a bag that has 25 changes of clothes, more food than they’ve ever eaten, wet weather clothes, warm weather clothes, a rain coat, a sun hat, suntan lotion and gloves. The bag you’ve packed for them could probably assist someone heading for the summit of Mount Everest.
You’ve labeled everything in that bag with their name and probably a contact number as well. You have stopped just short of writing their name on their arm with a Sharpie along with a “if found please return to” phone number just in case they make it out of the room, through the stairgate, down the stairs and out of the double locked front door.
You have questioned every second they might spend there whilst secretly hoping yours isn’t the only child that screams, bites, has tantrums, gets naked on a seconds notice or hits out in frustration.
You are sat in your car now feeling terrible and I can almost certainly promise you that none of your worst case scenarios are going to happen. Your child is most likely going to be fine – in fact if your little one is anything like mine the biggest tantrum they’ll have is when you arrive to collect them and bring them home. Some days they will welcome you with open arms and a big kiss – some days they will scream and scream because you are taking them away from what they think is the best place in the world.
It gets better.
If it doesn’t work out and your child doesn’t settle in you’ll either work through it with the childminder or key worker and if that doesn’t work out you can move them to somewhere else. This isn’t a school – this is on your terms and they go where you want them to go. It might be nursery, creche, pre-school, childminder, babysitter, nanny, au pair or a relative that takes them but you’ll find a situation that works.
It gets better.
Have a little cry when you need to followed by a cup of tea and slice of cake. Those first few weeks are difficult and you’ll doubt yourself but there will come a day when you drop them off and walk away without a second thought because you know they are happy, safe and well looked after.
Then one day you’ll be walking back to your car or back home and you’ll see another parent who’s just dropped their little one off for the first time, is feeling sad and tearful and you’ll want to give them a hug. Because you’ll know that it gets better. Because, for you, it already has.
It gets better Mum in the car park. You are doing just fine.