This is a topic close to my heart. I am a working mom to a 4 year old. We leave her at a daycare when her dad and I are away at work. She has caring staff to look after her there and has made good friends with the children over the years. They even go to the same school together. In short she is happy there most of the times. I say most of the times because there are days when she does refuse to go to her daycare, on most holidays (mom and dads holidays that is) when she wakes up and is told that she does not have to go to daycare that day she is ecstatic. Though her teachers tell me that she is very happy while she is there and I get that impression from her also while discussing her day with her, but given a choice she prefers home over her daycare.
Ever since I can remember I imagined my self as a working person. Even as a child when I visualised my future, I always saw myself working, doing what I loved. And I was lucky enough by God’s grace to have found a job that I loved. I knew I would have a family someday and I always imagined that I would manage perfectly between my work and family. When Cheebu was born, I had no second thoughts about returning back to work. I took a maternity leave of about 8 months after which I joined back. During the last month of my maternity leave my task was to settle her somewhere before I joined back to work. Her name was on waiting list at the daycare she goes to at present. So I was looking for a homebased daycare temporarily. I found one aunty who stayed closeby. I started sending Cheebu to her house for 2 hours daily for the first week, then 4 hours and 6 hours following which I was ready to join back to work. Aunty was loving and caring and Cheebu adjusted very well there. She was a happy baby and there were many other children at the aunty’s house and Cheebu enjoyed all the attention she got there as a baby. Aunty told me that the toughest job was to make her sleep. But she managed to do that and at the end of the day Cheebu seemed happy. All in all I was satisfied and joined back with what I thought peace of mind. The first day I came back from work to pick her up after 8-9 hours, I thought she was a bit sad or was it mommy guilt? Aunty told me that though she slept and played nicely whole day at the end of the day she was searching for me even though she didn’t cry. Mommy’s instinct told me it was true and it was with a heavy heart I took her home and discussed the situation with hubby. Probably spending 9 hours with strangers was too much for a 8 month old. We did not consider asking either of our parents for help because they had done enough during my pregnancy (Hubby and I were in different cities during my pregnancy so my mother and MIL took turns to stay with me during that time). Hubby and I decided that we would adjust our work timings such that Cheebu would have to spend less time at the daycare. So mornings I would pack her bags and leave early while hubby bathed her, dressed her up and dropped her at Aunty’s place. I would be back early in the evening and pick her up while hubby came back late. That way Cheebu had to spend about 6 -7 hours away from home. This arrangement worked well for sometime and in the meanwhile she got the present daycare that she goes to. Settling her into a new place was not an easy task this time. To add to this it was rainy season at that time and she fell sick several times. We kept taking leaves on and off and managed. Slowly she adjusted to the place.
Looking back I think the first year was most difficult. Children in daycare tend to fall sick more. She lost a lot of weight that year… But over time all of us settled. She now spends 8-9 hours at the daycare. She has lots of fun activities and loves her friends and teachers there. She is happy and we go to work with peace of mind. And I think things will get better when she goes to first standard when she will spend more time at school.
But sometimes I cant help but think about my life as a child and hers. My mom was a SAHM. I looked forward to summer vacations, to a holiday from school because of a rainy day… but for her even on such ocassions she would have to go to daycare rather than home. Do we working moms love our children less?
Ah! Mommy guilt!