The Stress of Leaving Your Child at Daycare
Being a parent is the hardest job in the world. It is one of the only jobs that will almost always leave you feeling uncertain or guilty about every decision you make. You educate yourself. You do your very best. And yet, you still feel like you could be doing better. From their education to what they are eating, there are so many factors that lend to the stress of being a parent. One of the biggest is daycare. Whether it’s your first time leaving your little one or the fiftieth time, the apprehension and out-of-your-control elements can kick up your anxiety a notch. We’re here to tell you what to expect and how to cope with saying “bye-bye” during working hours.
Your heart is racing and tears blur your vision as you make your way to daycare for the first time. That precious baby sits buckled into the car seat unaware of your emotional breakdown. You’ve given yourself the pep talk. You’ve researched the facility. You trust these people with your child. So why is this so hard?
Because up until this moment, you have been directly involved in every decision made for your child. If grandma or auntie watched your little nugget, you were at least consulted about their care. Now, you are faced with handing over your child to a stranger and carrying on with your day as if nothing is wrong. But something is wrong. You are in the dark. What if she’s crying? What if she’s hungry? Do they know how she likes to sleep? Are they changing her diaper often enough? What if there is an emergency? All of these are legit concerns, but knowing how to get the answers you need can help you survive until pick up time.
Whether your child goes willingly or cries the moment she’s out of your arms, daycare drop off can absolutely gut you.
Angela Chase, whose child started daycare at eight months of age because of being displaced by the August 2016 flood, says that the first drop off was much more traumatic for her than for her child. “Grace was smiling at all the ladies, checking out the room of toys. She was fine. She didn’t cry at all. I can’t say the same for myself.”
Angela also shares that the best thing she did was give herself time to just breakdown and accept all the worry. “I felt like I was abandoning her, like she might feel confused and unsafe. I sat in the parking lot and just bawled. But once my tears dried up, I felt much better. I say, don’t fight those worries you have. Embrace them. Cry it out and then decide to get on with your day.”
Cherie Langlinais, a social worker, helps to identify the anxiety causing factors when leaving a child at daycare. “The most stressful thing for parents is losing their sense of control. I think not being able to control your child’s environment, who associates with your child, and not knowing what is actually taking place in the daycare setting is worrisome.”
Cherie says that there are ways to alleviate this fear; it’s all based on trust. “Parents should drop in when not expected to see how things are being run. They should also get to know the staff prior to dropping their child off at the daycare. Doing the investigative work of picking out the appropriate daycare will help to decrease any anxiety about a child not being able to remain in their family home where the environment is controlled. Again, this comes with time, knowledge of the facility, and how comfortable one is with daycare personnel.”
She also warns not to ignore the stress your child may be feeling about the situation. Children who have established routines and know what to expect will have less anxiety. “By decreasing the child’s anxiety, this will also decrease the parents’ level of anxiety,” Cherie points out.
It is completely natural to worry. We’ve all heard about instances of abuse and neglect in child care facilities. According to the Center for American Progress, 23.4 percent of children under five are in some form of organized child care. That’s almost a quarter of the nation’s children. The few bad stories you hear may stick with you, but remember that there are millions of good stories that go untold.
Maybe the problem is, you don’t feel ready to leave your little one. If taking more time off to stay home isn’t an option, there are a few ways to make this transition easier.
Give yourself plenty of time in the morning. Feeling rushed about running late will only add unnecessary worry to this already stressful time.
Bring your favorite photo of your child to put on your desk at work. Seeing that perfect face all day will surely brighten your mood and lift your spirits.
Keep in Touch
If your daycare doesn’t provide video feed or through-the-day updates, feel free to call or text your child’s daycare to check in on her. Surely, they will understand how hard it can be and will be happy to give you a report.
Talk to your Tribe
Ask friends, family, and coworkers who have been through it for advice. They may be able to offer the extra support you need.
At pick up, talk to your child’s caregiver. You’ll feel more at ease knowing that she’s settling in and adjusting to her new routine.
Avoid the Guilt
If your child is fussy when you pick her up, don’t feel guilty. Odds are she just missed you during the day. She may want some extra love and attention. Give it to her.
Soon, dropping your child off at daycare will just be part of your work day routine. That doesn’t mean you won’t have bad days. You’ll still miss that time with her. You’ll still feel guilty and uncertain at times. Just know that those times will become less and less frequent.
This time away from your child can be good for you, too. It doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person because you enjoy adult conversation instead of baby babble, or because you enjoy moments of complete silence and no responsibility. You need breaks. You need self-care and time alone. Daycare can be just one more thing to help provide that, keeping both parent and baby happy. ■