I know I’m being completely, utterly and totally melodramatic, but that’s how I feel after dropping Oliver off at daycare.
Because I’m not back to work and he doesn’t have to be there. Because he’s the youngest in the group — by several months. Because separation anxiety has hit him full-tilt, and he’s usually screaming and reaching for me as I make my exit. Because he’s always crying again by the time I arrive to pick him up. I am told that he plays and naps quite happily in between those bouts of crying, but I only ever get to see the tears.
Why put him into daycare when we don’t need to?
Like many other cities, Vancouver has a critical shortage of daycare spaces at the toddler (18 months) level. The organization that manages most of the downtown daycare spaces prioritizes their wait lists for toddler and preschool programs in such a way that the kids who have been enrolled for the longest have the highest priority. Because most women go back to work after a year, the majority of the infants start around 11 months of age. We are hoping that having started Oliver at five-and-a-half months old will help us secure a toddler space when we need it.
We also felt that having him in daycare part-time (two days per week) would give me an opportunity to run errands, hit the gym, pick up some part-time work, and generally have a bit of time to myself. So far, it hasn’t exactly worked out that way. The daycare that Oliver attends is located clear across downtown from our home — a minimum 10 minute drive each way, or 30 minute (brisk) walk. The morning drop-off takes a half hour, and because he categorically refuses to take a bottle, I have to return two and a half hours later to feed him. Driving back to the daycare, feeding him, and then returning home takes nearly an hour, so I bring him home at that point. An hour and a half of travel for two and a half hours of daycare is hardly a worthwhile tradeoff.
The good news is that a space recently came available in a location closer to our home, so come April, the commute to daycare will only involve a two-minute walk — no car or stroller needed. I am hoping that once he’s settled into the new place, I can start to lengthen his days. When he needs to be fed, I can simply walk over there, feed him, then walk back home. Of course, this is me being optimistic that eventually he’ll start to enjoy himself enough that I’ll feel comfortable leaving him for longer periods of time.
Although I feel awful leaving Oliver at daycare, I know that he is — or at least will eventually be — benefitting from the experience. He is receiving so much more stimulation than I could possibly provide on my own. He has opportunities to play with different toys and sensory objects, and to move and explore in a completely child-friendly environment. He is fascinated by the other (older) children, and will learn new skills by observing them. He will learn to follow rules and routines, to cooperate and share, to help with self-care, and to play independently for brief periods of time. The staff are incredibly caring, dedicated and competent. I can’t say enough good things about them.
But all of that is small consolation when I watch the tears roll down his face as I wave goodbye.
What strategies have you used to cope with baby (and parent!) separation anxiety? I am especially curious to hear from moms who went back to work when their children were less than a year old.