If you want to understand the true importance of quality child care to a working mom, all you have to do is follow along as I drop my child off at daycare for the first time before going back to work post-maternity leave.
I walk slowly, hesitantly toward the door. I get inside my car and sit down, alone. I grip the steering wheel. The car is not on, it is more to steady myself as my mind whirls. I have been preparing for this day for weeks, months really. The more I thought about it, the faster it seemed to be approaching and now it is here. I just had to hand my baby over and walk out without him.
First day of child care
I am lucky, I work from my home. When my baby was 8 weeks old, I went back to work with him by my side. Well, on my chest really. He would lay on me to sleep and I would do my work. I became an expert at typing with one hand, feeding and shushing during calls.
I knew this arrangement would not last forever and as he started getting older and sleeping less, it was apparent that the time had come for him to go to child care.
Infant care is not easy to come by. We had our names added to the waiting list (along with a hefty deposit) at our other son’s child care center before we even told anyone else we were expecting a baby. Even with that much notice we were still nervous there would not be a spot for him.
It eventually worked out and he was able to start when he had gotten to the point where he needed more attention during the day than I could provide while working.
Each day I dropped him off and went home to work. We live very close by so I was able to return to feed him on my lunch break. As I sat feeding him, I observed the classroom and interactions and I was not happy with the arrangement. He was not getting the quality of care I expected for my baby. After I fed him, I would leave with a ball of guilt in my stomach. I did not want to leave him there. I would spend my afternoon worrying about him and trying to think of other child care options.
I should back up at this point. My job is to help increase the quality of child care at the state level. I know the child care regulations inside and out. Child care is my business.
As a result, I have had a terrible time finding care that meets my expectations. My older son was in three different child care centers by the time he was 14 months old, because I was not willing to settle for mediocre care.
My standards are no different now. After some discussions with the director, my son was moved to the other infant room and we have been very happy so far.
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The importance of quality child care—for YOU
I share this story not to discourage parents from working and using child care, but to emphasize the importance of quality child care that you should be comfortable with as a working parent. Children need quality child care to flourish, but that’s not the only reason to seek out the best care for your child. If a parent doesn’t feel good about their child care arrangements, it will be impossible to be productive at work.
We are all diligent about finding care, but you’ve got to continue observing to make sure it remains the best fit for your child. Spend time watching interactions. Drop in unexpectedly to see how things are going. Eat lunch with your child. Not only will you be more comfortable with the setting, but you will also know more about how your child’s day is spent and build a rapport with the caregiver.
You’ll be able to feel confident that your child is receiving the best care possible—so you can focus on work.