We asked Erin, mom of 7-month-old Wesley, for some real mom insight and advice. What happens when your maternity leave ends and you have to go back to work?
Did you have any concerns or hesitations about sending your baby to a daycare provider?Yes, there are limited options for infants and the cost for childcare is extremely high. When we finally found a daycare center we liked, we learned they had a new COVID-19 policy that does not allow pop-ins during the day. Nor can you enter the facility when dropping off and picking up your child. As you can imagine, dropping him off in the doorway and having him taken out of sight was extremely stressful.
How do you feel about those concerns now that he has been enrolled for a little while?Now that he's been enrolled for a couple weeks, I'm feeling much more comfortable having him in daycare. The staff truly makes all the difference. Seeing Wesley light up each day as he's dropped off and watching him come back around the corner with a big smile when he's picked up, has eased all my nerves. I've paid attention to the kids playing outside and have peeked at the group from the doorway, they all look happy interacting with the class and teachers.
Best questions new parents should ask when interviewing a potential daycare?
- What do you feed the kids for lunch and snack time?
- What is the student to teacher ratio?
- What is the cost per week, and cost per week if your family takes vacation? (Many providers will still charge a fee to hold your spot while you're on vacation).
- What does the day consist of; what activities do they provide the kids?
- What is the nap schedule like?
- Though many daycares may have COVID-19 safety restrictions, make sure to at least get a tour of the daycare after hours.
- If possible, talk to other parents who use the daycare, for a reference.
Knowing these things makes all the difference when we pick him up in the afternoon and are trying to figure out what he needs or why he may be cranky!
What to pack so baby is prepared for their first day.I planned like he wasn't coming home for a week! I was so nervous I'd forget something. I packed extra bibs, extra food, diapers, and a couple extra outfits in case of throw up or blow outs.
Basically, pack everything they usually need in a day at home with you. Formula/breastmilk, bottles, baby food, extra clothes, blanket/pacifier for naps, and diapers.
I typed out a typical schedule that Wes had with me when I was a SAHM. What and how much he usually ate, when he napped, how he likes to sleep, etc. For example, he likes a fuzzy blanket or rag next to his face along with his pacifier, to help fall asleep. The daycare didn't know him yet so I think this was helpful for them to get their own routine started with him.
How long did it take baby to adjust to daycare?
Wes is always very quiet and has no expression on his face when he is placed in a new situation, or meets new people. The first couple days he didn't smile when we dropped him off but thankfully there were no tears. After a few days, he started to light up with a huge smile when we dropped him off. I really think he enjoys the daycare.
Standards for choosing a good daycare provider?Trust your instinct! If you have a weird vibe when you first interview someone or take a tour of a daycare, don't choose it. Look at the layout of the house or daycare center. See what the kids' structure will be. Does the environment look safe? Does the caregiver look like they are comfortable watching kids and will be attentive to your child's needs?
I think it's ideal to have some education incorporated with a daycare center (even as simple as reading books, or testing new toys and motor skills). The caretakers should have a routine the kids can learn. Kids that have a 'free-for-all' during the day won't be enjoyable when you pick them up in the evenings.
Everyone has different standards and levels of comfort when it comes to their babies, so just do what you think is best.
What was it like for you to go back to work and have someone else watch your baby?I had mixed feelings. I was nervous leaving him and really missed him when he first started. However, it's such a relief to be able to focus on work without having to juggle him at the same time. The older he gets the more interaction he needs. So even though I missed him, the guilt I felt trying to care for him while working remotely has lifted, and now I get to give him 100% of my attention when he comes home.
I was worried that whoever would be watching him wouldn't know what he wanted or what he was asking for. Naps are done pretty specifically and each baby has their own way of wanting to fall asleep. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that these caretakers have watched so many babies. They would easily figure out Wes's routine, as babies weren't new to them like they were to me.
I actually feel like I'm doing a better job as mother exposing him to daycare young. It's very much preparing him for school when he's older.
SAHM experience vs. back to work mom experience?My SAHM experience was great! I would have done a lot more with my time if we weren't in the middle of a pandemic, but I used that time to learn how to do everything with Wes.
Everything with a newborn is hard and stressful. Packing him up for walks around the lake, hiking, trips to friend's houses, and shopping! Even figuring out how to work the dang stroller was an event. But eventually, we got into a nice routine and I LOVED it! I loved spending every minute with him, and I really just tried to soak up every day.
I was dreading going back to work. Getting into the swing of work life was hard after having all that time to do whatever Wes and I felt like, everyday. It took about a month for me to get back into the swing of things and adjust to being a working mom. I do enjoy it now. I need a paycheck, so not working is not an option!