I am sitting on the sofa in my living room right now. The only noise I hear is the occasional chirpy singsong of birds outside, the gentle hum of a fan, and the little ditty my fingers are plinking out on my keyboard.
My son has been at daycare for 2 hours and 34 minutes. This summer he attends for 6 hours per day, 3 days per week.
When we secured a spot in daycare for him back in February to begin at the end of May, it was relief (finding openings in daycare is no joke!). It was also scary and daunting, but it was months off and didn’t feel totally threatening. Then the weeks zoomed by as they tend to do and the days leading up to his first day of daycare hung over me like a dark shadow.
At the beginning of May Jonah and I got sick with colds, we made an 8 hour road trip to visit family, and Jonah’s sleep schedule got completely screwed up. Upon return we fought to get back into a routine, knowing it would fly out the window again once daycare started. For someone who craves stability and feels most secure when she knows what’s coming . . . this is hard.
The feeling wasn’t the dreaded Mom Guilt I hear so much about. I didn’t feel guilty for paying someone to take care of my son part-time. In fact, I was rather looking forward to the break and knew it would allow me to better take care of myself. Instead, I mourned the moment he would realize that his two anchors in his life, mom and dad, weren’t there. I anticipated this shift in our family life and it made me so anxious. Up until this point, our little unit of 3 existed in our own family bubble of sorts. Now, with the start of daycare it felt like a monumental handover of our most precious boy–our sweet buddy–to the entire world. And, I don’t know if you’ve looked around, but the world feels like it’s kind of in shambles these days. I wasn’t ready for what starting daycare symbolized. I also knew that the closeness I’d had with Jonah for nearly 16 months of his life was going to change and I knew that I’d never be that close with him ever again. All of this made my heart feel so heavy.
But I also knew it was the right thing for all of us. He was ready for daycare: learning to trust new caregivers, interacting with more toddlers around his age, learning to be independent, playing, exploring, and absorbing new experiences — I can’t put it into words, but I knew it was the right time and so did Jonah’s dad. On the flip side, I was ready for a change. Motherhood has absorbed my mind, body, emotions, and each and every of my 5 senses since my son was born. It’s been amazing and brutal, life altering and life affirming. I’d do it all again and again and again, even though motherhood felt like it would break me at some points and, true story, also sent me to therapy back in the fall. But with grad school just ahead this upcoming fall, I was feeling antsy to put this new life looming ahead to me in motion. Starting daycare was right for him, but it was also right for me.
But I sure did cry on that first day of daycare. Oddly, Jonah didn’t (although he has cried at drop-off each morning since!). I wanted to hold on to this darling, sweet, squishy toddler . . . even as I knew we both needed daycare. Daycare is opening and widening both of our worlds right now. Jonah’s world has been confined to his immediate family and the choices we made, and my entire world has been wrapped up in him. It’s time for both of us to learn to trust others, connect with our peers, be more independent, play, explore, and absorb new experiences.
I’ll always be Jonah’s mom. That will never change; though, my role may change over the years. Now, instead of being Jonah’s whole world, I am focusing on always being his soft landing place, his shelter and comfort when the rest of the world can feel too big and too scary.