How Daycare Saved My Sanity
In November 2019, there I was shouting in frustration my three-month old newborn crying in my crib. I was absolutely horrified at the milk-leaking, sleep-deprived, un-showered monster I had become. Sobbing, I picked him up and asked for his forgiveness. This sweet and innocent creature did not deserve such a reprimand from me. The unbridled rage was completely and woefully misdirected. I immediately called my mother in tears, to which she responded, “Emma, you need help. You cannot do this all your own.”
As a naïve young mom, I wholeheartedly believed I could do it all by myself. My husband worked full-time, and I was attending college as part-time night student, with only a month off for maternity leave. The age old adage, “It takes a village to raise a child,” had apparently fell on my deaf ears. Who needs a village, when he has his mommy? I had abnormally high expectations that I could be the sole-diaper changer / feeder all while keeping an immaculate home and attending school part-time. Yet, the perfect 1950’s housewife is fantasy dreamt up by clever marketers to sell laundry soap and refrigerators. And the “has-it-all” 1980’s career woman? She was also dreamt up by marketers trying to sell frozen TV dinners and neon pant suits.
In actuality, whether you are a stay-at-home mom or working mom, you need help. Whether it is a partner, a family member, a friend, or a neighbor. Whether it is an institutionalized daycare or a home-based daycare run by a loving little old lady named Betty. This pandemic has been especially hard on mothers, because it put even more responsibility for us. Whether it has been judgingly a career and homeschooling your kids, or dealing with your toddler’s sixteenth tantrum in a day because you wouldn’t let him eat fake snow, we have had to don an unreasonable amount of hats.
Eventually later that month, I swallowed my pride and called my dad. My dad happily hopped on the opportunity to babysit his first grandchild, for several months, my dad would help me a couple hours a few days a week. I had a chance to get laundry done, walk the dog, do the dishes, all without a baby strapped on me. Occasionally, I even had the splendid opportunity to get a nap!
In January of 2019, I started signing up my son for more activities, including swim class, sensory groups, and mommy meet ups. After five months of being locked in the house, it felt so freeing to socialize and be out of the house again. Of course, the tables turned once again in March of 2019, when the pandemic hit. Like many moms, all those depressing post-partum feelings resurfaced. Of course, I am grateful to not have had anyone in our family get sick or lose their job. Yet, the depressed feelings resurfaced regardless and I cried almost every night. I was incredibly lonely, and my husband being an essential worker, still worked 9 hours a day. I also live with my mother-in-law, and while she is a lovely lady, being locked with anyone for months can be extremely challenging to put it lightly. While she was able to help a little, she still had a full-time job to attend to. Every day I woke up, I wished it would end. It was a miserable existence.
Finally, in June 2019 daycares in our state had reopened. After some persuading, my mother convinced me to enroll my son part-time. After a thorough search of all the daycares in our area, we found one exceptional daycare that offered part-time hours and followed all the Covid-19 safety protocols. As soon as the medical papers were in, we brought our 11 month old son in for his first day. The first three days, he cried the whole time. I felt horrible and questioned myself as a mother. However, by the fourth day, he barely whimpered when I dropped him off. By the fifth day, not a peep.
My son is thriving at daycare. As an only child, he is finally able to socialize with other children his age. He gets to play music, get outside, and do very messy art projects that my high-strung Type-A personality would never allow at home. Most importantly of all, he has highly skilled and loving teachers who treat him as if he is one of their own children! While the mommy guilt still occasionally emergences, all I need to do is log onto the daycare’s app to see him. Likely he is running around with only one shoe on (he never wears his shoes, even at home.)
Thanks to the help of the amazing daycare staff, I can finally get some work done, have my sanity back and feel like me again! I recently graduated with my bachelor’s degree, and as I begin my job search, I know that wherever I decide to work, my son will be in good hands. Whether you are a stay-at-home mom or a working mom, don’t forget to ask for help. No woman can do it all! Don’t let your grandmother, your auntie, or the judgmental store clerk at Macy’s tell you that a mother’s worth is in how much time she spends with her children. Because honestly, daycare has helped me be a better mom to be my son. I have energy. I have patience. I get to spend time with my husband at night rather than scrambling to write assignments. It’s sort of like what Forest Gump’s said, motherhood is like a box of chocolates. Sure, you could get a Kirkland super-pack from Costco and eat the whole thing in one sitting and feel guilty for seven hours. Or you could buy a smaller pack of artisan Godiva chocolates and thoroughly enjoy every bite. Quality time always beats quantity of time as mother. Always enjoy your kids, as they are only this young and adorable once.