After six wonderful months at home with my daughter, it finally hit that her daycare start day is quickly approaching. As I am soaking up these last few days of my maternity leave, I cannot help but feel a plethora of emotions: excitement, guilt and lots and lots of uncertainty. I know I am not the first nor the last to be going through this transition; in fact, I have recently supported friends as they made the return to work. I am not an expert and am sharing my feelings and simply hope that this post allows others to relate if they are in a similar situation.
One of the best parts of being at home with your little one is losing track of time and enjoying the day to day. With the excitement of the holidays and lots of family time, I have never felt closer to my daughter and husband. The holidays are great because calories do not count, time stands still, sleeping in is mandatory and exercise is optional. I was enjoying my two-week stay in dreamland when someone at a party asked me about our family’s schedule in the new year. It took me about five seconds to realize we were heading towards reality, which includes me returning to work and my daughter starting daycare.
I know this person did not mean anything more than satiating her own curiosity, but the real stinger was when she asked nonchalantly if I was okay that my daughter would be spending more time in daycare than with me. She prodded a little more, asking if I worried that my daughter would become closer to her daycare providers than to me.
Honestly, I was not mad at this party guest who was simply trying to make small talk. I mean, it was not as if I had not thought about these exact same things when we sent in our paperwork and hefty (nonrefundable, I might add) deposit. One thing that has surprised me about motherhood is how little people talk about the darker emotions you experience. For me, it is particularly confusing to feel those emotions that I have not felt in a very long time. I am talking years! Fear, enragement, self-doubt, and worst of all, jealousy. Fear for your child’s safety, enragement at a comment from a mother-in-law, self-doubt about what is best or jealousy when another family seems to have it all.
Whenever I feel like I am staring in my own version of Pixar’s “Inside Out” and my emotions are running amuck, I find that it is helpful to recenter myself and to balance emotions with logic, get some fresh air, seek support and take action. It can be challenging to do all of these in the beginning so try whichever one is easiest and then add another one in. In my personal experience, I have actually found it helpful to see where my emotions take me instead of fighting them. I go as deep as I can and keep asking myself, “WHY am I feeling this way?” I never get to the answer in an hour or a day, but exploring helps start the process of working through everything. Talking to family members and other moms help normalize what you are feeling. If it is hard to talk to someone about this, I suggest you switch roles. Ask yourself what advice would you give to another mom going through this. Putting yourself in the position of strength helps you move towards progress.
To be perfectly honest I got a D+ in my logic class in college; needless to say freshman year was hard and full of adjustments, just like parenting. I often wish I could go back and take that class because love and care is crucial to parenting, but surprisingly, logic is beneficial, too. Maybe I would have paid more attention had I known that! Logic allows you to separate feelings from the scenario and figure out what is the best given the information at hand. So while I am sad that my daughter will spend a lot of time with someone else, jealous of moms who get to stay at home and hopeful we are making the right decision, I feel like I can handle dropping her off there in a few days knowing that she is extremely loved, will have friends at an early age, will get stimulation and activities I could never dream up and at the end of the day, she is still my daughter.