Daycare Life

Posted on July 21, 2011 by


Baby and the Silver Lining

I don’t think I’ve ever faced anything so divisive in me.

Half of me says, it is necessary. The other half says, to heck with it.

“It” is daycare for my little baby.

Not so little anymore, as I’ve enjoyed 15 months of baby bliss with him. But as a work  colleague with a wry sense of humour told me, ” The dream is over Karla. Welcome back to work.” So off to work I’m going, and my little one is off to daycare every morning.

It’s necessary, because I have to help pay the bills, because postponing it further would kill my career, because my future self will need to go on with my endeavors as my son will go on without me for his own endeavors too… because I think ultimately having two wage earners is the safest thing to do for my son.

Listen to this lady’s opinion, an editor for Vanity Fair, and judge for yourself.

On the other hand, to heck with it!

Despite all my feminist feelings and stoic resolutions, I can’t deny that it feels completely unnatural to leave my sweetie in the care of strangers for 8 to 10 hours a day. Really, how can I justify that? And every morning, my heart rips in half as I leave him in a puddle of tears. Yes, the daycare webcam (what a blessing) shows him merrily eating his cheerios a few minutes later, but the cameras show something else too. I observe him online sporadically throughout my day at work (what a curse) and I notice the caregivers in a flurry changing diapers, giving feedings, and rocking babies to sleep. It’s a great daycare with high standards and complete transparency, but all the upkeep work leaves very little room for individual attention. The children are left to their own devices for the most part. Sure, unstructured play is important, but so are stimulating activities. Often, I see the children spinning their wheels.

And then, there’s the unreasonable desire to keep him to myself. How dare he learn to blow kisses from someone else at daycare! I’m supposed to have that privilege!

A few friends have pointed out that motherhood and feminism shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. I agree, but we live in a world that hasn’t recognized a mother’s work to be important enough to earn a paycheck. I know staying at home should no longer carry the stigma of emulating June Cleaver, no matter what Erica Jong says. (By the way, there’s a great riposte to Jong’s essay here.) It’s not a return to the dark days, nor is it a snub to the hard work of past feminists, but our culture has not evolved yet to allow a mother to take a substantial break for the important work of raising human beings, without punishing her financially. And really, it’s about the money, which is power.

So here I am, a mother split in half.

There’s usually a third way, if not a thousand, such as getting part-time work. I’ve run through them all and none fit. Except for one: a winning lottery ticket, a villa in Tuscany with my family and friends, and a million dollars in the bank.

In the meantime, co-workers pat me on the back, because as mothers of older children they know exactly the ever-burning guilt I carry, and tell me that it will get easier in time for both mother and baby.

And today, a work friend told me the most optimistic idea, “It helps them to see that you always come back.” And that lesson in separation, that there’s always a reunion, an unbreakable promise which allows him the freedom to grow, may be the silver lining in the dark cloud. It’s also the best part of my day, seeing him elbow past everything in order to run into my arms.

Posted in: Daycare