Going back to work and starting childcare – By Emma Hawkins

It goes without saying that as a parent, my child Bella is the most precious creation in my life. If you are also a parent, I am sure you feel exactly the same about your little ones. As parents, we aim to keep them safe every minute of the day and create the best environment for them to grow, thrive and experience the world we live in.

In saying this, the decision around choosing a nanny or putting your child into childcare is a huge consideration for every parent. As families become more and more fragmented, parents aren’t able to rely on support from extended family as they once would have, and my hubby Tom and I are no different.

After I decided to go back to work a few days a week, Tom and I had to make a decision on childcare and were lucky enough to find a brilliant nanny. I have spoken about our nanny Shirley in previous columns and we are both so grateful to have her in our lives. Shirley (a retired early learning teacher) was recommended to us by a close family friend which made the decision to welcome her into our lives easier. We are also super lucky that we can afford a nanny and that Shirley was available to help us out.

I won’t lie, leaving Belle on that first day was hard. Really hard. She was around six months old and I was filled to the brim with mixed emotions. I kept asking myself if she would feel my absence and if it would affect her in anyway? Was this the right decision? Should I wait another six months? Or should I start back at one day instead of two?

However, the gut-wrenching experience was made a little easier because I had full confidence in Shirley and secondly, because I was leaving her and Bella in our home which I knew she would (obviously) be the most comfortable in.

At the beginning of the year when Bella turned one, I decided to go back to work an extra day and began looking into day-care. Bella is a little energiser bunny and I thought the social aspect of Day Care would be great for her given that up until then she has spent most of her time at the farm with us and the animals.

When it came to looking into Day Care centres, what a minefield we faced! I am sure this will come as no surprise to fellow parents reading this, but once we started exploring our options we were so overwhelmed by considerations, the waiting lists and mandatory days etc. Here I had been busy putting Bella’s name down for an MCC membership and senior schools when I should have locked in Day Care first (rookie error!) We had NO idea it would be so hard! I understand that Day Care is not possible for all families and that not all mothers are able to return to work even if they have the desire to as childcare is expensive and cost prohibitive for some.

After researching and touring many centres, we put our names down on our desired places and waited. We were very lucky that a spot came up pretty quickly for one day a week. We transitioned her into it slowly, starting with a few hours a day and building from there. But, truth be told, sometimes I feel like this process was more for the stressful for Tom and myself, because Arabella she couldn’t be happier in childcare.

On the first day when we dropped her off she happily waved goodbye to us. Just like that! I didn’t know whether to be happy or sad?! Happy and proud that I clearly have a very independent, social girl growing up in front of my eyes, or sad that she was so content to leave me.

For me, I found it much harder to leave her at Day Care than with Shirley at our house. I suppose your home feels ‘safer’ because it’s your own environment as opposed to childcare where I felt much more guilt when I drop her off. She has now been there for four months and Belle absolutely loves it. She loves the teachers and her little friends. When we see her happily playing at Day Care it validates our decision because it is clearly working for her.

When it comes to childcare there is no right or wrong decision. It might be right for your family and your child or it might not be. Those decisions are yours and yours alone and only you can choose what is right for your family.

In an ideal world, my parents would live close-by and BonBon (my mum) would look after Belle one day a week (which she would love too). But our reality is something different and right now we juggle between our lovely nanny and Day Care.

If we have another baby maybe I will decide to stay home full-time. Who knows? However, right now, having Shirley one, sometimes two days a week and day-care one day a week is working perfectly for us. This arrangement enables me to have quality time with Belle on my days at home. On Mondays, we go to the library for story time, Thursdays (if I don’t go to work, it’s a flexible day) we have fun together at home and every Friday we do swimming together. This is what works for us and you just need to find what works for your family and not let anyone else tell you otherwise. After all, no-one’s child is the same, and no-one’s situation is the same. That’s what makes this crazy world – and all of us in it – so unique.

Written by Emma Hawkins

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