When I started to think about going back to work after having E, there was a large amount of thought put into childcare and how he would spend his days while I was tied to my desk, enjoying those uninterrupted cups of tea. I worried that he wouldn’t settle for someone else and that he would feel abandoned by both of his parents. While knowing I needed to work for both my sanity and to keep a roof over our heads, food on the table and a lifestyle I wanted for my son, I fell prey to the inevitable Mammy guilt, made all the worse on days where he woke up not feeling great or was extra clingy. I tried to think of the best options, trying to put to the back of my mind the seemingly endless reports on the failings in our nations childcare facilities highlighted in the media over the last two years. While I wanted him to be able to mix with others, I also realised that set hours and putting my trust into complete strangers with my tiny baby was potentially not going to work at the very start.
Eventually, we settled on the best compromise. For the first few months at least, we would have a family member as his minder. We came to this conclusion together, and with the idea that we’d discuss how it was going after a while, we started up the system. It worked really well for the first couple of months, but as E has grown older and has started to be on the move, he’s definitely become much more of a handful. On top of that, I did start to wish he would be around other kids his own age a bit more to help him socially, as he was mainly around adults who fawned over him. We made the decision to take a look at sending him to a creche on a part time basis, to lessen the burden on everyone, and to ensure he got a taste of life where he wasn’t the doted on first-born-child. We all have to learn to share some time.
The initial hunt was daunting to say the least. We’d priced creches before and checked just how flexible they were with hours (hint: most really aren’t), but calculations started causing minor heart attacks and we kind of put the idea on the back burner. Then on a random walk around the city, I came across a place so close to our home that it would have bit me if it was a dog, and upon enquiring discovered it was both flexible and a lot more economic sense than any of the others I’d looked at. The real winner was a few days later randomly getting talking to a woman in a cafe who mentioned she had a daughter who was originally in the college creche, but that she’d moved her to the one that I’d been looking at and she would never look back. Completely unsolicited, this review was glowing and it definitely said to me that this place was a good idea. Taking it as a sign, we decided to strike while the iron was hot and sign him up.
That is how I found myself today at 10.30 am walking my son into a room full of toddlers his own age, introducing him to the childcare workers and sitting back, waiting for him to do his thing. It was gradual, he sat there, looking at a toy a child next to him was playing with and holding onto my knee with one hand, but slowly he started to move away. It was the xylophone that did it; I should have known. He’s quite the percussion instrumentalist – you give him two objects he can hit together to make as much noise as he can, and he’s in heaven. After a few minutes of watching him crash different objects together, one of the lovely girls in charge told me to go grab a coffee and head out to the sofa area by reception for a while, to see how he’ll get on without me. Not one to ever turn down a chance to caffeinate, I headed into the lovely coffee shop next door and came back in to sit and stew. I’m normally fine leaving him. But I’ve never left him with strangers before – ever – so I sat there for the twenty minutes, sipping my coffee, staring at my phone trying to distract myself. I lasted twenty five minutes and then headed back down. He noticed me coming back in and started crying; he apparently hadn’t realised I’d left and didn’t want me to take him away. Pushing all feelings of rejection out of my mind, I let the pride sink in; I didn’t have one of those children clinging and screaming and crying and who parents are unable to leave. Three weeks ago I would have said I knew that for a fact, but some terrible monster came in on his first birthday and left my boy a clingy Mama’s boy so this has proven quite a relief.
With promises that we’d be back tomorrow for an hour (without me at all), a rather grumpy little boy got into his buggy and took his bottle from me, unhappy to be leaving the toys and other children behind. Oh well. I guess we like creche then. Mammy’s adjustment period may be a bit longer than his own, but I’m happy that he likes it, that the kids in there seem happy and well cared for, and it means uninterrupted coffee and a chance to get stuff done twice a week while I’m still off. Not to be sniffed at.
He’s growing up. He doesn’t need me so much and he’s sturdy, independent and well able to hold his own. I’m proud, while very tentative to let go of my baby so fast. Primary school really doesn’t seem so far away anymore…
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