My son was little under 8 months old when my maternity leave was up and it was time to return to work. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was looking for, but when I saw a nursery near to my workplace, I just knew it was ‘the one’. I suppose in a weird, non related kind of way, finding the right place for your child is like finding the ‘dress’ for your wedding, or the ‘perfect’ house. Some people, however, still think of child care placements as an inferior option to the child staying at home with a family member, or that it’s completely unthinkable for you to even think about returning to work at all. Whether or not a mother is confident or uncertain about her decision to pop her baby into childcare, here’s 10 things that she doesn’t need to hear.
1. Are they registered? This seemingly innocuous question is accusatory on two levels. First of all, some families cannot afford registered childcare, which is not ideal. But let’s not pretend like our country has ever prioritised affordable childcare… So, unless you’re prepared to follow up such a ridiculous question with “here, I’d LOVE to give you £1000 a month to afford somewhere registered” I’d suggest that you keep your mouth shut, because you’re going out of your way to be a parent-shaming arsehole. Not only that, you make it sound like we’re just letting our kids take crystal meth with the local drug dealer.
2. “People are so materialistic these days. With just a bit of budget-balancing, you wouldn’t need childcare.” Usually, this sort of insult comes from the over 50s, where “back in their day” the Dad worked and the Mum did the childcare. This is insulting on two levels;1. This is 2017, not 1917. Daddy doesn’t earn enough to keep us all going. 2. I fucking budget enough as it is. I’m not sure how cutting out a can of coke here and there is going to stop me from having to work. Also, it’s not selfish for a working mother to be able to spend some of her own hard earned cash here and there on a box of hair dye, or a night out with the girls, and anyone who assumes otherwise is just a wanker and you don’t need that sort of negativity.
3. “Did you hear about that little girl who died at nursery?” It’s true. It happens. Whether it’s due to a freak accident or neglect, children have died at nursery… But they’ve also died at home with their parents. There is absolutely no way to 100% guarantee a child’s safety. (Especially if they’re as feral and adventurous as mine!). Parents, by nature are hard wired to worry about the safety of their children. So, just as it’s awful to talk about a huge plane crash to someone who’s about to fly to another country, it’s also just as unkind to stir up images of harmed children in the mind of a parent. Just don’t do it.
4. “I’d be so afraid of missing out on an important milestone of my kid’s life”When you begin a parenting-related sentence with “I’d be” or “I could never…” then the chances are you’re on the train to sanctimonious city. Yes, with a child care setting, you might miss the first official OMG moment… but if the parent didn’t witness it, or it wasn’t caught on camera, did it really happen?! N’s nursery staff definitely witnessed a couple of milestones before I did, but it wasn’t delivered to me with a tone of shame, but instead a tone of excitement; “N showed us all his amazing crawling today! Can’t wait for you to see it too!” A little, tiny bit gutting but it’s great to share the excitement and joy with someone else too!
5. How many children are actually in this child care setting? This question may be asked in perfect innocence, but the odds are that the parent you’re asking this to will hear “you’re ok with letting your kid get lost in amongst the zoo of children that are already there?” All registered child care placements have allocated people with a safe amount of children.
6. “8 hours is a long time to leave your kid with some stranger. Your life must be so much easier!” I’ve yet to meet another mother, even the most privileged ones that don’t have a really hectic life. Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of choosing my working hours. Yes, 8 hours is an extremely long time to be away from me, but I have to work. You might find me on a rare “day off” (where I’m sick, or in the half term) that I have a few hours to myself, but I don’t need to be punished for that. Fucking hell, I work enough hours to spend a few having a cup of tea and watching Jeremy Kyle in peace.
7. “It’ll be interesting to see how much it changes him.”This to me, is a strange and ominous observation. Couldn’t you argue that any difference changes a baby? From new toys, clothes, destinations etc. It also implies that by handing your kid over to a childcare provider, you’ll get a different one back. One that is not yours, and one that is much less loveable. The biggest ‘changes’ in N since he started childcare is that he brought home more germs… germs that can actually be acquired anywhere, and that will (god willing) make his immune system stronger in the long haul. He came home with more food on his clothes, which happens on the hour at my house, and it means he was being fed! And the most important change that I witnessed was his social skills. They were so strong. He loves other kids and is rarely shy with them. He might get his tummy out and parade himself like a tiny little peacock, but I think it’s just great. I never once thought “holy shit, what is this horrible little thing that I’ve brought home?!”
8. “Why even have kids if you’re just going to put them in childcare?!”A personal favourite of mine(!). Indeed, why get married if you don’t spend every waking minute staring into your spouses eyes? Why buy a house if you’re just going to go outside? Why get a pet if you’re just going to leave it at home for a spare minute? I’ll tell you why. Because we all have lives that divide and demand our attention. Modelling a balanced life for a child, whilst opening up a world of people that will love and care about isn’t exactly abandonment. Generally, anyone that says this, has been extremely fortunate in life, and has enough income and sanity to spend every waking minute with CBeebies on in the background or they’re childless. I mean the childless folk aren’t really in the same league as us parents. Until they pop out some kids of their own, their opinions don’t count, and they will do well to keep them to themselves until they’ve had a Thomas the tank engine toy thrown at their head.
All I know is that, childcare providers, as pricey as they are have been nothing but great for my family. They have aided me in this journey. They helped me through the teething, they helped him to drink from a cup and to use cutlery. They gave me a hug when I cried about him crying and leaving me. They sent me messages of encouragement when I was racked with guilt about leaving him. They were fantastic. N is now with a childminder. Something a lot different to what he was used to at the nursery. She is also fantastic. He loves going to her house and having more of the attention on him. He has friends that I’ve found hard to provide him with since having anxiety and a hectic work schedule. I am able to work and make a difference to children’s lives because these people have been there to look after mine. I am forever grateful.