For every working mom with a new baby or preschooler, one parenting decision looms large: Daycare. Where can you safely entrust your child during the 40-plus hour work week? Where will your precious baby not only survive those long hours away from you, but thrive? And where will you be okay leaving those chubby little cheeks every weekday morning?
Whether you work one day a week or five, the daycare decision is daunting. So when your little one finally settles in somewhere, and what first seemed so frightening a hurdle — the daily drop-off — becomes routine, and you no longer have to sneak away from your desk to stifle down sobs and lingering uncertainty about whether you made the right decision, it can be even more disheartening to face that decision all over again.
Yet, life happens. Providers shut their doors. People move. Openings close. And sooner or later, you find yourself — and your kid — having to start all over again.
I’m no stranger to changing circumstances in the childcare department. The first time we had to find a new daycare — rather unexpectedly, when our in-home provider dumped us two months before our second child was due — it sure felt like the world was ending. Desperate and scrambling, we managed to find an opening for our then 15-month old in a center. It was a big shift for such a little guy. The first few weeks, he cried every morning, and it wrenched my heart to walk out the door. I spent my daily commute in tears. Had I made the wrong decision? The question spurred a bottomless well of guilt.
Fast-forward two months. Our second child had arrived, and we decided to keep our toddler home while I was on leave. Once again, I found myself leaving that daycare center in tears — this time, because we had to say goodbye to the loving staff who had become so attached to our sweet little boy. Again, I was nagged by that same guilt and uncertainty: Had I made a mistake pulling him out of such a wonderful and caring environment?
All told, our now three-year old has already had no less than eight providers, between nannies, in-home daycares, centers and stay-at-home moms. And I can confidently say that this patchwork of providers has turned out to be a blessing for both our children. As a result of all the changes, our kids are more resilient. They easily make new friends, quickly adapt to new situations and relate well to adults.
So if you’re facing the fear and uncertainty of changing providers, rest assured, it’s not the end of the world. Here are a few tips to get through the transition ahead.
- Take your time.
I know, I know: It’s hard not to feel squeezed when such a huge decision is up in the air. But don’t let the pressure of finding openings force you into making a rash decision. The more time you spend researching and exploring options, the better you’ll feel when the time comes to commit.
- Focus on the positives.
Don’t give worry and guilt a foothold. Your kids will be fine – trust me. Even though it seems like a major upheaval now, in the long run, you’ll look back and realize it was just another transition among many in your young child’s life.
- Trust your gut.
We toured several daycares where we knew, almost from the moment we walked in the door, that it wasn’t the right fit. After participating in the obligatory small talk and mustering a few half-hearted questions, we felt a sense of relief immediately upon leaving. We simply couldn’t imagine leaving our child there, though we couldn’t pinpoint any particular reason why; it was just a gut feeling.
Don’t sell your instincts short in these situations. It’s important to feel comfortable with the provider, the environment, and all other aspects of a prospective arrangement.
And remember: Nothing is set in stone. Stressful as this time may be, embrace it as a chance to make connections with new providers and families, and as an opportunity for your little one’s growth.