From September to June, Monday to Friday, at 6:25 a.m., I am hustling out the door with arms full of bags, water bottles, and a kid in tow. Hoping the Merritt Parkway is accident and traffic-free, I head to daycare drop-off and work. While my oldest is snug in bed, her elementary bus not coming until after 8 a.m., my newly turned four-year-old has been my early morning partner for the last year. This fall is different, though, as I have been out of school since the birth of my third daughter.
Returning to work after maternity leave is always bittersweet.
With the return to the classroom, this fall comes the start of daycare for my newest babe and the end of our full days together, which I cherish so much. Along with my sadness, I also have optimism knowing that she’ll be with teachers who care for her like their own, and that washes away all worry I have about sending her to daycare while I head back to work.
I remember when I found out I was pregnant with my first back in 2015, one of the first phone calls I made was to our daycare center. I had heard from my coworkers, who all seemed to send their kids there, how wonderful, caring, and accommodating they were to our early morning high school teacher hours. I also knew I had to get on “the list” early to secure a spot for my future child.
I had never thought much about daycare. My mom was home with us growing up, so the idea of daycare to me was archaic and lacked the warmth that we so thankfully found with our childcare providers.
As my third daughter starts her daycare journey, I can’t help but reflect on how thankful I am for the wonderful women who have taken care of and continue caring for my babies daily.
I am so thankful to have amazing care of my children in an environment where you can feel the love when you enter their doors. The warmth and love are palpable, with the walls enveloped in artwork, photos of smiling faces, and proof of the wonderful things they are learning each day. My girls are met with hugs and larger-than-life smiles from their teachers, and for that, I am thankful. I know that when they are there, they are loved completely, and there is no better feeling as a mother.
Even when getting that phone call that my baby has a fever, I am struck with panic as I race out of work to get to her and comfort her, as I am sure I am the only one who can help her in her time of need. Then seeing my crimson-cheeked baby snuggled on her teacher, being rocked and soothed while I (safely) sped my way to her, brought me a rush of relief and reassurance that we were in the right place. She was comfortable enough to doze on the shoulder of her loving teacher, and her teacher knew that snuggles were what she needed most at the moment.
Through potty training, learning their letters and numbers, and how to build friendships and share, our amazing teachers have worked with us through the more challenging stages of toddler life and celebrated all milestones, large and small. They are talked about in our home daily, as friends and people we love. They are the ones who we ask parenting questions and trust their advice wholeheartedly. We have found our network of weekend babysitters, and my girls beg for them to come over as often as possible.
Through her threes and fours pre-k years, my oldest would come home with stacks of projects, writing, and paintings that showed the life lessons she was learning and skills she was gaining. Her pre-k teachers have instilled a true love of learning, and she carried that love with her as she entered kindergarten and hit the ground running!
No price tag can be put on knowing that your children are being well taken care of in your absence. My parenting journey would be very different if I had not found our daycare. They are a part of our family who we will forever think of with the best of memories.
As we embark on our journey, entering the infant room for the third time, I do so with confidence as a mother and excitement for my baby to learn all the wonderful things her sisters have learned. She gets to experience the hugs, the music, the love, and the friendships that daycare has given us. We watch her grow and learn in a loving and safe environment, which is a gift in and of itself.