Friday, January 10, 2014

The Hardest Decision, The Easiest Day

Sometimes, the hardest things you can imagine actually turn out to be the easiest - as was the (unexpected) case when my baby started childcare this week.

After winning the childcare place lottery in October, I spent two and a half long months dreading the inevitable moment of separation, and second-guessing my hard fought decision.

On the days I was scrambling to keep the contents of the house off the floor while simultaneously pureeing pork and mash and paying the car rego at the Post Office, I could see the wisdom of my decision shining through the cloudy oven door.

On the days when I was writing articles to deadline and submitting job applications amid chaos, I would flop open my mind and mentally skip down the childcare driveway with bottles of expressed milk and bouquets of roses in hand.

On the days when I watched my daughter playing with other babies at Parents Group catch ups and annual family gatherings, pushing toys back and forward and freaking out when they touched her hair, I would relax into my decision and start prattling about the many virtues and benefits of social interaction from a young age.

On the days when my daughter would light up the room, or unexpectedly manage to stand on her onesie clad foot, or suddenly find a decisive 'bird' or 'ball' from within the constant stream of babble, I would emotionally bail on the whole childcare caper.

I would resolve to become unresolved, and start preparing my fiery argument against childcare, for consideration and endless discussion in the marital decision court over turkey burgers and salad come dinner time.

As we descended into the final fortnight of unadulterated stay-at-home-mummydom, my clingy mother status skyrocketed from lousy home brand cling wrap to the top shelf, brand name stuff.

I spent countless hours holding onto my baby for dear life, even when she clearly wanted to be out of my arms and exploring the ceaselessly amazing fluff content of the lounge room carpet.

My hug and kiss rations multiplied, and where I would normally give one kiss, I started to dole out ten, with an extra butterfly kiss and a special peck on the cheek for added good measure.

I unintentionally dug deeper all round, ensuring that every block tower was knocked down with unusual oomph, every outfit change was selected with unexpected fastidiousness, every Incy Wincy rendition delivered with extra special hand movements and embarrassing facial expressions. 

Unfortunately, cling wrap is not thick enough to keep out the world, and my excessive hug-a-thon eventually dribbled away into the inevitable orientation day that had been marked on the kitchen calendar for so long.

Orientation was far cooler than I had been prepared to give it credit for. It was a bit like my own personal halfway house, all the freedom and responsibility of entering the real childcare world with the safety net of being able to run back up the corridor and into the nursery room whenever my panic got the better of me.

As I tiptoed out of the room for my trial separation, heart somewhere between my esophagus and my churning stomach, my daughter pounced on a pile of triangular shape sorting blocks and stuck a plastic stegosaurus in her mouth - go away, mum, you're cramping my prehistoric dining adventure.

With my heart still somehow inside my body and the trial separation inked in the childcare day book as a theoretical success, we progressed with lightning speed to the real deal - the first day of childcare, no safety net attached.

My husband and I decided to climb the mountain together - or rather, I dragged him up the mountain against his will to help push me along when I tried to turn around and roll back down to the safety of another day at home with a morning nap and afternoon pram walk. 

After so much anticipation and dread, though, the mountain seemed radically smaller in real life. Despite months of technicolour nightmares, I did not self combust or hyperventilate or have to dodge cesspits of fire and brimstone. 

Perhaps it was the afterglow of the orientation trial separation, or the promise of uninterrupted french toast and coffee for breakfast, or the wonderful teachers in the centre, but I felt strangely calm as I dropped my daughter off and effectively tipped our lives upside down forever.

I kissed my daughter goodbye and simply stepped out the front door and into the new world order, leaving her to crawl off into a wooden mirror maze with a look of baby awe plastered all over her face.

My daughter didn't notice I was gone, I didn't cry like a baby or wail like a banshee, my toast and coffee did not get tipped on the floor or covered in steamed apple and pear once - and I even managed to vacuum the skirting boards properly for the first time in nine months.

Six hours later, my daughter greeted me at the nursery door with a shoe full of sand and a face full of sheer excitement - and in that moment the hardest decision I ever made suddenly became the easiest.

Have you had to make tough family decisions? Have you left your child in care? I would love to hear your stories.

M x

Sharing for #FYBF at


  1. The first day is the toughest. With one of my girls I did not have your success, she was a sad little possum, but I stuck with it because I wanted to go back to work for one day a week just for me. That clingy little girl has grown up into an incredibly independant almost 18 year old. I personally think outside care is great for their development and for your peace of mind. Congrats to your successful start. xx Nikki @ Wonderfully Women

    1. Thanks for sharing Nikki. was expecting to find a sad little possum of my own, and am still surprised she took to all the changes so well - I think she found the transition much easier than I did in the end. xx

  2. I can't bear the day I will have to do this....and it will be soon. Thanks for sharing your emotions. I am sure I will be the same. Sounds like it is the hardest on the parents than the children!

    1. I think it is. Best wishes for when your day comes!

  3. I remember the first day my son went to daycare, I was a mess leading up to the day and on the day, I blogged about it too. I was definitely worse off than him, I really had nothing to worry about. I've been back as a SAHM though since July last year so I reckon I'll go through the same emotions all over again when he's ready to re-start daycare.

    1. I don't envy you having to go through it twice, best of luck for when the time comes! x

  4. My third child started childcare last year and I thought it would be easier 3rd time over, but I still went through all the same things. My older two are at school and the first day of terms brings out all those similar emotions even now that they're so much bigger. It's just a sign of being a loving mum. That push and pull of wanting to keep them wrapped in cotton wool and letting them find their way (and getting your own life back) never goes away, it just changes!

    1. I can only imagine what it's like as they get bigger - being a parent is such an emotional balancing act, isn't it, the scales are always tipping from side to side and back again x