Towards the end of 2016 we made a decision to put our two year old daughter into a private day nursery for one morning a week. The reasons for doing this were agonised over; the pro’s and cons drawn out in my mind over many a sleepless night and the questioning if it was the right thing for her, for me, for us as a family.Our first daughter was in childcare from 11 months old, when I returned to work part time in my Science industry career. I always believed this put her in good stead for her future; it gave her an element of independence and confidence to be away from me, and ultimately, our situation deemed it a necessity.
With our second daughter our circumstances couldn’t have been more different. Given the turn of events life threw our way, I found myself a stay at home Mum, with an almost two year old who is by my side all or most of the time. I wouldn’t have described her as particularly clingy, but then, she always knew I was there, so why would she be?
As a couple we talked it over, and having found a private nursery we signed her up to start in the new year for one five hour session a week.
Nursery would include a hot meal, so she could experience a shared eating experience with her peers; surely this would only encourage her to expand her diet and encourage her to try new foods.
Naptime would be pushed out or eliminated by the distraction of playing with new found friends and an enriched environment. This just might be enough to tip the balance of early wake ups and broken sleep and be the final step towards the nirvana of 12 hours kip a night.
So we embarked on the next chapter tentatively, and unsure how this might pan out. Reassured that this is a flexible arrangement that could work even if I returned to a part time job, as I could simply expand the hours.
We even managed to negotiate term time only hours, and use up a pot of child care vouchers left over from the days we were purchasing them through work.
I’m not going to lie, the prospect of a small break for me was also a huge pull. A time I could schedule any bits I need to do child free, or just to have enough space to come back feeling refreshed and rebalanced ready to face the chaos of the remaining 6.75 days a week.
What could go wrong?
The settling in process couldn’t have gone better. Seeing the Mouse run and play with the things she loves most in a new environment was a huge relief.
But as we switched to the regular routine, something changed. In all honesty, I think it was seeing Mummy leave with Tigs. Saying goodbye to her big sister at the nursery door was so distressing for her and she seemed to feel she was missing out on something.
As I walked out with a lump in my throat, reassuring my eldest daughter (also in tears) that she’d be just fine, the churning in my stomach was pretty awful. As each week went by, the tears started earlier, and grew louder. The hold to my sweater grew tighter and the daily ‘no nursery today’ cut a little deeper.
Still the staff, reassured that she was doing okay and was settling after I left, but instinct told me otherwise.
Had we done the right thing?
The ‘mornings of freedom’ hadn’t turned out as serene as I’d imagined. yes I got a run in, and a shower, after a mad dash to Aldi. I can’t complain, it was heaven to have a small slice of child free time to play with, but the dream of having a ‘calm and relaxing’ bit of me time turned out to be a pipe dream. I raised the question again and again with my husband who reassured me that this is in everyone’s best interests; we all need to learn to be apart, and it’s still early days. But as the one taking her each week, seeing her distress, it never sat easy.
Needless to say, no lunches were ever touched; often because she had fallen asleep on the floor in the book corner, which is where I would scoop her up from to take her home.
Sometimes in life a solution falls into your lap when you least expect it. As it did for us on this occasion. A voicemail message left on the answer machine just before the Easter holidays offering us a place at a beautiful local church pre-school just around the corner. Notoriously hard to get into, you have to put names down at birth. I don’t even remember putting her name down but must have done amidst some pre-school panic. Apparently, her year was a low birth year and they have space.
Another agonising decision, although one that was pretty easy to come to a conclusion with. Now she is two and a half, she can start at this pre-school set up. This means we can half the duration of the sessions, and double the frequency. Her status as school run buddy can remain so she will not be thrown off her balance of her normal morning rituals. (Demanding to walk / falling over / wanting to be carried / melting everyone’s hearts in the school line). So once again, it’s goodbye day care, hello pre-school.
We’ve been to play for a settling session, and it is just so adorable. This time it has to work. Her key worker is gentle, kind and softly spoken, and the children were playing barefoot in the magical garden; finding fairies, digging in the sand and laughing away. It made me think I had missed my calling in life working in this very place. It was just so inviting.
We’ve said our goodbyes to the old nursery, thanked them for their support and reassured them that it wasn’t them, it was us. Certainly the infrequent attendance must have played a part, but these places don’t come cheap and we couldn’t stretch to two sessions a week on one salary. And after all, I’m at home to primarily be with her.
Ultimately, it was just a case of wrong time, wrong place. But the reaction of the Mouse when I told her ‘No more nursery’ just cemented that we’d done the right thing. With a huge smile, she wrapped her arms around my neck and quietly whispered “Thank you Mummy”.
Like all parenting decisions, we are always just trying to work out what is best for everyone. We don’t always get it right, but it’s never too late to adjust along the way.
Let’s hope this time, it is meant to be.