Maternity leave has begun, but your thoughts are already preoccupied. Before you can say “maternity leave,” it’ll all be over and you’ll be staring down the prospect of leaving your child at daycare.
As a parent, it’s completely normal to worry. This is an adjustment that’ll test both you and your baby, putting you through a full range of emotions.
For your child, daycare will ultimately be a wonderful experience filled with excitement. New colours, smells and sounds await them. Bonds will be created with daycare workers and your child will learn to cope with other children as they all vie for a piece of their caretakers’ time and attention.
For you, understandably, this’ll take some getting used to. Your baby—the same one you’ve been feverishly protecting since birth—is now entering the “real world” (of sorts). You’ll need to learn to let go, trust that someone else can take care of him or her, and accept that that someone else may do things differently than you. (That's a lot of "letting go,” right?)
Once you’ve found the perfect daycare for your little angel, visited it with your child so he or she can observe the environment in your presence, asked all the questions nagging you, labeled all your child’s materials and filled out all the necessary info about your child’s habits… (deep breath)… the adventure can finally begin.
Take things slowly
Slow, gradual integration will allow your child to get used to his or her new surroundings more easily. Since younger children’s long-term memories aren’t all that well-developed, the best way to integrate them is to schedule daycare days close together (i.e. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday), rather than far apart (i.e. Monday, Wednesday, Friday), for four hours daily. Best-case scenario, this process should take 4–6 weeks.
The dreaded first day
From the moment your child wakes up, his or her routine will be turned upside down. Even you’ll feel like you’re in more of a hurry than usual as you scramble to do a zillion things.
Just remember to stop for a second, eat something and, most importantly, talk to your child. Explain what’s going on and how the day is about to unfold, even if he or she is only a couple of months old. It’s amazing how the sound of your voice can sooth your child in a stressful situation—and, trust us, you’ll need it in that moment.