As a parent we can only do what we think is best for our kids. I am a working parent and as such, both my kids have had various forms of childcare over the years, a patchwork is a more appropriate term as whatever stage we are at, it always feels temporary.
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E was in full time day care from 7am – 6 pm at 8 months. I cried the first day I left her and literally ran from my office to the Nursery at six each evening. Because I missed her? Yes, of course but also because in an effort to stop parent's exploiting “cheap” childcare, the Nursery charged £10 a minute for every minute you were late! So, short of re-mortgaging, the heels took a pounding every evening.
We then had a Nanny who was on loan from a friend of mine, while she was on a sabbatical for 6 months. Our lives did a U-turn in that one day. I was able to get dressed and leave the house in one piece without the desperate (and it really was desperate), dash to the Nursery every morning leaving the flat looking like a small explosive device had gone off in it! Mel arrived every morning, E dribbled and smiled and I left happy. In the evening I got home to a happy, smiley, girl having just had a bath and the tiny flat we were living in, didn’t resemble the Armageddon I left behind me that morning.
Life was good. Expensive, but good.
Then came baby number 2 and E went to Montessori Nursery in the mornings, a lovely little nursery which, when you walked in, felt like you were walking back in time, to the happiest parts of your childhood. She blossomed and I got on with trying to remember how to look after a newborn. In the blink of an eye, it was then time to head back to work again and I left the 2 most important things in my life with a new Nanny.
A friend of a friend’s old nanny, so a vague sense of trust, through a distant association. Again everything seemed to be going well, L seemed very happy, she doted on him, as he was the boy and E was old enough to tell me that there was nothing major to worry about.
Until one evening at bedtime. E was quiet and we got talking, well as much as you can with a 3 year old and I asked her what was wrong?
“Fi, cross with me Mummy”
“Really Ele, why? What happened?”
“She wanted her phone so I tried pass it to her but I dropped -ed it, by accident Mummy, by accident. I not mean it.”
“I know baby, it wasn’t your fault, you were trying to help, did Fi shout at you then?”
“No Mummy she got a towel and spun it round and round and hit my bottom with it, it really hurt because I not have my clothes on cos’ it was bath time. I not like Fi Mummy”.
My heart literally broke.
All my worst fears confirmed, I was officially the worst mother on the planet and my little girl would be scarred by her experience for life. Needless to say I dismissed Fi the following day. She didn’t dispute E’s version of events, didn’t put up a fight, she knew what she had done, she had been caught and she moved on.
I, however, did not.
I did not stop thinking about how I could have let my daughter down like that. The spiral of self hatred continued, as did the ever present pressure from work to get new childcare sorted so that I could get back to my desk asap. But how? How could I leave her with anyone ever again?
I decided not to go back to work, drastic maybe but I figured the kids were more important and the finances would just have to suffer for a while. Sadly the financial situation meant that my hiatus into the realm of stay – at – home – super – mum- trying – desperately – to – make – up – for- the- fact- that- the-nanny – had- hit – my- daughter, did not last long. I did however decide to only go back part time so I could keep a watchful eye on childcare.
This new childcare came in the form of Marcia, a teaching assistant at my daughter’s old nursery (she had since moved on to big school) and a year or so later she would be my son’s teaching assistant too. Marcia was larger than life, all the kids adored her and she was one of those people who loved first and thought later, her heart was the size of a planet. Marcia entered our lives and was like a giant blanket, enveloping us all in her warmth and helping to heal what had gone before. E was happy again and adored having Marcia who she remembered from Nursery, L loved Marcia, regularly telling me “Don’t worry Mummy I like you as much as I love Marcia!” and I would often come home to find him marching her down the aisle in a mock wedding!
In being in our family Marcia literally helped me get back to being a Mummy and not some weird, paranoid, nut job, who constantly feared that her child was going to be abused by anyone she came into contact with. Marcia was part of our family and in many ways held it together. Then came the day, 3 months ago when Marcia delivered the news that she was going to qualify as a nurse. I was thrilled for her, it was what she had always wanted but equally I was distraught at the thought of having to go back to square one again and look for reliable, SAFE childcare, what if I ballsed up again and got another Fi? If I was mortified it was nothing compared to E and L and when we went out for Marcia’s last meal with us, all three of them were distraught. Marcia was crying, E was crying, L was sobbing it was horrendous. That was when it hit me though, Marcia had been their primary care giver 4 days a week 52 weeks a year for 4 years and for E and L losing her was as traumatic as losing me.
Us working parents never like to admit it but by leaving our kids in childcare, be it with a relative, crèche, nursery, child minder or nanny we are handing over the reins, for that day, yes but also cumulatively we are allowing that care to have a lasting impact on our little ones.
If you are lucky enough to have a boss that allows for a flexible working pattern then you manage to feel like you still have some control over the childcare week but if, like me, you found yourself kissing them goodbye at 7.30am and tucking them into bed at 7pm the week can seem like a very depressing place as a parent.
Finding the right childcare is vital, one that fills you with confidence and them with joy, we all do our best and sometimes it goes wrong. When it does it is key that we don’t beat ourselves up about it, life has changed, more Mum’s are having to work than ever before and we are having to adapt to this new parenting landscape. One that shifts and changes all the time, meaning that we never feel like we are on a sure footing. So when you are in a phase of childcare that is working for you, enjoy it and make sure your care giver whoever it might be knows how much you value them. I honestly believe Marcia will be in our lives forever, smiling in the pews as Leo drags some other poor unsuspecting woman down the aisle – and for that I am eternally grateful, she was their second Mummy for those 4 years and I am ok with that – she did an amazing job and I will be eternally greatful.