The first job I had was at A Taste of the Big Apple, which was known for its New York-Style pizza and has since closed. That restaurant holds a special place in my heart, and I couldn’t have asked for a better “first job” experience.
From there I dabbled in retail, grocery, and I even ended up working at the National Music Museum once I moved to Vermillion for college (go Yotes). Once I decided to stick out the summers in between semesters, I knew I needed something full time, which is when I landed at Kids of Character, a local daycare.
My first day was the Monday after the end of my freshman year of college. I remember this because by Wednesday I was home sick with the worst stomach flu I had ever had. Little did I know, this was expected, and when I called in, in fear of losing my newly acquired job, my boss laughed and told me the worst was over and to stay hydrated.
Apparently kids have germs, and when you spend two full days with them, you are bound to catch something.
» DESIGNATE A BAG (OTHER THAN YOUR DIAPER BAG) TO BRING TO DAYCARE, AND ALWAYS KEEP AN EXTRA PAIR OF CLOTHES IN IT.
» IF YOUR BABY IS PICKY ABOUT FOOD, BOTTLES, OR NAPS, MAKE YOUR DAYCARE PROVIDER A CHEAT SHEET.
» ALWAYS MAKE DAYCARE DROP-OFFS FUN BY TALKING ABOUT EXCITING ACTIVITIES, PLAYMATES, OR SHOWING OFF A NEW OUTFIT. THIS WILL HELP BOTH YOU AND YOUR BABY TREMENDOUSLY.
After what I thought was my brush with death, I recovered enough to quickly realize I was in for a treat; one that would end up changing my perspective on children, childcare, and myself.
Fast forward to finding out I was pregnant with Sloan, and it was time (actually much too late) to try and find a daycare for when we went back to work.
From working at KOC, I knew I wanted something small, preferably in-home, and with someone who radiated compassion and kindness. Well, when you wait until seven months pregnant to find childcare, your pickings are slim.
In a panicked state, we started calling anyone and everyone for recommendations and suggestions, and landed at a center near our home. Actually, it was one of two locations in Sioux Falls, and that alone made me uneasy.
Not because I had any reason to worry about this specific place, but because I was used to a tight-knit environment, and for some reason, that felt safe.
Against my better judgement, Reid convinced me to give them a chance and we went for a tour. Designated rooms. Consistency. Cameras. Secure entry. It all played out like it was supposed to, and even though we felt confident in their ability to care for our soon-to-be bambino, something still felt off.
Getting closed to D-Day, we didn’t have the luxury to be picky, and therefore went with the center. I was honestly sick about it, which is when I realized it wasn’t the size of the center that was getting to me, it was the fact that I wouldn’t be working there, caring for my baby.
Everyone talks about separation anxiety and how hard it is to go back to work – they aren’t wrong. It’s so difficult to drop off your baby, drive away, and still be expected to focus on whatever it is you should be doing while you frantically check the clock until it’s time to go retrieve your little bundle of joy.
I wish I could continue this article by giving advice on how to make it easier for you, or what you should look for in a daycare, but I’m just as new to this as some of you are.
However, there’s one thing I can say about daycare that I’ll always swear by: have a relationship with your daycare providers and never forget they’re people.
I remember a time while I was working at KOC that will always stand out as my ah-ha moment. In a matter of one week, my friend’s mother passed away, I had to give a 1-year-old the heimlich, and three of our babies contracted pink eye.
For anyone that has ever had any of those things happen, it’s overwhelming. But something really interesting happened during that fateful July week. Somehow I had the ability to set my life aside and completely devote my full attention and energy to these tiny humans, some of whom I had only known for a few months.
That’s the thing about childcare workers. Our children aren’t a work assignment or a deadline that has to be met. These workers look at our kids as theirs, in the most incredible way possible. They’re able to care for them unconditionally, while still maintaining a life outside of daycare.
Having worked in the baby business, I find I’m so much more careful with how I interact with Sloan’s teachers, which becomes even more apparent when I see other parents at daycare complaining about no socks or asking why their baby is crying.
Let me tell you, babies hate socks and babies cry. Both are facts and both are hard to avoid.
With that being said, your baby probably spent 20 minutes playing with other babies, learning about interaction and communication, and more than likely, they got cuddled beyond belief and may have even laughed once or twice.
What I’m trying to say is that leaving your baby in someone else’s care is a difficult milestone for any parent, especially when you leave them with complete strangers. However, remember that working at a daycare isn’t for everyone, and the people that stick it out are there for the right reasons.
What I've Learned...
» Like adults, babies crave structure and schedules. Do your best to keep them on the same schedule over the weekend that they have at daycare. (Your sleep schedule will thank you.)
» Little gestures of gratitude toward your daycare providers mean more than you think. Gift cards during the holidays, family photos, and even a “thank you” will go a long way.
» Sometimes babies get scratched, bump their heads, or even brawl with other babies. Remember that scrapes generally look worse than they are, and babies are more resilient than we could ever know.
They’re there because watching babies grow and learn outweighs the babies that never stop crying or the babies that have diapers that rival chernobyl. They’re there because they have the ability to love your children in ways that transform them from complete strangers to family.
So, loosen your grip on that carseat, tell your baby you love them, and thank your daycare workers for their nonstop hard work and endless patience.