I always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, to be able to nurture my kids 24/7 from birth until school age. That was the goal.
I have friends who can’t even fathom that fate. To them, it sounds like pure misery. They are great mothers and they love their children, but they love being able to split their time between work and home as well. The idea of being with their kids all day long sounds awful to them.
And I get that. It’s not for everyone. Kids can be exhausting and there is something isolating about not having adult interaction throughout the day. But for me, I always just knew that was what I wanted.
Of course, becoming a single mommy made doing the whole stay-at-home thing a little bit more of a pipe dream. When you are the sole breadwinner, you kind of need a few hours to yourself every day to get the work done.
I tried. When my daughter was born, I tried desperately to juggle it all. And for five months, I somehow managed to pull that off. During her waking hours, I was attentive and engaged in everything she did. Then, during naps and after bedtime, I worked, sometimes even until the sun was coming up the next day.
By the end of those five months, I was a wreck — exhausted and worn down in a way that couldn’t possibly be healthy. I was going to bed at 4 or 5 every night, lucky to get a few hours of sleep before my little one woke up, wanting mommy’s attention, only to repeat the same pattern again and again.
It just wasn’t working.
So, I very reluctantly signed my little girl up for part-time daycare. At first, it was just five hours, two days a week. But even that felt torturous. I hated being away from her. What may have made it worse were the proclamations from everyone around me that this would be good for her, that it was “socialization” and something new and a good thing for both of us.
I wanted to physically attack each and every person who made such a suggestion. How dare they! I loved my daughter — more than anyone else possibly could. There was no one she could be better off with than me. Being home — with me — was good for her.
Going to daycare was just a necessary evil. We had to do it. There was no other choice. But I didn’t have to be happy about it. It felt like hiring someone else to raise my child, granting another person those waking hours I otherwise so coveted.
Nothing about that felt right.
And we were just talking 10 hours a week to start out! But as it might have been predicted, I started relaxing toward the idea of daycare as the months went on. Once I grew comfortable with her teachers and realized she wasn’t being left in a corner to stare at a wall all day, some of my initial discomforts faded away. Eventually we added another day of part-time care. And then another.
At 16 months old, she now goes to daycare 25 hours a week. I don’t see us ever adding additional hours to that schedule. It seems to be the perfect sweet spot for us — I have time to work during the day, and a few hours at night after I put her down to finish up any projects. But we still get our mornings together, and I have the flexibility to keep her home on days when more exciting plans come up.
I love that she is also falling in love with her teachers, relying on adults other than me, and learning that mommy isn’t necessarily the center of her universe.
We’ve found a happy medium.
That’s not all though. I have reached a point where I can now readily admit that daycare actually is good for her. And even if I were to win the lottery tomorrow and never have to work another day again, I don’t think I would pull her out.
The thing is, I’ve come to realize that they engage her in ways I probably wouldn’t at home. Every Monday, a music teacher comes and visits each and every room for an hour of playtime with instruments and singing. At lunchtime, the kids in her room eat family style, serving up their own plates and drinking out of lidless cups. She is 16 months old! I certainly wouldn’t be pushing those skills at home just yet!
They color with her and do crafts. She heads outside for playtime twice a day. There are books and activities and yes … that socialization component I was initially so annoyed to have shoved in my face.
But now? I get that my daughter is an only child being raised by a single mother who thinks she hung the moon. It probably is good for her to spend a few hours a day with other kids learning that she isn’t actually the center of the universe. I love that she is also falling in love with her teachers, relying on adults other than me, and learning that mommy isn’t necessarily the center of her universe either.
You know what else, though? I have found that I kind of enjoy my few hours a day to myself, something I never would have thought would happen. Some mornings, we get up and go for a run together, and then I intentionally put off taking my shower until I drop her off at daycare. Because showering without a toddler trying to break into the bathroom is kind of amazing. And working uninterrupted on the projects I am most passionate about is also pretty awesome.