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I Was the Last Person to Love Day Care

When it came time to first put my daughter in day care, I had massive panic attacks about the whole ordeal. I didn't want anyone else rocking her to sleep or playing with her during those rare waking hours that seemed as though they should be just mine. I didn't want anyone else getting the firsts, soothing the tears or soaking up her cuddles.

I wanted that to be all me.

And so, I panicked, extending my maternity leave out as long as humanly possible, and then quitting my job when they wouldn't let me extend it any further.

Yep, that happened.

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Thankfully, I had writing to fall back on—and that push to quit my job and throw myself full time into a career of writing and novel editing turned out to be one of the best things to ever happen to me. I am far happier in my current career path than I ever would have been in my corporate desk job.

But still, the day came when I realized I could no longer continue to care for my daughter full time and work full time. I wasn't sleeping. At all. And I still needed to put food on the table.

Something had to give.

Giving those waking hours to someone else felt like a cop-out on parenting as a whole.

So, just shy of 5 months old, I put my daughter in day care for the first time. And I cried and cried and cried about it. I even once wrote that I hated the idea of anyone else "raising my daughter" because that was what it felt like to me. Giving those waking hours to someone else felt like a cop-out on parenting as a whole.

Of course, I managed to hurt someone I really cared about with those words—a working mama who had gone the day care route months before I had. But that had never been my intention. I was just speaking to my own fears and concerns, my own desire to be the one caring for my daughter 24/7.

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) life doesn't always work out in such a way that we have choices about these things. I had to sleep and I had to work, and so … my daughter had to go to day care.

It was hard at first. She just went part time, two days a week to start out, and even that felt like too much to me. But over time, we built up to an every day schedule. Today, my daughter goes to day care around 11 (so we get our mornings together) and I pick her up just before 6.

Admittedly, there are still a lot of days where I feel like I am missing out on time with her. Our nights, especially, feel rushed and chaotic in a way that I don't love. But because I work from home, we at least still have the flexibility to play hooky on random days and go off on unplanned adventures together, which I love.

And more importantly, I have come to realize that I love day care, too. I love that my only child gets to play with other kids every day. I love that she has teachers, other adults, who she has been learning to respect and care for. And I love that they routinely do creative and educational activities with her—things I would never even think to do.

Here's to returning back to a normal schedule, where someone else helps to "raise my daughter" five days a week.

My love for day care became all the more apparent after this last round of Holiday breaks. We had four days in a row together with my girl for Christmas, followed by just three days back to day care, and then another four days on our own.

It's just my daughter and me. I have no partner, and no other children for her to play with. So those eight days of family time, packed into just two short weeks, involved a lot of me getting down on the ground to play alongside her.

We painted. We sang. We went for walks. We played hide and seek. We colored. We went through about 2000 stickers. We pulled out all her musical instruments. We baked. We read. We played with Play-Doh. We constructed blocks. We had imaginary tea parties at her toy kitchen. We fed and burped her baby doll at least 100 times. And we put together puzzles—which, for the record, is just about the most painful thing to do with a toddler if you are a touch OCD yourself.

I love my daughter. I love playing with her. I love seeing her learn and grow and interact.

But holy crap, was I ever ready to take her back to day care this morning.

Because it turns out, one-on-one time with a toddler for days on end is exhausting. And there is only so much playing this grown adult can do before she starts feeling a bit desperate for a quiet room with padded walls.

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So today, I salute you day care. For taking my daughter on, encouraging her to play with others, and getting her out of my hair. Here's to returning back to a normal schedule, where someone else helps to "raise my daughter" five days a week, and the weekends don't seem nearly so damn long.

Maybe if I'm lucky, they'll even teach her the "right" way to do puzzles while they're at it. Corners and edges first, kid. Corners and edges first.

Photograph by: Leah Campbell

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