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Breaking up With Day Care

Today I broke up with my daughter’s caretaker. I’ve been avoiding the conversation for a few weeks now. Pulling into the driveway to pick her up has given me a pit in my stomach and a foreboding, guilty feeling similar to the one when pulling into my house after curfew as a teenager and seeing the kitchen light still on. There is absolutely no reason I should feel like this, but like most irrational "mom-on-mom" guilt trips, I am venturing down the road of should/should not.

As a WAHM, the decision to put our little one in daytime care was tough. On one hand I chose to work for myself at home so I could have a better work/life balance and be flexible and present as needed for our daughter and various family issues. My husband’s chaotic schedule makes him largely unavailable and unreliable for last-minute changes in plan—a huge pain, but a reality of military life. On the other hand, I needed the time. V wasn’t napping as frequently as in those early months, and with additional opportunity came the need for greater stability in my daytime work hours.

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We settled on a compromise: part-time at home day care with a friend of a friend. She is a sweet, grandmotherly type, watches kids around the same age and only has a few there at a time. It seemed like a great way to put our toes in the water without diving in, and it was worked out perfectly. V developed a great relationship with her and the other kids, learned new tricks and even started taking a bottle—something she’d never do with us.

As my business and opportunities grew I knew we’d eventually get to the point of needing full-time care. I slowly started the search, sourcing recommendations from friends, clients and other businesses, and found what seems to be the ideal facility. The hard part came when I needed to tell our current provider and make it official.

It wasn’t that I felt guilty about the choice to move to traditional, full-time care. I truly believe that V’s program is going to help V grow and learn so much more than even I could in a full-time capacity. I just didn’t want to hurt her feelings. She has come to love and support V and our family so much over these past months. Sending along extra coupons, recipes and photos of our little one playing, she has become part of the family in a weird, abstract way.

It wasn’t that she would disapprove or condemn the choice. She has long been the transitional choice—for moms and parents slowly getting back into the workforce after birth, or who choose to stay part-time. She watches children of all backgrounds and futures and is genuinely supportive of each choice the parents make.

Turning to full-time care feels like turning my back on her.

She wasn’t just V’s first non-family caretaker, she was also mine. When V started going once a week, she wouldn’t take a bottle, no matter how much cajoling involved. Those days were tough, but she would comment on how well V was doing at everything else, what purées she finished and how happy she seemed. As much as she supported V, she supported me, too. Now, turning to full-time care feels like turning my back on her.

Today, when I "broke up" with our sweet caretaker, it felt like we’d reached a new milestone, one that isn’t in the baby books. It makes me feel a bit selfish to take V away from the safety and support of that environment and throw her into the wild and crazy world of full-time day care.

It did make me stop and think: Should I turn down opportunities so I can keep her in her current program? Should I take a pause in my career? The list just goes on, but when I think about how I want her to know me later in life, and the example I’d like to set for her, it includes the will to chase opportunities, to take chances and to foster independent interests and dreams. Having found a safe, supportive and well-reputed (and evaluated) facility for her to learn, play with other children her age and find support from new teachers, I am confident that the decision is a right one; I'm confident that the focus on my career and my interests is not a selfish one and most definitely has her best interests in mind.

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Like most things, the conversation went far better than I expected. Of course she expressed her disappointment in not seeing V regularly next fall, but she was overwhelmingly supportive. Commenting on the great program she’ll be joining, connecting me to other moms who have gone the same route and ensuring that she will have at least a couple more weeks to spend with V before she switches "schools" in a few weeks.

Trusting my mom instincts has been one of the hardest transitions since having this little person almost a year ago. It’s because of the weight I place on these big decisions. While they sometimes need a little gut check or to be bounced off another parent, I know that we are figuring out this crazy adventure, and building a wonderful life for our little nugget. I have to learn to have a little faith in my abilities, because I am no longer the fumbling mess that came home with a red-faced newborn 11 months ago.

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