It feels like it was a lot longer than six months ago that I was a first-time mum navigating the new daycare-drop-off-then-get-to-work-on-time routine.
When I was researching my options it was easy to dwell on all of the things that both her and I would be missing out on by not having the time together that was traded for her in care while I was at work. It was easy to worry about the worst case scenario – that she might be mistreated without my knowledge, or that she wouldn’t receive the level of care and attention that I could provide her one-on-one at home.
What I didn’t imagine, of course, were all of the positive things that come out of her being in the care of others and around other kids who are developmentally at a very similar stage. The top three reasons I love her being in centre care are:
1. Her confidence has soared
Being away from us during working hours on weekdays has meant she has learned how to build trusting relationships with other adults. She knows that mum and dad are off to work and that we will be back to collect her after a fun day with her teachers and friends.
Being around other kids, she observes social behaviour and picks up language and skills that I would struggle to provide the opportunity for her to develop at the pace she has being at daycare. At her centre, her days are filled with an abundance of activities, including lots and lots of messy play – paint, glitter, sand, more paint – all of the things that I quietly prefer she does away from the living room carpet and her bedroom walls!
2. They are just as aware of her needs and development as I am
Early childhood educators are special people – imagine wrangling 10 or more energetic toddlers on the days you least feel like socialising. Children climbing on you and spitting half eaten bread into your palms multiple times a day is all a regular day at work. This is their world, and it never ceases to amaze me how extraordinarily aware of every child’s individual needs they are.
In an instant, they can tell me how much sleep she’s had and the reasons they suspect that perhaps she’s not been quite herself that day. They’ll identify the new skills she is mastering and where we need to provide additional support. They are just as aware of her needs and development as we are, sometimes even more so. I love them for that.
3. I have a network of experience to learn from too
You never really have this parenting thing nailed, and just when you think you do, it all changes again in a heartbeat. Having a group of people who know my child almost as well as I know her has proven invaluable. When we were struggling with sleep routine, we had someone to suggest ideas that were actually relevant to our daughter. When possessiveness ruled and sharing was a non-event, we were gently guided with how to manage this challenging behaviour. It’s never unsolicited advice, and always with ours and her interests at heart.
For all of the self-doubt, mum-guilt and worry I experienced in those early months, it has certainly been outweighed by the positive experience that centre care has been for our family. She loves daycare, so much so that as we pull up we hear an enthusiastic “yay” from the backseat as we wait to take our place in the carpark at the beginning of each day.
Our family has gained so much from being part of the Kindercare community, and we are extremely grateful for the early childhood educators and team there for being part of our village.