“I’ll miss you there, Mommy,” he said, with a sad look in his beautiful eyes and with inverted lips which only accentuated his little puffy cheeks. It broke my heart. Why was I doing this, again? To feed my own selfishness? For MY sanity? So I could get more time to work? So I could spend a few quiet hours not yelling or screaming? Because I needed that quiet? So I didn’t have to worry about playing with him and could focus, instead, on something I wanted or needed to do, like fold laundry one pile of which by the way, has been sitting in the center of my living room in its basket for nearly three weeks and two other freshly laundered loads in their baskets screaming for attention as my kids run out of underwear and/or PJs?
Why was I sending my child to daycare during his summer vacation when he should be running around in the beautiful playgrounds and parks that San Jose and nearby cities have to offer? When he should be enjoying treats of ice-cream and frozen yogurt and picnicking, and getting delirious with excitement at the sand on the beach or in our backyard sandbox, when he should be prancing around with careless abandon of which only a child is capable, when he should be sucking on Popsicles and not tiring of visits to water parks and farms and doing all kinds of other fun stuff that define childhood summers?
How bad of a mother am I that despite being a “stay-at-home-mom”, I have outsourced the care of my child? That I can’t even care for him all days of the week for a whole month when he is off school? That I’d rather someone else feed my child than carefully prepare his meals and lovingly feed it to him myself? That I’d rather not deal with his naughtiness that is really just him being a child, a typical 3-year-old, because it is inconvenient to me or drives me crazy? That I don’t have the maturity and patience to be the kind of mother he deserves?
As most of you know, Aaron has been out of the country for a while now. Single parenthood has not been easy on me with a very naughty 3-year-old and an already-entered-her-tantrums-stage 1-year-old. I have long and exhausting days. I have unpredictable nights and the slightest variation in my kids’ breathing wakes me up. Really, I am not kidding. I have become extremely conscious of my little ones’ nocturnal breathing sounds. I was always hyper aware even with Aaron around but with him gone, even more so – which means, I have disturbed sleep patterns. Furthermore, both kids have been waking up earlier than usual. I have tried to go to bed early and have mostly succeeded but due to the aforementioned sleep patterns and early wake up calls, haven’t really been getting good nights of sleep.
After a very stressful few days right after Aaron left (he left on a Friday), I called TJ’s old daycare. He went here for two months for two days a week, three hours a day right after turning 2-years-old. He disliked this place. He was expendable to them because he wasn’t a full-timer but still counted toward their overall kids’ numbers. They were working to get approval to care for 8 kids so having him around was a problem for when the city officials would visit.
One day, a few minutes before I was to leave to drop him off, the woman called me and asked me not to bring him that day or bring him a few hours late because the city approvals officer was coming or something like that. If he was an “extra”, they would get fined, I guess. I was like WTF! I was so angry at them, at their unprofessionalism, and their callous attitude toward my son. Mind you, this is a licensed at-home daycare center, the people are generally nice, they fed him breakfast, snacks, and lunch, but still, this was ridiculous! I swore off them. I know exactly how I sound, but only an Indian daycare would dare do something like this and pretend like it is not a big deal! There were only two days left in the month so after those two days, I never sent him back again. Within a couple months, he started early-preschool and loved it there.
The only way daycare helped was by helping him get a little used to staying away from me for a few hours a day (2 days a week for 3 hours). While other kids cried at school, my kid cried on the way out because he didn’t want to leave his school, specifically, their huge sandbox. He has thrived under the loving care of his teachers at this preschool and loves it there.
So, when my ad for a babysitter did not elicit strong leads and the one I thought would work out wanted way more money than I could afford, out of sheer desperation, I called his daycare. Given that most kids leave for a vacation in August, I figured they would have a temporary opening. They did.
He was to start on August 1. He seemed so forlorn by the idea of going to daycare (or away from me) when I brought it up to him that I decided against sending him that day. This was also to allow me more time to be sure I wanted to do this, that I hadn’t made an irrational decision (I had just called them the day before, on the 31st of July). Instead, we visited the Seven Seas Park in Sunnyvale and had a blast!
When I am having fun with the kids, when everything goes surprisingly well, and we are just enjoying each others’ company, having a blast, I want to spend all day with my little ones. This is when I feel that maybe he doesn’t need daycare or maybe I can manage handling two kids all day just fine, that maybe I am making a big deal out of nothing, that if other women can do it maybe I can too….but then something happens – where there is pushing and shoving, pinching and snatching, slamming toys on heads, pouring of toothpaste over trucks, emptying glue tubes on trucks and playmats, spreading paint all over floors and clothes, emptying laundry baskets for no reason, running around with clean sheets and getting them dirty, pulling books off shelves, and trying to do all this at once, when there is throwing of food or refusal to eat, when nothing meets anybody’s satisfaction, when both kids are whining and crying and demanding every ounce of my attention when I need to be cooking or cleaning up their millionth mess…..I just have enough and can’t wait to send them off somewhere or go somewhere myself- and because he is the oldest and initiator of most of the issues above, he is the natural choice.
Daycare isn’t cheap and it comes packed with an enormous amount of guilt. I try to justify it somehow:
- This way I get more time with my daughter who otherwise often gets sidelined because of a more attention-demanding older kid who sometimes does bad things just to get more attention than his sister.
- That I can focus on work and that is important too so I am just doing what working mothers do – send kids to daycare or preschool so they can work.
- It is good for him to meet new people not from his preschool.
- He gets to eat good Indian food that he likes (he actually eats well at this Daycare). Hearing a bit of Hindi now and then will only be helpful to my monolingual son.
- He will learn to adapt to situations that he may not always like but has to learn to like because, you know, LIFE!
- That because he is away for three days, the two days I get with him, I want to do so much with him.
- I am also calmer, more present, and more patient the rest of the day with him because he is gone the first half.
- That even though this Daycare did not work out for us the first time it was not because of the care – at least it is a known place, safe, and he is well cared for.
For August 2, I prepared him well in advance. I told him how he previously didn’t like going there but then he got used to it, how he would play with the other kids there, how he made new friends, and how he enjoyed the food there, and such other visualization techniques. He didn’t remember going there, of course, but something clicked and he took it in his stride. Songs like “Whoever takes care of you comes back, because they do love” and previous preschool experience certainly helped too.
It’s just that he just looks sad whenever I drop him off. The other day when I went to pick him up, he was simply laying on the floor with a toy – which is another thing – My boy, my stereotypical boy LOVES his cars and trucks and trains. Almost 99% of the toys at this daycare are girl-oriented and while there is nothing wrong with that, they are just not the kinds of things with which he gets most enjoyment. He has never liked plush toys (and neither does his sister), for example.
Every single day that I have picked him up, two so far, I have asked him, probably to his annoyance, in multiple ways, to describe his day there. This is more to reassure myself that I am doing, maybe not the right thing, but at least not the wrong thing either. His answers usually help but then the next time at drop off, when he gets a little sad again, I feel upset too.
This morning, I needed to write a check to the Daycare – 11 days, 3 days a week, 5 hours each day – I debated endlessly whether I should only send him 2 days a week, if I should only send him 3-4 hours, if I should not send him at all, if I should simply take him whenever he got on my nervous (not an option – they don’t run a babysitting service)….if I should just go pay for the 2 days he went last week and tell them I was pulling him out…..Fighting back my tears, I went ahead and wrote that check….why was this so hard?
Why was I putting my kid through this? Why did I have to be such an incompetent mother? Why did my beautiful child get me as a mother? Would he have been happier with a more capable, more patient, more loving mother for whom motherhood was all and everything she wanted to be?
I also knew I needed to do this for myself, so I can be, however incompetent, at least capable of feeding them and keeping them alive, with hopefully my sanity in tact. That, I always had the option to go pick him up early or not send him back. All I would lose is that money – it wouldn’t be such a big deal, would it?