I have three weeks left of maternity leave. I am not sure where the last 12 months have gone. I'm pretty sure I'm the subject of some cruel prank whereby someone has fast-forwarded time and I've really only used up three months of leave.
But when I look at my newborn.... (OK, maybe not newborn, but he's definitely a baby, not a toddler!) it confirms that I do in fact have an almost-1-year-old. He is crawling (almost walking); he has his first tooth; he shakes his head if I ask him questions; he gives me big, cheeky, one-toothed smiles. No, he's definitely not my little newborn anymore.
But is he big enough for childcare? Is he ready for the change?
I know all the benefits of sending him along... socializing with his peers, learning independence, being comfortable away from me. But when he drops his bottom lip and starts to cry, when he throws his arms in his lap in frustration and when he lifts his arms up for cuddles, I just cannot bring myself to think about leaving him. He is such a shy and sensitive little boy.
Who will soothe his tears when he bangs his head?
Who will teach the other kids to play nicely with him?
Who will rub his little tummy when he goes to sleep or hold his little hand when he's feeding?
It breaks my heart thinking about him crying out for his mummy who isn't there to comfort him. How will I know if his tears have been wiped away? How will I know if someone has soothed his sobbing?
His little heart will be broken too. He won't understand where his mum has gone, and why she hasn't returned yet. He won't recognize the toys, the new smells, the new people. He will only be one of 10 other children, only a number. I am sure this is not the case, but it feels like I am leaving him to be locked in a pen like an animal or leaving him for the wolves!
Perhaps if I employ a bit of strategic manipulation, the adjustment might be easier for him and me. If I dress him in the cutest clothes, will his new caregivers fall in love with him and comfort him like I do? If I become besties with the caregivers, will they prioritize his needs above the other children? What if I call up every five minutes to remind them that they need to be watching him. I'm sure all of that will help....
No, none of these options are going to work. I think the only way we are going to do this is if I rip off the childcare Band-Aid. I just have to do it. I just have to leave him in the care of strangers.
It will break my heart.
But I've been told by mums who have done this before that the first days of childcare is easier for the babies than it is for the mums. I'm not yet convinced, but by God, I hope they're right.
I know some people will judge me for sending my child to childcare, I know people are going to say, "if it's that hard then don't do it," or "it's best for your baby for you to stay at home," or, "I can't believe you could be so selfish" (yes, I'm pretty sure I'll get that one too). And that's OK, writing about your experiences as a mother you have to be pretty thick-skinned. But I don't want there to be any misunderstandings that I, and the majority of other mother's in my situation, don't feel tremendous guilt about going back to work and leaving our children in the care of someone else. It is heartbreaking, but many of us are in positions where we have to return to work. Whether by choice or by necessity, the guilt is the same and it is so, so hard.
So wish me luck as I transition my little one into childcare. First for two hours, then a whole day! How will I cope? There will be tears... my tears!
But I will keep you posted with our childcare journey.
Am I alone... did you experience similar feelings when you first put your child into childcare, or are you going through the same thing now? I'd love to hear your advice about how you manage/managed it?
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