Sharanya Misra

A decision that found me spiraling in doubt and despair, thanks to the social taboo we associate with sending our children to nurseries. For some reason, our society looks at this choice as an “abandonment”.

(This post is part of my Mommy Moments series.)


The Dilemma.

When my daughter turned about 4 months old, I began to actively look for care options. I was to move to the UK in a month’s time and soon after that would have to join back at work. I wanted to get her settled in with her carer well in advance, so that I could go back to work assured of her safety and well being.

I was doing what most working women do as they approach the end of their maternity leave. And while it’s a common thing to do, it’s not easy.

Every parent worries, and worries more, about having to leave their child behind to go to work. But with a child this young, concerns can be as basic as “how would he/she nap without me?” or “what if he/she doesn’t drink milk from a bottle?”. Most mothers at this point begin to question if it is even the right call to go back to work. It is indeed a crushing dilemma. I too was beginning to experience it.

I began to explore various options of care. Many parents like to leave their child with a grandparent. While it is definitely the safest option, I wasn’t comfortable with it. I have my reservations about asking our elderly parents to run after the children who manage to tire even us out. Leaving my daughter alone at home with a nanny too wasn’t an option I wanted to consider.

So the obvious choice left for me was to send my daughter to a day care. A choice that sent me on a downward spiral of doubt and despair, thanks to the social taboo we associate with sending our children to nurseries. For some reason, our society looks at this choice as an “abandonment“.

Every time I mentioned that I was planning on leaving my 7 month old daughter at a day care, I was met with gasps and eyes that silently accused me of being a crappy mother. “Don’t do that to your child!” I was told over and over, along with horror stories of day cares where children were not taken care of adequately. “You can always find another job, she needs you right now“. It was difficult to keep a straight face and thank them for their advice, while inside I was feeling torn and questioning myself for being a selfish mother who wanted to put her baby in a nursery.

The Decision.

But amidst all this chaos in my head, there was a voice inside me that told me to go ahead, that told me to put all the comments aside and do what I felt was right for me and my child. Not only was I determined to find the best care for my daughter, I decided I had to make efforts to reinstate some normalcy into my life too. I had reached that stage of motherhood where I wanted to get back to work. I wanted to be able to have a cup of tea or lunch in peace. I knew I no longer wanted to ‘do it all’ by myself. I told myself, it was ok to be ‘selfish’ if that was how the world saw me.

The first time we visited the day care, my heart sank. We met a friend just outside who shared having a bad experience with his older son there. While that dettered us initially, we still wanted to atleast have a look around. When we went into the room for children younger than a year, I found that most children were older than 10 months, either crawling or walking. My child hadn’t even begun to turn over and was barely lifting her head. They showed us the garden attached to the room and I could see leaves strewn all around. What if she puts them in her mouth, I immediately thought. I asked them if they would place my daughter in a separate area as I was worried the other kids may mistakenly hurt her. I was told that my concern was misplaced as the kids usually kept to themselves. The answer didn’t convince me. I asked them how they would put her to sleep. They replied that they would gradually let the child get used to sleeping on her own. My heart broke at the thought of my daughter crying herself to sleep. The negatives seemed to be piling up.

But then I paused and told myself to give the place a chance. All the things I had heard from others were clouding my judgement and not letting me form an unbiased opinion. The place we were visiting was one of the highest rated on Ofsted, surely they had their metrics in place! I took a deep breath and decided to start over.

I asked them how they would engage my child. They showed me the toys and books they used. I realised many of them were what I had been planning on buying for her too. They showed us the kitchen where fresh meals were cooked for all children. I was impressed with the variety of the food and the nutrition offered. They invited us to watch as the little ones sat around their tiny table in their small chairs for tea. I was amazed at the discipline. I was told that there would only be 9 kids in the room with a 3:1 ratio for children-carer. I saw one carer sit with a crying child in a corner and pacify her. The care was genuine. I decided. I was convinced.

The joyful experience as a mother.

My daughter didn’t get used to the place overnight, obviously. I would take her in twice a week for a month. The first 3 mornings, I cried outside while I heard her cry in there. It was really tough. She refused milk and cried and cried to go to sleep. But then one day, they said she went to sleep in a carer’s arm in just a few minutes. Soon, when I would go to pick her up, she would be busy playing with her toys, happily unaware of my presence. She started to really settle in when I began to leave her there from morning till evening every day. I did this before I returned to work.

In a week’s time, she was looking forward to it. Soon she would jump from my hands to theirs. They helped me tremendously with starting her on solids. I was astonished as they gave me end of day reports of her enjoying some watermelon or blueberries or even some cucumber. They would send me pictures of her trying to sit up or stand or climb a stair. She began to make friends. I once stood outside the door waiting for them to buzz us in, while my daughter screamed in delight looking at her friends inside, as did they! It amazed me that kids this small could form such connections. When I went to pick her up one evening I was told she had had a fall and a resulting bruise on her cheek. The inicident report I was asked to sign mentioned the treatment given as “Ice and cuddles”. It was sweet. Soon they gave me another astonishing news. My daughter would go to sleep in her bed by herself. I gaped at them and begged them to tell me the secret. I still do not know how they did it, she refuses to do it at home. She had her first Christmas party with her friends and was gifted her first book by Santa. She loves it even now. She began to eat by herself at home too, a habit I had been trying to encourage and that the day care helped with. I followed a no salt no sugar ideology for her for the first year and I was happy to see the day care did the same. On sunny mornings, they took her and her friends out for walks to the river nearby so they could watch the ducks and swans. She seemed to having a good time.

Her first exciting encounter with Santa!!

Some me-time.

Sending my daughter to a day care gave me so much of peace. Watching her settle in cleared my head of the anxiety and allowed me to give myself some thought. I had entirely neglected myself, and my health, over many months while taking care of her (and skipping meals) with not much help during the day at home when my husband went to work. I began to read. And write. I started my day at work with a tall cup of my favouricoffee, and some good breakfast, which finally was no longer a hurriedly downed glass of milk. I took a day off and had a lunch date with my husband after ages. He was delighted I still remembered his name 😉 I watched the movie “Little Women” when it hit the theaters. Little by little I began to rediscover the woman beyond the mother.

The Best Decision I could have made.

Sending my daughter to the day care even as just a 7 month old was the best decision I could have taken. It made her independent, even at that tender age. It fostered her skills while nurturing her in a friendly environment. It helped kindle in her a love for books that she nurtures even now. She learnt from her interactions with other children. She learnt much from the carers.

Handmade Presents for the Parents on Christmas.

But more importantly, I learnt too. I learnt that it is possible to positively engage kids not even a year old with fun and meaningful activities. I learnt to give my child the freedom to mingle and explore even if that caused some bruises every now and then. I learnt from them that kids needed to be treated like individuals and their choices respected. And finally, I learnt that children can be resilient if we give them a chance.

My daughter was there just for a few months. When she was 11 months old we returned to India. The hardest bit for me was not leaving my own workplace, but rather saying goodbye to her carers at the day care. But even as we left, I knew that the place had helped me make up my mind well and truly about what a good day care can do to help with our children’s upbringing.

The Pros & Cons.

Much of our experience in a day care depends on the quality of service provided in the day care itself. It is important to research into the ratings and reviews, the safety standards, the curriculum followed by them to enable and track a child’s development. What activities do they enagage the children in? How often are you as a parent made privy to the goings on at the nursery? What is their policy on the food the kids eat? These are some of the questions parents need to ask and be convinced about before enrolling their child. No amount of socialisation can hold more significance than a child’s safety and that factor needs to be paramount while choosing a nursery.

Parents need to also accept the fact that children cannot receive singular undivided attention at a day care. There will always be other kids to be handled and taken care of. This also means that viruses often go around quite easily and kids may fall sick more often when they spend time with other children. These are definitely factors to be pondered upon.

But in my personal opinion, if a good day care is around, it proves to be beneficial for the child to spend time in there, even if for a few designated hours in a week. It gives them an environment that encourages them to socialise, explore and learn. The lack of singular attention can even be good for the kid and teaches them to adapt. And not to forget, a few hours away from the child can be a positive time for the parents too to finish all those pending tasks or take a moment to relax.

At the end of the day, every parent and every child is unique and must decide based on what suits them best. In my own experience though, the entire process was an eye opener that once again taught me to trust my instincts as a parent and a mother, even if common social practices dictated otherwise.

Feature Image source – Unsplash.com

Read my previous post “Ebooks to the Rescue in the Mommy Moments series.

Mommy Moment with my daughter.

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