Thursday, December 13, 2012

Employment, Child Care And The Ultimate In Mother Guilt

IMAGE: THE MOTHER LOAD | Employment And Childcare

 I was chatting to a girlfriend recently who is the Mum of an eighteen month old little boy and she mentioned that she was toying with the idea of returning to work, under the right circumstances. It made me remember what it was like making similar decisions 8 years ago when Miss O was the same age. For me, the decision was like solving one of those annoying puzzle tile things where you have to shift each tile around the box in order to reveal the big picture. 

I was never patient enough to finish those so it's a minor miracle I was able to navigate my way through the difficulties of finding the right employment in my field, a suitable number of hours, and most importantly the best child care available (for what it's worth, that's where the mother guilt REALLY kicks in). Although for the first year of motherhood the idea of returning to work appealed to me about as much as scooping my eyes out with a melon - baller (!), eventually I slowly started to feel the need for adult company and the need to ease some of the financial pressure a child brings. 

We felt that a day care centre was the most suitable form of care for us, due largely to their seemingly strict accountability and the fact that there were other children to interact and play with. As a parent, once you make that decision, you're then faced with the consistent rejection from centre to centre who have waiting lists as long as your arm. You start nice and close to home and usually end up gaining as spot somewhere between your front door and Antarctica; which you find yourself agreeing to without a moment's hesitation. After being laughed at several times locally, I managed to secure a place at a day care centre right near my Mum's house which on the surface seemed nice and welcoming. Thankfully, I gave myself a few weeks to get O settled before I started work which in hindsight was the best decision I had made throughout the whole exercise. I remember rejoicing in the little bit of freedom it gave me for the first time in over a year, but at the same time being completely consumed in the sadness and guilt of seeing my first born howling in the arms of a stranger as I backed out the door. Let's just say, we gave it a shot and it just wasn't what we had expected. We only stayed for a couple of weeks before I realised it just wasn't working out - watching your child dealing with separation for the first time is simply torture for a mother. Enough said. 

Soon after, I was walking O in the pram and I happened to pass a lovely little daycare centre, which simply drew me in. So much so, that I knocked on the door and made enquiries about their waiting lists etc. It wasn't anywhere near my house but it felt right, and it was. The rest is history - both of my children were absorbed into that little family - owned centre for the first 4 years of their precious lives and leaving the centre for the last time in 2011 was like saying good bye to Aunts and Uncles and family friends. 

So my lessons learned are as follows. Firstly, take the time to find the right centre. The first or even the second may not always be right so follow yours and your child's instincts.  A bit of separation anxiety is normal but you need to see it resolving itself over a few weeks to know if it's going to work out. Secondly, don't try and settle your child in whichever child care situation you choose and commence work at the same time. If at all possible, give plenty of time to have the child care arrangement completely under control before you head out into the wide world again. The boss does NOT want to see your mascara - stained face arriving in the morning after the dreaded day care drop off!
Therefore, when you find that perfect arrangement (and it is possible) it will work positively and the largest piece of that puzzle will shift comfortably into place. 


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