The end-of-maternity-leave double whammy
This week, I climbed back onto the dreaded maternal-guilt, emotional rollercoaster. I handed my baby over to someone to look after, so I can go back to work: it was Squeak’s first week at nursery.
In some ways, doing this for the second time was easier than the first as – spoiler alert! – I know we all survived when Bumple went to nursery and we soon got used to our new normal. Undoubtedly we will get through this again. But, I know that first we must pass through the pain barrier…
Fortunately, Squeak is attending the same nursery. So, this time, I am not exactly “handing my child over to strangers”. After 20 months of our eldest attending daycare – we already know the setting’s “Aunties and Uncles”. We like them – and we trust them.
Our nursery’s carers are great with the children. During the day, they take Bumple from her Kindergarten class, to see Squeak in the Baby Room for some cuddles and playtime. Knowing the two girls are together during the day (albeit in different rooms for the most part) is very comforting.
But – in some ways – leaving my second child at nursery has been more difficult than the first. At just 11 months old, Squeak seems so very small (was her sister ever that small?!) She cries when I leave – something her sister never did. And it is tough.
I have learned that, no matter what, it is best just to hand your child over and leave. It is hard, but easier in the long run. Whenever I have called the nursery ten minutes after leaving, I am told that she is fine and playing. Staying would just have prolonged the agony – for both of us.
It will get easier for both of us with time. And in a funny way I am lucky: my children go to nursery every day. For those who attend less frequently, it can take much longer for them – and their parents – to get used to it
If you are nervous about your child starting nursery – you are not alone. Having done it twice now – here are some things that I would have like to know before that first week. It is an emotional time – and it is good to minimise the surprises!
CareerMom’s Top Six things to expect in the first week of Nursery
- The biggest surprise was when I picked my baby up on the first day: I noticed immediately that she smelled different. More specifically – she smelled of someone else. My heart sank. Who would have thought that finding another woman’s perfume on your baby is every bit as disconcerting as discovering it on your partner!
- Make sure you supply plenty of extra clothing. Otherwise – when their nappy explodes (ie, almost every day) – they will come home dressed as someone else in clothes from the nursery’s spares box! Personally, I choose not to dress my little ones in outfits with slogans – so it takes me a moment to recognise my child when they are wearing a Barbie pink T-shirt emblazoned with “Pretty as a Princess!” At the end of a long day at work – you want to be reunited with your child and immediately recognise them. It can be disconcerting if you don’t.
- The flip side of not immediately recognising your child is – accepting that it may take them a moment or two to place you when they see you. It is only natural to long for your child to beam at you immediately with outstretched arms! However, particularly with small babies, it is best to be prepared for the fact that it may take them a few seconds to recognise you (Sob!)
- Their sleep patterns will change as they may not be able to nap in nursery. With the extra light, noise, children and generally unusual surroundings – naps will likely go out of the window. This may be a short term issue as they adjust to the changes but it may become a fact of life. Inevitably: less sleep = cranky baby. If the evening is now your only time with your child during the week (as it is for me), this can be a sad reality. The tired grumpiness can manifest in a number of ways – and may mean they need to go to bed earlier (further reducing our time together!) For us, also, the tiredness is most obvious in their resistance to being put in a car seat. This was particularly tricky with my eldest when I was in my last trimester of pregnancy and lacked the flexibility to get her into her seat whilst she had a tantrum / went floppy / arched her back etc. Now that I have two children, I have zero patience for car seat shenanigans. Every time I approach carseats, I imagine we have a flight to catch – and are already running late: I remain very calm but am determined. I find this habit gives me the psychological edge and I can get them both strapped in pronto!
- Similarly, eating patterns (- and therefore nappies) are also likely to change. This is especially the case if you are paying for hot lunches – as your child will be getting a much greater variety in food. This is a mixed blessing! The first week has seen a wave of “poonamies” and outfit changes. Fortunately, I know to expect that things will settle down.
- Label EVERYTHING! It sounds obvious, but so many things get lost! Especially important for precious things (comforters and dummies) and food. Squeak was going hungry because her nursery couldn’t identify that the unmarked yoghurts and bananas in the fridge were hers. I was horrified! With Bumple, I felt the pressure to label everything beautifully with cute professional stickers – but for Squeak I have realised permanent marker is just as effective for most belongings. (Yes, Second child syndrome is alive and well at CareerMom Towers!) I do have adorable, durable name stickers – for both girls! – which I got from Easy2Name. These are really useful for clothes, shoes and bottles. I also highly recommend adding an email address to labels; I set up one especially along the lines of found@gmail. This has worked well in reuniting us with several lost items. It was especially important when our little one’s must-have/can’t-sleep-without teddy went home with another child one weekend!
Good luck to you and your little one for the first few days at nursery. Even more good luck if it is also your first day back at work!
I hope these tips help with smoothing your expectations and experience in the first few days – and, before you know it – it will be the weekend and that dreaded first week will be behind you!
Never miss a CareerMom post by subscribing here.