“Mummy, don’t go”: Are my little love’s daycare tears worth the guilt?

I’ve just come back from the daycare drop off and I’m all churned up. 

My little guy, Sam (he’s three), only goes to childcare two days a week when I work, but it’s two days of mum guilt as I try to resolve in my head that the tears and worry he experiences on these days are worth it.

Right now I can’t do that though. Right now I feel like rushing back there, letting him run into my arms and koala cling to me as I rescue him from that awful, awful place – with the fun playdough table and sea creature crafts.

But then my rational, “You have to work, and this is actually good for him” brain talks to me. It’s just that this voice is drowned out by the one coming from my heart that is still worked up from peeling him off me and handing him to his kind teacher. And then leaving him upset.

Sob.

So now I am asking myself, are daycare tears worth it? Here’s what my head and heart are saying in response.

Should I rescue him?

Heart: “Yes! You should. Ignore your head. He needs you. You are his everything. Go get him, go on. He’ll be so happy to see you. Screw work and adulting. The bills will just pay themselves …”   

Head: “No they won’t! Your income is needed and we need childcare to enable you to work, and also, what will picking him up teach him? That you don’t trust his childcare or the teachers? That you don’t feel it’s a safe good place for him? Because it is. That will just make him more anxious.”

“You just need to keep on helping him to feel more comfortable and confident there and also work on the separation anxiety with him.”

Is childcare even good for him?

Heart: “Yes, it is. He is always buzzing when you pick him up. He feels energised (and you know this because you feel it radiate from him when you squeeze him into you at that joyful moment when you pick him up).”

“He also gains confidence there, telling you, ‘I’m not scared of kindy anymore’ and that, ‘Kindy is thumbs up!’ (as he points an index finger at the sky). It’s also so nice for him to make friends and gain independence.”

Head: “Yes. You know it. Stop letting your emotions get the better of you at the drop off meltdown. Look at the bigger picture.”

Is he missing me?

Heart: “Yes. You can feel him. He is, but that’s OK. He’s also having fun painting but you are always in his heart, always in his thoughts and always with him, even when you are not.”

“You miss him too and you love him so much that sometimes it hurts to breathe when you worry he’s upset. But he isn’t upset now. You know it (because he’s painting!) but you need confirmation.” 

Head: “Oh, just call the kindy already! They will tell you he’s settled and happily playing or, yes, painting. He might be missing you but he’s actually fine! And this is a healthy separation. Experiencing these will build him up for when he goes to school.”

Toddlers painting at daycare

Is daycare anxiety damaging his mental health?

Heart: “Yes, I worry that it is. His crumbled, worried face is heartbreaking to see. He shouldn’t experience anxiety at his age. His life right now should be just about dinosaur play and zooming trucks down a hill!”

Head: “In order for him to learn that he can cope with his worries and work through them, it’s actually good for him to take little steps to face these things. You just need to keep talking to him and helping him. Maybe create a social story about kindy for tomorrow and buy him a little surprise for being brave today – and then praise the crap out of him for being a big boy who goes to kindy!”

“He just needs encouragement, help and a whole lot of love and support right now. Believe in him.” 

Do I need childcare too?

Heart: “I love my job. It isn’t just about the money. I find full-time mumming exhausting on a physical and emotional level; on another level, I feel it drains me of my identity but when I spend a day at work, the ‘I’m still me’ cup gets refilled.”

“I need a break from my little loves to remember who I am. And I do! And I feel like I’m a better, more engaged and loving mum when this has happened.”

Head. “Heart, you just answered for me.” 


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