Over the course of my daughter’s life, I have made many mistakes. I’ve scalded her in the shower. I’ve let her roll off the bed as an infant. I’ve given her cookies and fruit snacks for breakfast. I’ve inadvertently taught her all the swear words. I’ve left markers within her reach. I’ve done many, many stupid things. However, I am convinced that my most recent mistake is the biggest to date.
Let me back up a bit.
Before The Princess was born it was decided that I would stay home with her. If I’m going to be entirely honest, as soon as I realized that being a stay-at-home-mom was even a thing, I knew that I wanted to stay home with my kids…at least until they started school.
For a variety of reasons, I decided to turn in an application to the local daycare center a couple of weeks ago. It seemed like the perfect solution. I could make some extra money, The Princess could spend some time with kids and get used to a school-like setting, and the daycare prices are significantly reduced for the children of staff members. Plus, I would be right there in case of an emergency.
Truthfully, when I turned in the application I didn’t think for a second that I’d get a call back, so I was surprised when I was asked to come in for an interview a week later.
When I came in, the director asked me some basic questions about my application and then cut to the chase. “The hours are 9:30 to 5:30. The first part of the day you’ll be cooking, and then you’ll be in the baby room. The pay is minimum wage. If you want it, you have the job.”
So, we dove into the paperwork. She had asked me to stay and get started right then, but I had to get back home and get my daughter so that Almost-Husband could go to work, so I declined. She then asked about the next day, but it was the day before I was leaving for vacation. We talked a bit and it was decided that I would start work the following Tuesday when I returned.
And that, my friends, was the mistake to end all mistakes (thus far in my parenting career).
I left town Thursday evening for my annual trip to The Fest For Beatles Fans. Since the drive is so long, my mom, best friend, and I drive up to my aunt’s house and crash for the night before she, her daughter, and my grandmother join us and we continue on to Chicago.
I spent the next 3 and a half days blissfully enjoying the rare opportunity to exist as my own entity. Until I returned home at 6:30 Monday evening, I was just Brandyn. No cries of “Mommy I need…” or poop-filled pull-ups or throwing away barely touched meals. No responsibilities. Just family and fellow Beatles fans. I participated in a 60s costume contest, listened to amazing live music, heard some fantastic speakers, made some frivolous purchases, and thoroughly enjoyed myself.
However, as the weekend drew to a close, I began to wonder if I was going back to work too quickly after spending so much time away from my family. When I finally walked through my front door, my daughter ran at me shrieking with laughter and delight, “Mommy’s home! Mommy’s home!”
We spent all evening snuggling and playing and laughing and I knew I should have taken an extra day to be with her. But, I reasoned that this was good. I had come home refreshed and energized and we would be starting a new journey together.
Tuesday morning I woke up with just enough time to get myself dressed before waking up The Princess and getting her ready for her first day at “school”. She was convinced that Practice Baby would be there, and I reluctantly informed her that they would be at different schools. She seemed happy enough and bounded out the door eager to make new friends.
As soon as we got there she ran off to play with the other kids and I breathed a sigh of relief as I went into the kitchen to start my day. With the help of the lady in charge of training me, I prepared lunch for the kids and helped serve the meal. I sat next to my daughter to eat my lunch, grateful that we would be able to make this a part of our day.
When it was time to clean up, the first meltdown occurred. She needed her mommy. Now.
I took some time to console her and left her with the big kids so I could learn the ropes in the baby room. She cried and cried. My heart broke.
Soon, I peeked out the door and caught her enjoying herself. I smiled and returned to my job. This was going to be gravy. A while later, I had to leave the room and she spotted me. Another meltdown ensued, but I knew I had to push through.
The end of the day came and after yet another round of hysterical tears, I brought her in with me while I cleaned up and prepared to go home. I reminded myself that it was only the first day and vowed to spend some extra quality time with her when we got home.
She had other plans. As soon as we were in the door she demanded to watch Curious George and be left alone. I made dinner, called my mom, and cleaned up the house a little. All told, I thought it was a pretty good first day.
The next two days, however, were just as tearful. She stopped trying to play with the other kids, opting to stand to the side and pout in between crying sessions. I’m not going to lie, I may have cried a little myself over this.
At this point, I’m at a loss. I want her to get used to a more structured setting before she starts real school. I want her to make friends. I want to bring in a paycheck. But, I can’t help but feel guilty when I’m giving attention to other children while my own child is screaming for her mommy. I can’t help but worry about the strict routine destroying the beautifully wild and independent nature of my little one. I can’t help but be concerned that I’m teaching her to settle by taking a job that isn’t my dream job.
I can’t help but wonder if this is really right for us.
At the behest of my mother, we are going to stick it out for at least two more weeks. If she doesn’t adjust, we’re probably going to have to rethink this move. For now, however, we just have to plug along and hope for the best.
Any of you amazing parents have any tips on how to handle this transition? I’d love to hear them!