As I sit here, watching the CCTV monitor, in the lobby of the day care, which my son has started attending since yesterday, I am filled with a feeling of blankness so deep which I have never felt before. This is his second day, and today he is crying more than he did yesterday. He is starting for only 2 hours a day as of now, and this is a new kind of helplessness that I am finding very hard to handle. I see him cry on the shoulders of the mentor, he holds on tight to her, and I don’t know how to deal with it. Whenever he cries, the first thing I do is hug him and soothe him. But now I am waiting here outside, watching him being soothed by another person, because I know that he needs to learn to spend time away from me too.
I can see him running towards the door over and over again, I know he will be trying to turn the door knob and come out. He knows mom is waiting for him upstairs. I am not feeling guilty, but I am feeling utterly sad today. I know both in my heart and in my head that this is necessary, he needs to spend some time away from his family members, this will help him build his independence.
He is too small though, and I can see it hurts him, he does not understand why is he being left alone. Before this, he always has had his family with him at all times. Even though, I had joined back work when he was only 3 months old, but my parents were staying with us that time. He had seen his grandma from the day he was born and he loved being with her. Even when mom and dad left for office, he had grandpa and grandma with him. Two months ago, we relocated to a new city and I had to leave my job. Since then he had always been with me 24*7. So this is the first time that he is spending 2 hours without any of us and that too in an unfamiliar surrounding. He is not happy about it and I am not sure that I can handle it.
Yesterday after going back from here, when I put him down for a nap, he held on to my hand while sleeping. Once he fell asleep, I tried to move away, but he started crying terribly, he never does that, he always rolls over and keeps sleeping when we move away. But yesterday he did not let go of me. I sat there holding him in my arms the whole time he napped. I know he was anxious. Today on the way over he was his usual self, running and jumping and not at all clingy, but the moment we walked inside the doors here, he clung to me and would not let go. My baby knew I was going to leave him again. And he did not want that. I hated to have to let go.
This letting go is too soon, and is a part of a parent’s life for always. You let them go; first for a couple of hours, then for longer, then to school, college, studies, then to another city, another home, it goes on. It is the hardest thing you will ever do but you have to do it nonetheless. It is different for each mother when she does let go, some do sooner, some a little later, but eventually all mothers have to do it.
And this day here, the first day of this, I understand very surely, that for me, it is going to be as hard as this always. It is going to break my heart each time with the same intensity. Because it will never be easy for me to let go of my baby, be it for an hour, or for many many hours. I just hope and pray to God that it is not as hard for him. I hope that it will become easier for him, that is the whole point of doing this. So that it should be easy for him to let go, so that, it becomes fun for him to go out and explore, and make new friends, learn new things, see new places and enjoy every moment of it, and not miss me. That is what a parent truly hopes for and I know that kids learn to do that, they do not miss the parent every single moment, that is how life works and that is what I want.
Me on the other hand, I am going to miss him every second I spend away from him, always. I learnt today, that this is another unwanted gift of motherhood, first was guilt, second is this feeling of missing your child every single second.
Ok, now enough of this sentimental outpouring,
Here are a few things you need to check out and questions you need to ask before you finalise a day care/ crèche for your child, whether it is a formal daycare or an in home care.
1. Facility : Check out the facility yourself, insist upon a tour, and assess the facility. It should be a safe and hygienic environment for your child. Specially in case of an in house day care, is it properly child- proofed?
2. Ratio : What is the child to mentor ratio; i.e. How many children are assigned to one teacher/ mentor. Ensure that the abide by the committed numbers
3. Training: Are the nurses/ caregivers trained in the basic child care. Are they trained in child safety? Are they trained on how to handle if a child is choking? Definitely meet both mentors and nurses and ask as many questions as you want. Assess them before starting there.
4. Handling by Mentors: Look at how the mentors/ caregivers are handling the other children. How do they behave. Children need a lot of love and care. Watch them, how they are around children, are they close enough to them, are they down on the floor with the kids or are they talking down to them. Are they soft-spoken? You may not be allowed inside but they may have a place from where you can watch.
5. Security: What are the security features there? Is the exit and entry controlled and monitored continuously? Is there a proper register, maintained at all times?
6. CCTV: Many daycares have CCTV coverage, the feed of which is accessible to the parents. Check whether all the areas where your child can possibly be, are covered by cameras.
7. Policies: Ask what are their policies about handling a child.
* How do they discipline?
* What are their sickness policies?
* What are the ways of teaching/ activities they adopt?
* What are their policies about letting a child go home after finishing class? Do they allow someone to pick up a child if the parent permits it on phone? Or do they allow only those people, whom the parent has authorised by bringing them down in person and introducing beforehand. Is a photo Id maintained of all such people by the facility?You should be keenly aware of all these things.
* Do they practise the same style of parenting and teaching as your’s? Children should not have to deal with different styles.
* Do they allow any TV time/ entertainment time?
* Do they provide the parents with the day to day Activity Planner?
* How do they handle any problem/ emergency?
8. Attrition: How old is the facility and how long have the staff been working? On an average, Do the staff stay with the facility for long? Children need stability, it is not good if their handlers or mentors change often.
9. Meals: Are meals provided by the daycare or do the kids carry their own food? If they provide it, please ask what all are given as meals, ask for a proper weekly meal plan.
10. Behaviour of staff: How do you find the staff? Helpful? Co operative? Smart? Do you like them? Do you like their smiles? Are you comfortable around them?
11. First- Aid: Do they have basic first-aid and do they know how to provide basic first aid? Ask to see the First Aid kit and check the contents. Do they give any Over the counter medicines without consultation? This should be a red flag in my opinion, even home based remedies should not be administered unless a parent directs to do so.
12. Fire and Water: Check for Fire and building safety measures and water hazards
13. Transport: Do they provide pick up and drop, ask who accompanies a child on the same? Ensure you double check on this point
14. Kitchen Area & Hygiene standards: Definitely check this area out and check how is the hygiene maintained in there and also all throughout the facility
15. Feedback: Ask around for feedback before enrolling in a place. Ask in your groups or neighbourhood, from parents who are using the same facility and what do they think about it
16. Compare: Look at all the feasible options around you and compare them, take some time out and visit them. Ask for a demo session if you like a place
17. Gut Instinct: Go by your gut instinct when choosing a place, it is almost always right. Only finalise a place if you feel good about it, not because it is the only option available or the cheapest one or nearest one. There is no scope of compromise wherever your child is concerned.
There are a few things which you need to always keep doing once you finalise a place.
1. Ask what your child did each day
2. Ask what he ate, how he napped etc
3. Keep the communication lines open always
4. Drop by announced from time to time and check on your child
5. Look out for any signs of discomfort / unhappiness / change in behaviour in your child
6. If your child can talk, ask him about his day in detail
7. Provide a set of instructions for your child, like what all can he eat, any allergies etc, preferred activities, what is his allowed mode of pick up. Keep reiterating these every other week. There is no harm in repeating these; it drives the point home. They may think you are a bit batty, but you should be able to live with it.
8. If you have any issues, raise them instantly, do not wait to resolve it later. Ask then and there, if need be, call up and ask.
9. Ask as many questions as possible, anyway, they already think you are batty, so there.
10. Ensure that you maintain a routine. Pick up and drop your child at the same time daily. This would give him a sense of stability
11. Lastly, if you are not happy with something, leave and search for another option.
Leaving a child in daycare is always hard on parents; children I have heard though, learn to enjoy it. Whenever you decide to put your child in a daycare, it is a big decision and the choice should be made with utmost care.