Parents return to work after having children for a myriad of reasons. For some, it is out of financial necessity. For others, it’s because they genuinely love their jobs. But no matter the reason, that first day of daycare drop-off is hard on just about every parent. The working parent guilt is very real.
No matter how much a person loves his or her job, and no matter how ill-suited they feel about being a stay-at-home mom or stay-at-home dad, it is heart-breaking to hand the child they love so much off to someone else for 8 to 10 hours a day. It’s hard to miss the many “firsts” that occur over the course of early childhood development, and it is sad to not be the one there, kissing all the booboos and providing all the care.
So it’s common for working parents to start feeling a bit of guilt. Working parent guilt is a guilt that is sometimes borne of outside pressure, maybe a relative who is constantly harping on the many benefits of children having a stay-at-home parent. And it is guilt that is built upon every time your child cries when you drop them off at preschool or has a bad day and you aren’t there to provide the comfort you so desperately long to provide. It is a guilt that is sometimes inescapable; a reality of parenthood that every working mom and dad has to face at one point or another.
But that doesn’t mean you should embrace or allow the working parent guilt to consume you. Because while there are pros and cons to every situation, there really are also a lot of benefits that come from finding the right child care for your baby, toddler and preschooler.
First and foremost, quality child care programs also offer early childhood education opportunities that would be difficult to replicate at home for most parents. Let’s remember that many daycare centers have experts creating curriculums that include music, foreign language immersion, and pre-kindergarten requirements. While stay-at-home parents are certainly interactive and help their children learn as well, unless they have a degree in early childhood education, they likely won’t be hitting all the same areas that a quality child care center or preschool will focus on.
Then, of course, there is the socialization aspect to consider. It is good for your child to interact with his or her peers on a daily basis. Doing so provides the opportunity to learn valuable social skills, like sharing and cooperating with others. But even beyond that, it is also good for your child to learn how to rely on adults other than you and your spouse. It helps to prepare them for pre-k, and for school beyond that. It also gives them a chance to experience other personalities and expectations.
The real key is finding child care that you feel comfortable with. Visit several child care centers (or home daycares), get to know the child care providers your child will be interacting with, and find the best daycare for your needs. That may mean specifically seeking a preschool that offers a curriculum you could get excited about your child being exposed to. Do you want there to be a focus on art? Science? Or languages? Would you like a center that embraces a certain preschool teaching philosophy, like Montessori, Waldorf or Reggio Emilia for instance? What about religion? Or opportunities for field trips off-site?
No matter what you are hoping for, there is likely a child care program capable of providing it. The guilt will always be there, but finding a daycare or preschool that meets your needs and where your children are happy can help to dissipate a lot of those feelings of missing out. When you are confident that your child is being nurtured and well cared for, it allows you to truly focus on what matters, so that you can enjoy your evenings and weekends together all that much more!