One of our favourite mums, Sameera Bhayat, is back again with a great piece about how she coped with sending her daughter to nursery as she returned to work. In her own words “For all the parents about to embark, or reembark on the childcare and work journey, I hope these are a few comforting words to help you through it”. You can follow her on instagram here.
We live in very different time to when I grew up. I understand that more now I am a parent. Looking back, that reality hit me hard when my then one-year-old started nursery.I was lucky to be at home with my mother till I started preschool. My family were in a position that meant only my father had to work. My days as a one-year-old were spent in the comfort of my four walls, playing in the park, having morning cuddles.
Those days are not the same anymore. For so many families, the hunt for childcare is a rat race. Waking up early to drop them before the arduous commute to work. Never letting them slip from your mind when you sit at your desk. Panicking if the nursery calls. Rushing back to collect them. Getting home with so little of an evening left. Trying to cook, have bath time and stay on top of all the household items. Realising you and your little one(s) have to do it all over again tomorrow. You go through an entire battle by the time you reach the office, and not everyone will understand. Sometimes they dismiss it and roll their eyes. They do not see the intensity of what you have just endured. It is not just a physical strain, but the emotional strain it has is a million times harder.
I have gone through a lot of nursery and childcare visits, before and during lockdown. Searching the area. Weighing the pros and cons. Evaluating costs. Finding a place where I felt at ease to leave her. I spent months during my maternity leave organising it all, and with a few weeks left, she would be settling in.
And so, I woke her before 7am, her little eyes clinging to sleep, and got her ready. The morning of her first official full day. Warm smiles greeted us as I took her in, and the nursery gave me a little pack of tissues, a coffee and a biscuit, along with a poem that reminded me “…please try not to panic, I’m having a blast… I’m big and strong and ready to meet all my new friends and teachers too”. A small but mighty gesture. Incredibly comforting. I did not let a tear surface, or a sad look on my face appear. I had been strong throughout her settling in stage, and I was not going to give in now.
Did I feel like I abandoned my child? Yes, I did.
Of course, it tugged at my heart that for an entire day my daughter was not with me. Just because I hid it, did not mean I was not tearing up inside. The mum guilt crept in the second I saw her tears brimming as she realised, I will be leaving her. How does time work for a baby? Does an hour fly for them or does it feel like forever? What is she thinking in the day? Did she look for me around the room? Would she play with the other children? She was just so small. Still breastfeeding. She just wanted her mummy. I would soon have to learn how to detach and focus on earning my living to support my family.
The instant level of trust that you have in any place of childcare is the immense. You pray to the depth of your heart that she will be taken care of, hugged and comforted, fed and changed properly; that there is a smile on her face and her laughter echoes. My child is everything to me. These wonderful little humans don’t need fancy buildings or toys. They don’t need a huge garden or complex foods. They just need love, warmth, and a space to be happy.
Did I feel like I abandoned my child? Yes. I did.
She is a part of me, and at such a young age she relied on me for everything, but I left her elsewhere. I had no other choice. Circumstances are different, the work life is a struggle, and living in the city is tough. Yet as her mother, I had to find the best way to help her adjust to her new world. I needed to ensure we navigate on our new journey together and embrace it holding hands. She would eventually learn that when I put her bag down and smile at her, I will be back. That she has come to a place where she can play to her hearts content and make as much mess as she wants. And quicker than I anticipated, she settled in. She was happy, secure, and understanding.
Every day when I sat in the car after the drop off, I was so grateful for what I have. Parents are separated from their children. Parents do not have a safe place to leave them. Parents must raise their children in the harshest of places. Children are abandoned. Children fend for themselves. Children crave love and are forgotten.
At the end of the day, times may have changed, and she might be two and a half now, but I will be there to pick her up and bring her home. To listen to her day and hang up her pictures on the wall.No matter if we are apart for the day, she is a part of me. And that keeps me going.
You can find more of Sameera Bhayat’s work here: