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Returning to Work: Tackling your Day Care Blues

“Prior to having a baby, I didn’t peg myself for being all that maternal.”

I’m pretty sure a lot of women say this. They also say, “I couldn’t have possibly fathomed how much it was possible to love someone before I had my own child.” Both of these things are true for me. Prior to Baby Thor, I was career focused and fiercely independent. I had no idea what it was going to be like to have someone so dependent on me – until I did. You can’t prepare for the feeling; the ups, the downs, the up-ups and the way way downs…. you also can’t prepare for the feeling you’ll have when you finally think about returning to work and leave your baby in the care of a stranger.

This article is a little bit about my experience finding a day care centre and heading back into the working world. It’s by no means expert advice, merely one person’s ten cents. I hope it helps someone out there in the same situation find a little sense of calm.

“I categorically do not want to go back to work and leave my little boy,’ said the voice in my head over and over again in the weeks leading up to my return to corporate. My little boy was just about to turn one and I was dreading it. One year was the allotted time I had given myself out of the working world. This was the time I could afford to take. Now, whether you have to go back to work or choose to – mine was both A&B – this process will not be easy.

I searched for day care centres that had great word-of-mouth. I had heard the horror stories of waiting lists and found them all to be true, but I managed to secure a space in an obscenely expensive centre near where I’d be working. (More on choosing a location close to home or work in the next article.)  I couldn’t go view it, because I was living in another state. This made choosing doubly hard, but the guy who owned it seemed really nice via the phone and email, so I put down my deposit.

Once I arrived in Sydney, I did a trial run on public transport with my one year old. I-WANTED-TO-CRY. I can’t do this every morning! People are so unfriendly, so unhelpful and so rude! Of course this isn’t entirely true, but in the wound-up mind of a stressed out new mother, each busy, tunnel-visioned executive was a potential landmine. So I had a change of heart and found somewhere without a wait list – shock horror – that was close to home. In an emergency, I could be there in 20 minutes in a cab. Not out of the question. I lost my deposit, but in the long run, it made much more sense.

And so came my first day returning to work. I cried for two nights straight and felt like crying for about two weeks afterwards. Baby Thor would sob each time I left him. I’m talking screaming the place down, sobbing. I’d crouch outside the door with tears rolling down my cheeks waiting until I knew he wasn’t crying anymore then drag myself into the office and attempt to be professional for the next eight hours. Yeah. Good times. But then I picked him up and he was happy as, well, Larry. They assured me he’d had a fun-filled day and there had been no more tears after my initial departure. So with a slightly less heavy heart, I took him home. And so the days rolled into weeks and the weeks into months and you know what? Things aren’t just fine… they are great.

The fact is this:

It will be hard. Despite Thor being a well grounded, secure little boy, he was horrified at my sudden departure from the only routine he ever knew.

The good news is this:

It will get better. Kids are bloody brilliant and they adapt with more efficiency than we “adults” do. Thor was in a new routine within a couple of weeks of me returning to work. No more tears. No more confusion.

The great news is this:

They love it. After about a month, Thor had such a great relationship with his educators, he would run to them with open arms. I’d leave with a smile on my face knowing he loves the learning, loves the play and loves the people. His social behaviour is excellent and I enjoy watching him interact with kids in the park, knowing he understands boundaries and sharing so well for a toddler. He’s gentle and caring and it makes the time I do have with him so precious, I treasure every moment.

So in my opinion, as long as you find a day care centre that you are comfortable with, the interaction with other kids is so beneficial to your child and the centres provide activities and education-based fun that would just not be possible for us to achieve ourselves at home. All big ticks.

It’s not easy for mothers to make decisions around returning to work; hours, days and commitment level, but for some women it’s not a choice, it’s a necessity. No situation is ideal, but whatever bracket you fall into, try not to stress out too much and try not to feel guilty, because eventually, a couple of weeks or a couple of months down the line, it will work out better than you ever believed it would.

Hang in there.


TIP: If you’re in or around Inner West Sydney, I can’t recommend Rita and her team at  Explore and Develop Alexandria enough.


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