I’ll never forget the day I toured our daycare for the first time. The doors felt so heavy. The place felt so foreign. I felt so confused. A few months earlier, my intention had been to stay at home once our little one was born. Allison, one of my dearest friends and a seasoned working mother, convinced me otherwise. She knew me too well.
We were seated in the middle of a favorite Italian spot on the east side of Providence. It was a place where we had shared many meals before, but this one was the most pivotal. She looked at me, across the table, and asked if I should try going back to work. She knew my husband’s work schedule. She knew my drive. She knew we didn’t have family close by to help. She explained that going back to work had made her a better mother. I believed her.
I toured the daycare center in lockstep with the director. I was astounded by the number of highchairs and toys and baby gates and drooly infants. In the same breath, I was also amazed at how happy the children seemed and how attentive the staff was. I had toured another facility a few days prior, but it didn’t compare. I filled out the application and I walked out knowing this center was the one for us.
Daycare didn’t really cross my mind again until about a month before I was scheduled to return to work. My maternity leave was filled with loneliness, uncertainty, and copious amounts of snow. Facebook groups for moms were just becoming a thing, so I asked the question about what I need to prepare for daycare. (I’ve since written my own tome on the subject.) I felt completely and utterly overwhelmed.
The week before I started back, our daycare offered a drop-in day. They said it would help us all adjust. I could start to drop off some of the things on their supply list and James could start to get used to his new surroundings. I used the time to get a haircut. I also got a Guinness, by myself, at the pub I loved by our old apartment in Providence. It was the first time I had been really been alone since James was born. It was strange, yet in the same breath, I felt ever-so-slightly like the woman I knew before children. I just had a car seat base in my car. I was starting to understand what my dear friend was trying to tell me, without saying it, during our cozy Italian meal.
His first day of daycare was March 9th, 2015. His last day of daycare was August 30th, 2019. James spent roughly 54 months (give or take) in the center I toured so bewildered and round-bellied in the fall of 2014. There were more finger paintings, accident reports, silly pictures, and tough drop-offs than I could ever quantify. In that building, our acquaintances became our family. In that building, I learned what motherhood really is. It is an imperfect journey with plenty of potholes and detours, but we make it through with the support of our proverbial village.
I’ll admit it: I wasn’t into the idea of daycare when we first explored it. So many germs! So many kids! Such a commute! However, I didn’t know how much I would appreciate all that came with daycare. A confidence that James was learning in a way I couldn’t teach him on my own. An assurance that he was growing into the best human he could be. A peace in knowing my child was cared for and loved by an army of women (and Mr. Ryan).
Sure, it wasn’t all roses. Parenthood never is. I’m sure I nagged too much about some things. I’m positive I missed a few memos over the years. It was the place I learned other mothers (and fathers) were as crazy as I was — and it felt fantastic to be in that company. It happened just like Allison said it would, over our plates of pasta, many moons ago. In our years of daycare, I became a better mother. I learned to trust others. I found myself and I found my tribe. I’m so grateful I listened.
P.S. We aren’t fully done with daycare 😉 Rosie still has another year before she joins James at our new school. I’m bound to be an even bigger mess when she rounds out her time there…