When Maternity Leave Ends: Preparing for Daycare

Oh, maternity leave. The “magical” weeks following the birth of a baby when a working mom gets to stay home with her newborn.  No matter how many weeks you’re able to have there’s one thing that remains true…

It’s never enough.

Let’s face it. Those week aren’t always magical. Sure, they have their wonderful moments… but they are also exhausting, hard, emotional, and unpredictable.   

So much of the time we have during maternity leave is spent getting into a groove with our new little one. Us getting to know them and them getting to know us.  Yes, the baby snuggles and warm cuddles are amazing, but whether it’s your first child or your fourth, it can be hard. Very hard.

Then, it starts to get easier. We make it through, week by week. We start getting into more of a routine and our little ones begin following more of a schedule. The number of hours we sleep each night increases and we become more familiar with one another. We start feeling better about things and enjoying our time more.

Suddenly, as quick as it began, it ends.

When Maternity Leave Ends: Preparing for Daycare

When maternity leave ends and our time at home with our baby comes to a close, we have to prepare ourselves for someone new to take care of them.    

We have to prepare ourselves for daycare.

Allowing someone else to take care of your baby is not an easy thing to do.  Many moms struggle with the idea and the thought of leaving their child in someone else’s care. However, it has to be done when you’re a working mom.  Maybe it’s a relative, and in-home, or a day care center.

No matter where or who, the fact is that it’s not you. That can be hard for a mom.

I recently went through this when my maternity leave ended with my son in March, and I struggled.  The Friday before he was going to start, I went to drop off some of his things and after I left, I just sat in my car and I cried.  With him being my second child, I thought it would be easy. Honestly, I think it was harder this time than it was with my first.

Here are some tips to prepare both you and your child for daycare once your maternity leave ends:

  • Take a day to visit.  The week prior to you going back to work, be sure to take the time to visit your daycare center or provider. Even if it is a relative or nanny coming to your home, have them come and spend a day with you and your child.
  • Allow yourself time.  Give yourself plenty of time to really get a good feel for where your child will be spending their days. This will help you feel more comfortable dropping them off each day.
  • Personally meet the teachers/providers. Feeling confident in the person or people caring for your child is the most important part of preparing yourself for daycare. Meet them, talk with them, and get to know them.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Speak up. You are mom and you are leaving your child in the care of another person.  NO question is a stupid question, so ask as many as you want or need in order to feel confident. Make your expectations clear.
  • Communicate.  As is the case in any relationship, communication is KEY.  (Check out this post!) Bottom line, this is your baby and you will be spending 8 hours a day (give or take) away from them.  The only way you’ll know what happened during their day is to communicate with your childcare provider.  
  • Ease your child into it.  In the days leading up to your child’s first full day of daycare, consider taking them in for a couple of hours to begin adjusting to their new surroundings.  This can also give your daycare provider a chance to get to know your child and understand how they can best care of them.
  • Expect the first few days to be rough.  Let’s be realistic. The probability of a perfectly smooth transition is unlikely and that’s okay. If we expect that, it won’t make the reality of it quite as difficult.  But, just like everything else, it will get easier.  

No matter how long of a maternity leave we have, going back to work is never easy. If we can better prepare ourselves for the adjustment of daycare, we can better prepare our babies.  It can make the inevitable seem a little more tolerable. 

You’ve got this, mama!  

How did you prepare for your child to begin daycare once your maternity leave was over?

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Ashley is a ‘small town’ girl who moved to the ‘big city’ of Cedar Rapids after high school. A graduate of Coe College, Ashley is currently a kindergarten teacher and a true lover of yoga pants, cozy sweatshirts, chai tea lattes and cookie dough. Ashley and her husband, Mitch, first met each other back in middle school, dated when they were freshmen in high school, then reconnected one final time via Facebook back in 2006 shortly after Mitch returned from his first deployment. They've stood by their vows of ‘for better or worse,’ and as they approach their 10 year wedding anniversary, they aren’t afraid to admit that marriage isn’t easy. They welcomed their first child, Stella Grace Bass, in May of 2013 and their second child, Archer Mitchell Bass, in December of 2017!