Transition Time

Oh my goodness, things have gotten hectic. I know I have neglected the blog, but I’m gearing up for teaching next week and I’m suddenly juggling more a few more responsibilities than I’m used to. Once I figure out how to keep all these balls in the air, I hope I can carve out more writing time again.

It has been a big week for our family. It was Cee’s first week of part-time day care. She seemed to cope with it beautifully. Not surprisingly, I have struggled with it more.

Picking out her new backpack

In the week before she started there, we had three play dates at Cee’s day care, a small in-home program. Cee jumped right into circle time, outdoor play, and meals with the other kids while I watched quietly, usually from a distance. She only clung to me for a few minutes on the first day, and then she was off. She wanted to play with the toys and be a part of the group, and she seemed confident with them. I could tell she was really ready for this change.

After we left our last play date, I told Cee that next time we came, she would stay to play with her new friends and her caregiver – we’ll call her Annie – would take care of her while I went to work. She gave me a funny look.

Over the next few days, I reminded Cee of this plan several times. We would remember something she did at day care or one of her friends there. Each time it came up, I would say something like, “Next time you go to Annie’s house, you will stay to play with the other kids while Mama goes to work.”

Cee: “Yeah.” Then usually a pause, and then, “Mama?”

Me: “Mama will go to work for a little while, but then I’ll come pick you up at lunchtime.”

Cee, nodding her head: “Yeah.” (This leaves me wondering – what exactly does a kid like Cee think of when she imagines “work?”)

On the night before her first day, we packed her bag with diapers and a few changes of clothes, and we repeated the same conversation. Except this time, I could tell that she knew exactly how it would go. She just needed to hear it one more time. She seemed to understand the plan, and she seemed ready.

On drop-off morning, we arrived in plenty of time so I could hang out for a bit while Cee got comfortable. Once she was playing happily, I went and crouched down next to her to tell her that I was leaving for work. She grabbed my neck and said quietly, “No, no, no…”

“Yes, Cee. Mama has to go to work. I’ll be back soon to pick you up. You’ll have lots of fun here playing with these toys and your new friends.”

She squeezed me tight and then relaxed. I kissed her, and she kissed me back. Then she turned and kept playing, not even watching me while I walked out the door.

No tears. I may have been on the verge as I drove the couple of miles away from her. I was so proud of Cee and of us – that we had found a way to prepare her for this and that she had risen to the occasion with grace. New place, new people, surely a bit out of her comfort zone. And I admit, part of me wanted her to be sadder on this day, because it sure felt bittersweet to me. But she seemed to take it as a new adventure, and she had no doubt that I would be back to pick her up.

I stopped at home to have a quick breakfast before biking to campus. Sitting with my coffee cup, the house seemed so oddly quiet for that time of day. I missed her already.

But then, 30 minutes later, I was in a meeting. With adults, smart ones, too. I felt inspired and excited about teaching this term. My world felt bigger, just as Cee’s must have felt that morning.

Pick up that first day went smoothly until I explained to Cee that she had to leave the day care toys at day care. I eventually had to pry a set of toy keys out of her hands in order to get her out the door. After that, she had one meltdown after another between the day care door and our rocking chair where we nursed before nap.

This went on all week. Uneventful drop-off for mornings at day care, followed by meltdowns and passing out at nap time from sheer exhaustion. Cee coped with the changes really well at her day care, but it wore her out for sure.

And although my week was filled with mostly useful meetings and work on preparing my courses for the term, I started to miss her more and more. By Thursday night, I felt I had barely seen her. Before I went to bed, I laid on the floor of her dark room for a while, listening to her breath next to me. In her almost two years of life, how many breaths had she taken apart from me? How many challenges had she faced without me standing behind her? Not many.

This is just the beginning, I know. As of this week, Cee has friends that aren’t also our friends, and she’ll be learning things that we don’t teach her. I have to mourn this a little.

It’s good, really. I’m so excited about teaching this term. Both Cee and I are as ready as we could be for this change. But changes are always hard for me – even the best ones. This is where you can all tell me that it gets easier. Right?

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19 thoughts on “Transition Time

  1. So proud of you and Cee. It is never 100% easy, but, though such the platitude right now, it gets easier as long as you are being fulfilled by the work you’re doing, and she’s growing, learnIng, and happy at her place of childcare. It sounds like you may just be lucky enough to have achieved the combination! Now it just takes the adjustment period. Give yourself a generous 3-4 months :)

    • I think we have the makings of a good balance, but it just doesn’t quite feel that way yet. I still feel as if I am being pulled in too many directions. We need to get settled into our routines and have more separation of work and play time, and then I think it will work well for us. It makes things so much easier that Cee likes her day care though! SO much easier. And I am really excited about my work too:) Thanks for your sweet comment!

  2. I’m glad it went well for you. However, the first week went well with both my kids, too. It was the second, third and many weeks thereafter that they were clingy and cried at drop off time. My son still sometimes does and he’s over 3 now and has been going for over a year. He loves his carers and they are very nice and they cuddle him and stuff. I know he has lots of fun there and doesn’t wana go home in the afternoons. But at drop off, he still often screms the house down. And this was the kids who had been dying to go as he kept seeing his sister go.
    So what I’m saying is: be prepared, the peace might not last. But then again, it might…. let’s hopw it wil :)

    • Thanks for the reality check, Alex. I hope things continue to go smoothly, but if not, I’ll be prepared! Or at least try to be. Today Cee went to day care in the afternoon (last week it was just mornings). I said goodbye to her at home and Husband dropped her off. She had a really hard time saying goodbye to me at home – lots of tears there – and I was glad that Husband was dropping her off. Drop off went fine, but she tends to dump her emotions on me:)

  3. There is a time about 3 weeks in, where the novelty of this new routine wears off and you need a baby and you day. But after that hump, it does get better! Good luck!

    • It’s funny – I woke up Saturday morning and thought, “A Cee and me day!” I was so excited to have some quality time with her. And then it was just one bout of willfulness after another. She just seemed ready to disagree with everything I suggested, to go at a snail’s pace towards her goals, not mine (familiar stuff, I know, but it just seemed really concentrated that morning). And then I felt guilty that I wasn’t enjoying my time with her more. In other words, we are both a little off, definitely still adjusting. I have, however, noticed that Cee seems just a bit more cute these days, now that I miss her a little:)

  4. As with most things in parenting, it’s not a linear path, but it does get easier as you both become more comfortable and confident with the new routine. During the transition week for my daughter’s daycare, I got to know the caregiver pretty well, which helped boost my comfort level. I also reached out to other moms in my daughter’s cohort who, I suspected, were going through the same thing. They were. We exchanged cell numbers and texted each other those first few weeks. That definitely helped. If you have someone you can text or call, even for a little “pick me up,” do it!

    What also got me through the transition time was a book called “The Milk Memos.” A group of breastfeeding mamas at IBM helped each other through the hard time by writing back and forth in a notebook in the pumping room. I read the whole book in a couple days, and cried through most of it, but there were a few bits of info that gave me some comfort:

    1) You are not alone. Moms everywhere are going through the same thing, right now. It does get easier!

    2) As you said, at daycare your child will learn and experience things that are different from home, and that’s a good thing. She will broaden her horizons. I can attest to this — I’m always learning new things from the parents and caregivers. It’s great.

    3) It’s healthy for mamas to have adult conversations and be engaged in careers or extracurricular activities outside the home. It’s energizing and can help demonstrate passion and interest to our kids. For me this is true, and it sounds like it is for you too, though I know full-time moms who are just as healthy and happy without other work.

    4) For me personally, it also helped to know that some moms have to go back to work after just a couple weeks after giving birth. It’s hard at any age, but I truly feel for those mamas who have such short maternity leaves. This made me extremely grateful for the three months I had.

    5) Finally, this might not apply to you, but it was empowering for me: you can make a change if you need to. I loved my job and had no doubt that I’d be happy to go back to work full-time after having my baby, but boy was I wrong! After being back for a month, I decided to ask for part-time or for the option to work from home, but it was unsupportable at our 20-person company. Because my partner and I had amassed a decent savings, I made the decision to quit and either seek freelance jobs, or at the very least be able to spend another 6-12 months with my daughter. Now I’m working part-time from home. My daughter is in daycare just three days a week, and for shorter hours, so she/we still get the benefit of #2 above while I’ve made a change that is benefiting for me and our family in the long-run.

    In short, as you and Cee find a rhythm it will get easier. You will be more confident about your decision, and she will continue learn and grow in her new environment. It’s all good, mama!

    • Thanks for your lovely and thoughtful reply, Melissa. Your #5 really does resonate with me. As much as I cherish my time with Cee during her first year and beyond, I was also feeling a little stuck in the SAHM thing. It is nice to be outside of my comfort zone a little bit, dealing with nerves and then doing a great job at something. There are lots of things about parenting that are fulfilling, but few instances where I am pushed to do something I’m not sure I can do, and few instances when I get that feeling, “Oh yeah, I CAN do this, and also, I’m good at it!” So it is nice to back in that challenging place, and it is even better to come home to Cee and soak up the cuddles. And, like you, I think I am in a place where I can have the best of both worlds. Part-time work and part-time child care, still lots of time with Cee.

  5. This is a lovely description of what these days is a common phenomenon, the starting of daycare! I have posted it on our Facebook page as it is very relevant for our audience of nannies and parents.

  6. I have had my own small in home daycare for 6 years now (after working 10 years in centers and preschools). I recently had 2 children join us (I only keep 4!) and the 2 year old took 3 weeks to find a smooth transition and the 13 month old was fine from the first day! All children are different and I am glad for you that your experience was smooth. When my youngest daughter, now 9, had to go to care when the center I worked for didn’t have room for her, I cried every day when I dropped her off! Sometimes it’s much harder on us parents.

  7. This is a transition week for us, too – I moved my daughter from the daycare she had attended (4 days a week) since 12 weeks of age to an entirely new daycare. We did three playdates there together beforehand, just as you did, to help her prepare. Zoe is 2.5 years old and I think it’s going pretty well so far, but she’s definitely a little clingier and nursing more than normal. Which is FINE with me, because I’m feeling a little clingier than normal, too! Here’s to great transitions for both our girls… and for us mamas.

  8. It does get easier, and it gets harder in some ways. I have had Chloe in daycare since she was 4 months old and I cried so much at first. I felt like such a bad mom… handing off my infant to others to care for while I went to my job. We probably could have figured out a way for me to stay at home for a bit… but honestly… I think I needed to go back to work when I did. I don’t think I could be a stay at home mom. I was kind of going nuts my last month of maternity leave… but I think this was also because my husband was on a job where he only home on the weekends. My parents are deceased and his parents don’t live nearby… so it was just me and baby 24/7. I think you could see how that could be tiring! You’re so lucky you had so much time to be with her in her first two years of life. Sometimes I think about how much time I am not spending with her, day in/day out… but then I also think of how much she is learning in day care. She’s incredibly social. She’s in a phonics class where she’s putting sounds together with the letters she already knows. And we have a few hours each night together. I think we both look forward to that time each day. Good luck getting back to teaching!

  9. I know how you feel. I started my 15 month old son a couple weeks ago on 2 half days at daycare from me watching him by myself at home and it has been an adjustment for both of us. I’ll admit I was a little lost the first day. He has done pretty well there, and only had a couple of meltdowns. Last week he was more upset about not getting to stay one day (we went for picture day and then left again). He has fun there and the group he is with is small, so I’m happy. Plus it gives me a few hours to myself to do what I want, which is a rare occurrence.

  10. Pingback: Almost Two, Strong-willed, and Sweet Through and Through | Science of Mom

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