Daycare! It can’t be easy putting your newborn in daycare. The bond between mom and dad and their newborn happens instantly. It’s this magnetic pull of the earth that nature creates. It’s sugar and spice. Until you have kids, it’s hard to fathom this amazing connection, and the tears with separation.
Hannah and I never faced the daycare decision. For twelve years Hannah was a stay-at-home mom for our three kids. It was a choice made easier by the fact that our first house in Tempe, Arizona cost $21,000, and it was furnished! Only when our son Will was in middle school in Maine did Hannah return to full time work as a volunteer coordinator at a health and hospice care facility.
I grew up in the Leave it to Beaver white bread world of the 1950s suburban northern Jersey where my dad went off to work as a high school principal while Mom stayed home taking care of us three kids. Things are not so simple these days. For Molly and Tip, either one staying at home was just not an option. With rent for a two bedroom apartment close to $2000/month in Arlington, Virginia outside of Washington, DC, she and Tip pay more in rent in one year than Hannah and I paid for our first house.
Our grandson, Owen Daniel Rawding, was born in July. As a public school teacher, our daughter Molly was able to stay home with him for the months of August and September before returning to teach in October. Despite the sleepless nights and the sleepwalking days of Owen’s first months, Molly and Tip are naturals as parents; they cuddle Owen, care for him, and smile through it all. No matter how tired, they make time to Skype with each set of grandparents on a regular basis. Their bond with Owen is liquid nail strong.
So how do you hand over your precious child to strangers? Molly and hubby Tip had been looking for the right daycare for the better part of a year. They put a lot of pressure on themselves to get this decision right. Molly and Tip found an ideal placement where they hit the trifecta: the teacher was caring, gentle and nurturing; she makes home visits before she accepts new infants. Then, a major bummer; the placement fell through because at the last minute a sibling of a current baby was going to start attending that daycare and took Owen’s spot.
Scrambling at the last minute, they took a recommendation from a mom in Molly’s mother’s group. They learned of a new place situated on a street in a middle class neighborhood with four houses to an acre, mature trees and lawns for kids’ games and rolling around, similar to where Molly was born in Tempe, Arizona. By the skin of their teeth, they had their daycare on time on the first of October.
Later that month while Hannah and I are in Virginia, we go with Molly to pick up Owen to see where our grandson spends his days. Once inside the house, we are warmly greeted by the lead teacher/caregiver. Immediately her welcoming smile makes us feel like old friends. Along the far wall of the wide foyer to the playroom are eight high chairs lined up for lunchtime. Being the youngest, Owen is months away from a high chair and so is fed individually by one of the assistant teachers. In the main room, eight cribs surround a colorful playroom rug where infants two and a half years and younger spend their mornings and afternoons loved by these three women. Music plays in a room of windows that lets joyous light pour in.
As we lay back in the foyer, Molly coos to Owen as she picks him up. Nestled in her arms, Owen stretches and looks around knowing he is already home; which he is any time he is in his mom’s or dad’s arms.
As a first time mother, Molly tells us she feels a sense of comfort knowing Owen is with these women and these kids. Trust is the first word that comes to mind when Molly thinks of this setting. I feel love every day that I drop Owen off. It’s incredible – although it’s a hard feeling to really pinpoint and describe; in my gut, I know this is a great place for Owen. The teachers greet us in the morning with smiles and greet us with smiles in the afternoon after a day with up to twelve little ones.
The first day I dropped him off, I certainly teared up…and so did the head teacher. But from day one, I knew he was in good hands. I missed him, but I was totally confident that he was being loved and cared for. Each morning, the head teacher welcomes us – when I pass Owen off to her, she hugs him and says something like “good morning my love, good morning Owen.” It’s just the best feeling knowing and seeing her love for my son.
It’s clear that Owen has a home away from home. And that’s pretty sweet.