I refused to feel guilty for sending my toddler to nursery… so why do I feel guilty anyway?
I didn’t feel remotely guilty about our decision to send Max to nursery.
I mean… I kind of did. But, to be totally honest, I think I felt guilty about not feeling guilty, if that makes sense?
The fact is, by the end of last year, we knew we just couldn’t go on the way we were : by which I mean, “barely working”. It would be great not to have to worry about money, obviously, but, like many people, we have to work to survive, and I just can’t bring myself to feel guilty about that. We have to work: and if two afternoons of nursery per week were going to help us do that – and give Max a chance to socialise with other children a bit more, into the bargain – then it seemed like a reasonable compromise to me.
It started off pretty well.
I mean, I’m not going to claim he loved it, exactly: like, he wasn’t rushing out of the house desperate to get to nursery, or anything like that. He didn’t hate it either, though: in fact, he bonded pretty quickly with one of the “ladies”, as he calls them, and he was a big fan of the snacks (What can I say, the boy loves his food…) so it all seemed ideal, really. He was getting to do lots of messy play and new activities: we were finally starting to see the light at the end of the financial tunnel, and were looking forward to getting just a little bit of our old lives/selves back after two years of full-time, stay-at-home parenting.
So, Max was happy, we were happy: I finally felt like we were getting some much-needed balance…
… and then Max came down with Hand, Foot & Mouth disease , and turned into a completely different child, apparently. Plot twist!
OK, OK, it wasn’t a complete personality change. The thing is, Max has been going through a bit of a clingy stage for a while now, but that single illness just seemed to take it to the next level. He wanted to be cuddled. He wanted to be held. He wanted mummy to lie in bed with him, and hold his hand while he slept, and by the time he was starting to feel better again, I’d pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I was probably never going to visit the bathroom alone ever again.
Yeah, it was like THAT.
It was my own fault, obviously: I mean, I’m not stupid (Well, not ALL the time, anyway…) – I knew perfectly well that I was setting myself up for future trouble by pandering to these requests, but, at the same time, I also knew I had a little boy who wasn’t feeling well, and just wanted a cuddle from his mummy: and, honestly, if you can resist that, then all I can say is you’re made from sterner stuff than I am, because I crumbled like a biscuit. A really wet, crumbly biscuit, which, to be honest, quite enjoys a bit of a cuddle itself, so might as well just go with it, right?
The spots lasted for around 10 days, but, because Max only goes to nursery a couple of times per week, he ended up being off for almost a fortnight. Honestly, though, he was well enough to have gone back earlier, and, in retrospect, that’s what we should have done.
We didn’t, though.
No, instead, we chose to keep him home just a bit longer than we needed too … and then we wondered why he didn’t want to go back AT ALL. WHY THOUGH?
His first day back was a little bit tricky, but we told ourselves it was just the first day, and it was bound to get better soon.
But it did NOT get better.
In fact, it got to the point where Terry had to ban me from doing the nursery drop-offs, because it would always end in tears… and I’ll leave you to work out for yourselves whose tears they were. I did, however, continue with the pick-ups, which have been almost equally emotional in that, the second I walk through the door, Max drops whatever he’s doing – sometimes literally – and comes running towards me, flinging his arms around me and occasionally bursting into tears. Twice now I’ve turned up to find him standing staring at the CCTV screen showing the nursery car park, where he’d apparently stationed himself so he could see the car the second it pulled in.
It’s heartbreaking. Like, absolutely heartbreaking.
So far, we’ve tried everything we can think of to make the transition easier on him. We’ve explained why he goes to nursery, and why mummy and daddy have to work. We’ve assured him over and over again that we will always, always come back for him, and that ‘the ladies’ at nursery are just taking care of him for a little while. We’ve given him treats for going, and tried to illustrate that all of the fun things we do on his days off are paid for by they money ( THE MONEY ) we earn while he’s at nursery. We’ve praised him to high heaven, and repeated again that it’s just for a little while, and that we’ll ALWAYS come back.
He still doesn’t want to go.
The nursery staff have been great in all of this. They’ve told us it’s totally normal, and that they’re used to dealing with it – and, more importantly, that, once we’ve left, he always settles down and plays quite happily, until 20 minutes or so before we’re due to collect him, at which point he starts asking for us again. This particular nursery has an app which they use to send us photos of him throughout his sessions, so we can see for ourselves that he isn’t just moping for us all day long.
None of this, however, changes the fact that he just doesn’t want to go: or how guilty I feel about it.
I know I shouldn’t feel guilty. It’s not like Max is the first child to ever go to nursery, after all, and we’re hardly the only parents who have to work for a living. Right now, it’s basically a choice between either sending Max to nursery and being able to pay our bills, or keeping him home and risking not HAVING a home for much longer… which is no choice at all, really.
All the same, though, I wish it was easier. I wish he enjoyed it more. I wish there was a way I could earn a living without it having an effect on him. I wish I could guarantee that he would never have to do anything he didn’t want to, or feel even a moment’s sadness at being away from us. Most of all, I wish I didn’t have to spend all my time feeling like no matter what I do, I’m letting someone down: because, right now I’m doing my best to look after Max and earn a living, and I just don’t feel like I’m doing either of those things very well – which I think is the most guilt-inducing thing of all.
The good news, however, is that we only have to keep on like this until we win the lottery and give up work: well, someone has to… right?