Last year, on September 7th, I was 31 weeks pregnant. I was still hard at work at ParentsCanada magazine and going about my daily routine. And then, surprise! After a serious emergency delivery, my first baby, Eleanor, entered my world. I gave her the gift of life, and she gave me the gift of one year’s maternity leave.
How can I describe maternity leave? Bliss? Heaven? Like having an abundance of free time to accomplish all your goals, but without the pressure or requirement of follow-through. Last week, this slice of paradise came to an end, which meant saying goodbye to my freedom…and goodbye to my little girl.
The worst part about heading back to the office is that, as a commuter, I don’t get to see my daughter in the morning. I leave the house before she wakes, and my hubby is the one that feeds and dresses her in the morning (you can tell he picks out her clothes—one outfit was pink pajama pants with a too-big shirt in a different shade of pink). As I drive home, I race against the clock. If I make it home faster than my husband, then I get to pick her up. After only one day, I realized I miss her.
The best thing about returning to work is that I have full confidence in my childcare. I am lucky in that a good friend runs a home daycare and Eleanor is in excellent hands. I know childcare is an issue that can be very stressful. Making the right decision involves several factors:
1. Who will be the main caregiver? It is important that you meet and visit with this person. It will ease your mind knowing you have someone trustworthy and pleasant to deal with. They should have lots of energy (for outdoor play and activities), plenty of patience and be well-organized. Ask about their background as well (education, experience with kids, etc).
2. Is the environment up to your standards? Look around the daycare. Are there plenty of toys? If so, make sure they are in good condition and the play area looks clean. Find out where your child will eat and sleep, and explore those areas as well. In a home daycare, look for a child-friendly environment versus an adult-friendly space.
3. How flexible is the daycare? Some places charge one dollar for every minute you are late at pick-up time. Some charge for a full week, even if your kiddo is there for fewer days. If you’re lucky and get several weeks vacation each year, ask your childcare provider if you still have to pay when you have time off. In a home daycare, ask the owner if she/he will be taking vacation time throughout the year, too.
4. What do you have to supply? Find out what your responsibilities are when it comes to providing diapers, wipes, milk, and food.
5. Do you want to be close? If you commute, decide whether you’d like your daycare to be close to home, or close to work. If you choose a daycare near your home, be sure to have someone available during the day in case of emergencies.
These are just a few of the major things to consider. After you are comfortable with these aspects of your childcare, dig a little deeper. Ask about the daily schedule, the number of children in the daycare and meal plans.
I was very good during my first day at work. I held back and didn’t call or text my daycare provider. She messaged me with updates throughout the day and I left it at that. The last thing I want to do is get on her nerves by hovering or nitpicking. If you do your research and really trust your caregiver, then heading back in to the professional world is that much easier.
Amy Bielby is managing editor at ParentsCanada magazine, and Editor of Expecting and Best Wishes (both ParentsCanada publications). She has one daughter, Eleanor, who was born nine weeks early! Follow Amy on Twitter @BunOutOfTheOven.