With time and experience, each parent develops confidence and begins to trust his or her own parenting style. But this post is for parents who have just discovered, or are on their way to discovering, that nothing quite prepares you for the job in store for you.
The first question I am asked when I go to a gathering with my two brats is whether I am a working mom or a ‘housewife’. This question, I believe, is the first step to ‘tagging’ me – by people who are biased towards or against my way of raising my kids. Either way, I am usually always irked by the question, to a point where I have even ignored it a couple of times.
Firstly, if there were to be a profession by name of “Stay-at-home-Mom”, it would be researched as the most skilled of all professions – after all, it is akin to raising the future of the world! So anyone who scoffs or suddenly loses interest in your conversation after you have declared thus is someone who doesn’t have much foresight.
In the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find (more often than not) people scrunching their brows in disagreement when you say you pursue a corporate career full-time. And God forbid you answer the most obvious question with, “They go to a day care….”!! You are then branded as a career minded woman who tortures the poor kids and husband for material gains. Something I have encountered as a working mother.
Secondly, each parent is unique – whether stay-at-home, or juggling a career. No two parents approach a situation in an identical manner. Yes, we may have influences (most of the time, our own mothers / fathers) but we are as different as they come! Yet another reason why generalizing anyone by unfair ‘tags’ is infuriating.
With my first child, I was ridden with guilt, for having to leave a toddler with strangers (so what if they were highly educated, and were specialists in child-care) for the major part of the day. Especially when she fell ill, I would go into bouts of depression, creating more misery for everyone around me. But with time, my daughter grew to love the day care, and the teachers there. In fact, I believe the transition from day care to formal school was much easier on her because she was already used to independence. Finally, things started looking up, as I realized that my daughter was just as bubbly, just as cheerful, just as intelligent, as the others in her age (contrary to what many ‘well-wishers’ had warned me before she started day care).
Hence, when I was faced with the same challenge second time round with kiddo no. 2, things fell into place much sooner. I was much more confident, much more sensible and definitely felt much less guilty than I was, with my first child.
A few things to remember for parents who have to leave their kids behind for a few hours each day:
- Look out for a day care much before you actually need one. I started scrounging the neighborhood a good three months before my actual need. This ensured I did not compromise on the safety or quality aspect of the day care in a hurry. Ditto when you hire a help for home.
- Enroll the child into day care atleast a week before you need to start actually leaving him/her behind. Begin first day as a joint day out. Spend a couple of hours playing with the toys, get the child familiar with the staff, and generally, get the vibes. Day two, leave her behind for an hour. Come to check, and if she is not bawling away, leave her for another hour. Increase the time gradually each day, till you reach your targeted number of hours. The child thus learns to trust the parent to come back for her. (I was a skirmish mom; did this over a period of a month!)
- Every daycare has a different set of rules, and different set of requirements to be sent to them. Packing the baby bag is quit a task, and I would do it the night before. A few sets of clothes, socks, bibs, hand towels and diapers were the essentials. A few little boxes of finger foods ensure the child eats what you want her to.
- Before you actually join back on work, make random trips to check out the daycare. Ensure that you visit on different times. Early morning, mid-day, evening, late evening ….. Just so you know your baby is in good hands. Insist on changes you may want. (I insisted that my child always wore her socks so that her feet never got dirty – even in summers, she had a light cotton pair)
- Buy stuff that will make your life easier –
- A car-seat (if you drive) was quite a rarity 10 years ago in Delhi, but when I got it, it changed my very existence. I was no longer dependent on a driver, or the maid or someone else to hold excited baby when driving around. And it’s the safest thing for a baby. Bonus: she loved it!!
- Guiltlessly invest in other stuff like disposable bottles, breast pumps, baby carrier (a boon when they get heavier) etc. which thankfully, are easier to come by now!
- Disposable diapers were something that everyone gasped at when they saw you use it. ‘Lazy mom’ was what you got tagged as if you used it when you were not planning to go out. Just feign temporary deafness. Nothing beats good quality diapers when you are already hard pressed for time. Especially in winters when you have layers and layers of clothing. Just remember to change often – even if they are not visibly soiled.
- Onesies are the next best invention to diapers for really little ones. Invest in a few good ones, and you are not worried about matching tops and bottoms for their daycare.
- Involve your spouse in the little things. Not only for the sheer requirement of sharing responsibility, but you might also get some brilliant ideas from them.
Most importantly, do not let experiences faced by others depress you. Take advices with a pinch of salt, do all the cross checking you want, but remember that you are a unique parent of a unique child.
Meena Bhatnagar is a mother of two, with a passion for the written word. She dabbles with fiction, a couple of them finding their way into published work, is an avid blogger, and works as a corporate trainer to pay for all the damages. She blogs on parenting, social issues and humorous incidents of her life and on hotel & restaurant reviews and corporate training.