Putting My Almost 3-Year-Old In Daycare Is The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done

daycaregraduationMy child will soon be three years old and he has yet to set foot in a daycare.

My husband and I are both “freelancers.” He’s an actor/performer and I am a writer/photographer. I work from home and he travels back and forth to New York for his jobs. Our schedule is so flexible that we have managed to make it to my son’s third birthday without outsourcing any of his care. I’m beginning to think this is a problem. I need to get my child in daycare. He’s three years old and doesn’t have a single friend.

After three years of spending almost every hour of every day with my child I’m starting to have anxiety thinking about being separated from him. Have I intentionally not explored my options because I find it too hard to let go? I think so.

The daycare dilemma used to be an easy thing to ignore. For one thing, we lived in New York for the first two-and-a-half years of his life and never could have afforded it. It was easy to brush off my discomfort with daycare by saying, Oh well. We don’t have an extra $1200 a month. Frankly, I was always a little relieved that we didn’t have the money for it, because I just wasn’t ready to turn his care over to strangers. Now we live in a place where there are a lot more affordable options.

We moved when I was seven months pregnant and I started freelancing full time. As luck would have it, we ended up renting a house directly across the street from my family. Not only was I working full time from home, we had a family that could help when we needed it. This was awesome in many ways – but again it allowed me to neglect the necessity to have him around more kids.

We do a weekly Gymboree playgroup where he gets to interact with other children and spend lots of time at the park. But he’s getting older now and I know that’s not enough. When I was younger, there were tons of kids and relatives around but he doesn’t have that luxury. I’ve moved to a place where I have no friends. I am the only person in my family who has young children. There just aren’t a lot of kids around him. Luckily, it hasn’t affected him too much yet; he’s really social and loves other children. He’s learned how to share and he isn’t a bully. But since he’s going to be three in a month, he needs to be around more kids now, doesn’t he?

I also feel like I need to get him out of the house for my own sanity. Am I becoming one of those mothers that is too overprotective of her child? I don’t want to be that mother; that mother drives me crazy. All of you parents that have waited as long as I have to get your child into daycare – how did you deal with loosening up the cord a little? How do you release your child into the world and feel okay about it?

I’ve started looking into local daycare more seriously because I want to do the best for my child. I want him to be independent and I want to be able to trust the natural order of things which involves eventually letting him walk out into the world without me. But I would be lying if I didn’t admit that internally, this is the hardest thing I have ever done.

Before I had kids, people warned me there would be less time for myself. They warned me that I wouldn’t sleep. They told me breastfeeding was hard and recommended every product you could imagine to make my new life as a mother a little easier. They told me about the unbelievable love I would have for my child. But they never mentioned that it would be linked with a deep feeling of helplessness and fear. I source news for a living! I am acutely aware of how fucked up this world is. I have to let my kid out there? Without me? How am I supposed to do that?

I’ve avoided daycare for so long because it’s inextricably linked to the thing I find the most difficult about parenting – letting go. That’s why I’m beginning to think that it is so important to get him in one.

(photo: moominmolly)

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