Grubbalo, now 15 months old, has been going to a childminder twice a week since he was ten months old. I run a business from home and I wrote this post about how hard I was finding it juggling looking after him and keeping on top of work. It is impossible to do anything remotely professional while he’s in the house.
I was relieved to find that my old childminder (who had looked after all my three older children in their pre-school years) had space available. She’s a truly lovely lady who is brilliant with the little ones.
I pay for all-day care, 9-5pm, but in effect I only have around four hours’ work time on those days, sometimes less as it’s the only days I can do appointments like dentists or doctors without Grubbalo around, as well as taking my other two children to clubs after school. So I pay a lot for a little bit of work time. But it is essential and I can get a lot done in those hours.
But, I quickly realised that I wasn’t getting much done (as a freelance, work is sporadic, it doesn’t just happen on the two days that he’s out) so I decided to ask for an extra day. I was secretly relieved when the childminder said she was fully booked. I wasn’t in a hurry, I can manage and I would rather spend time with him than work. But the other day she phoned me to say a space has become available. Gulp! I know how rare her spaces are so I couldn’t say no, or I’d miss my chance, but now my mind is racing about the practical side of affording to pay for the extra day to whether I’m a terrible mother for sending him at all.
Because I’m self-employed, people seem to think I have endless time on my hands. They seem to confuse my ‘working from home’ status with being a ‘stay at home mum’. They really aren’t the same thing! I have one of those jobs that needs total peace and quiet in order to focus.
But I still beat myself up. Because I’m my own boss I do have an opportunity to be with my baby, I could work at other times of day or at weekends, so why am I sending him to someone else? Especially, since my eldest child died suddenly, people seem surprised I could be parted from him for even a minute. I also know that once they start school, that’s it, you’ve lost any chance to spend the day with them Monday to Friday except during the holidays.
But I’m also a realist.
As much as my heart tells me to keep my children as close as I can, my head quickly reels off a load of reasons why childcare is a good idea. Yes, I love him to my core, as my other children, but no, I don’t feel guilty about sending him to childcare (not entirely anyway).
Mums are always feeling guilty about leaving their children so I thought I’d share a positive slant on it with my top ten guilt-free reasons to using childcare:
1. Undivided attention
At the childminder’s, her job is to look after the children – not check emails on her phone, catch up on housework or go shopping – so your child will get pretty much undivided attention. When I’m at home with Grubbalo, my attention is all over the place. Always on him of course as a priority, but also thinking about the practical stuff that needs to be done, work that’s coming in and meals I need to cook. Not least, when he’s home, all these things take me three times as long, if at all, to get done. I can move mountains given a few hours to myself!
He does have a nap in the day but it’s never long enough to get stuck into a job, I just about manage to answer a few emails and bung a load in the machine. I feel I’m doing him a disservice by trying to do it all while he’s here. My attention isn’t fully on him. If he’s been away, then on my days with him I can relax more as I know my work is done and I’ve got money coming in.
2. Catching bugs!
As horrible as it is, our little ones get ill and being with other children at the childminder’s or nursery means they will catch bugs. Colds, sickness, the dreaded pox! When Grubbalo started at the childminder’s at ten months old, he was away most of the first two months with colds and sickness, but that seems to have settled now. Just remember, if you can while mopping up sick in the night, that these are all good ways to strengthen your child’s immune system. You’ll reap the rewards in the later school years as the bugs become fewer from about KS2 (age 6/7)… only another five years to go then…
3. Learning and experiencing
Your child will be learning all the time! From the simple things such as colours, shapes and numbers, to things like seasons and telling the time. My childminder has a different theme every month that ties in with the season or a particular occasion. So for spring, she’s doing birds, Easter, baby animals, the weather, mother’s day etc. The children read books about those things, play with related toys and paint simple pictures.
4. Making (and breaking) friends
Okay, I don’t mean exactly falling out with other children – he’s 15 months! But by mixing with children their own age, our children learn about friendships and sharing. They see the consequences of taking someone’s toy or hitting someone. They start to learn the basics of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in human interaction. It’s fascinating to watch! The children Grubbalo stays with on his childminder days (two children about 2 years old) are lovely and he enjoys playing with them.
5. New toys all the time!
Going to the childminder’s or nursery is like birthdays and Christmas all over again every week! Each week, my childminder gets out some new toys and she rotates them so the children are never bored. This means I don’t have to buy so much
junk play stuff for our house! I quickly learnt with my first child that we didn’t need to duplicate the childminder’s toys at home, because after a couple of days playing with them, my child wanted something else to play with. So, the big kitchens and cars at the childminder’s can stay there, and we have our own, smaller toys at home.
6. Being social
At home, I might take Grubbalo to the park or shops, or I’ll meet a friend for a play date, but he doesn’t really have much organised ‘social’ time. I think it’s just as important to have time to unwind and be ‘boring’ at home as much as it is to be social outdoors, and I’m really not fussed about toddler ‘dance’ or exercise classes. We get a good balance as our childminder takes Grubbalo to a couple of play groups (which he loves, and which I would find tedious). Everyone’s happy! On his first birthday, (yes, it fell on a childminding day!), the childminder made a special poster for Grubbalo and had a little tea party for him (we did our own too, so he was partyed out!).
7. Being well fed
Obviously I feed my children, but it’s good to know he’s getting a home-cooked meal at the childminder’s and plenty of snacks and drinks. If I tried to fit in working and childcare it would mean getting a decent meal in him would be pretty hit and miss and I would likely turn to pouches or jars for those busier days. He’s also learning how to eat other people’s foods – one person’s mash is another person’s mush! – key experience for creating a non-fussy eater, as I tend to always give him what he likes best for an easy life.
8. Getting used to being left
I don’t think it’s necessary that children should be left early on to save them from getting scared when it comes to starting school and being separated from mum. I know plenty of children who have stayed home full time until school and been okay. However, I find it does help on the whole with social skills and attachment if the child has some experience of being away from home and mum or dad for part of a day. I always cuddle him and fuss him when he’s home after a day with the childminder, to reassure him that mummy is always there for him.
9. Being well behaved
Isn’t it always the case that your child acts like an ‘angel’ at other people’s houses? Well it’s similar at the childminder’s or nursery. Often they will learn how to behave and will feel secure in the routine of playing, eating and sleeping. Before he went to the childminder, Grubbalo refused to sleep in a cot of any kind and, as his mum (aka sucker), I didn’t mind picking him up or letting him fall asleep on me – but that’s not good long term. Now he will happily settle down thanks to her routine, which makes things easier at home.
Finally, perhaps, the most important…
1o. Giving you a break
All mums need a break! Just that time off to think, clear your head, exercise or take time out to unwind. Whatever. Knowing your child is in safe hands and is having fun is what you need in order to really switch off and focus on something else. My ‘free’ time is mostly used working, but as all working mums know, working becomes a new ‘me-time’!
Ultimately, Grubbalo is very happy at the childminder’s. He genuinely enjoys going there and is happy when I leave him and pleased to see me when I collect him. I think the new routine will be harder on me than him, as I will miss him a lot, but hopefully it’ll mean a less-distracted, happier mummy. And, if it really doesn’t work out, I can always drop a day again.
What about you? Do you find it hard to send your little one to childcare so you can work? Or have you decided not to go down that road until school?
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