Super single mummy Charlotte wrote a little piece for us a while ago on how to Be Awesome all By Yourself. I’ve constructed what is possibly the cheesiest acronym ever from that previous post, and commissioned another one from this savvy mama.
The subject of daycare and the working mum is so pertinent to so many of us. Here Charlotte covers the issues involved from many angles (and makes me cry a little bit along the way) …
In parenting, as with much of life, there is no clear-cut wrong or right. If only it was that easy. I’ve recently had to make a very difficult decision, and I still don’t know – may not know for a long time – if it’s the right one. I know many mothers have to make this tough decision, but it’s further complicated by being a single mother.
I’ve put my son in full time daycare so I can go back to work.
We’ve both wept many tears over this decision. He cried for the first two weeks when I left him, and this goes against my entire parenting philosophy. I was reassured that he’ll get used to it, he’ll adjust, he’ll cope. He did – he did adjust. He rarely cries now when I leave him, although he does sometimes. He tells me he’s excited to go to daycare, and that he’s going to give a big cuddle to his friends and teachers. He loves painting and playing on bikes and eats lots of food and has a sleep every day. I haven’t noticed any adverse effects in his behaviour or apparent level of happiness. My issue is not that the centre is a bad place – the teachers are great, it’s a small place with all the age groups for him to interact with, and I like all the things they do.
My issue is that he is going to be spending more time with other people than with his mummy. I’m forcing him to do something he’s unhappy about. He’s only 26 months and he wants to be with his mummy. I’m not a permissive parent – I don’t give him lollies because he wants them or let him terrorise other children or throw his food around the kitchen (okay, maybe the last one sometimes). But this is a fundamental and natural desire, to be with me. I strongly believe in the importance of solid attachment and although I’ve spent two years at home with him, I worry that him spending most of the day away from me is going to irrevocably weaken our bond.
I keep thinking about it and wanting to cry. I have cried.
He’s been in full-time care for a month now – I’ve been working on my business while I job hunt. Now that I have a great job, the reality has hit. I’m not going to be able to drop him off at 10am or pick him up at 4pm. He’s going to be in there from 7.15am to 5.45pm every day, so that I can travel to and from my job. I don’t know how long I’m going to be in this job for, but I feel like I’m going to miss out on his toddlerhood.
Yes, I’ll see him every morning, but not for long. It will be a matter of getting him up and having a cuddle before hopping in the car so he can have breakfast at daycare and I can get to work on time. I’ll see him every evening, but not for long, because it’ll be after six by the time we get home. There will be routine, we’ll cook dinner together, there will be cuddles, there will be laughs, activities done, and time spent together, but it won’t compare. I won’t even get to spend the whole weekend with him, because he goes to see his Dad overnight on a Saturday, and it’s not fair on either of them to stop that. I’ll have evenings and I’ll have Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon. I have to make sure I maximise the time spent with him and do special things, and not go near a computer or my phone.
I’m going to be snatching at moments with my precious son, while other people raise him.
I’ve been a single mother for over a year now. Living on the DPB in a city is a difficult thing. I’m constantly just a little behind on bills, living week by week, just trying to stay afloat. There is no ceasing of financial stress. I want to provide a good life for my son where I can afford to buy nappy cream when he gets a rash, where I can afford to pay for school trips, buy warm clothes, feed him quality food. I want to have a good life myself where I can go to the movies with friends occasionally, where I don’t have unrelenting worry about how I’m going to pay for my car registration or a higher power bill than usual. I want to save money to take him to visit my family in England, or buy a house, or just be able to get him a bike. My income and lifestyle is unsustainable, and I’m not extravagant.
As I read back over that paragraph I want to say to myself – these are things. Maybe you should have tried harder to live cheaper, so that he can have you around more. I go back and forth with myself. I have tried, and I’m sick of it. ‘Try harder, he needs you.’ I considered working part time (I have been working part time), but that wouldn’t give me much more than the DPB. It would ease some stress but wouldn’t allow me to get ahead. I’m also not really cut out to be a full time stay at home mum anymore – after two years of being with him all the time I need adult interaction and purpose. I’ve set up a business, but it won’t make enough money to support us for quite a while. I want to work and I want to earn money.
Toy cash register (complete with Eftpos!) from Tree Frog Toys: eco-friendly, organic and fair trade toys from Australia
But he’s so little, and I love him so much.
There is no obvious right or wrong here. I don’t have a husband who can work to support us, so it all falls on my shoulders. That’s okay, for me. I’m prepared to do that; I’m strong enough. I just hope that it ends up being okay for him. With children there are no do-overs, and he’s only little once.