On the way home from taking our son to meet the teachers at his new daycare, my husband said, “It’s going to be really hard to drop him off that first day.”
I was silent for a moment before responding.
“Sometimes I secretly wonder if I’m a bad mother, because I don’t feel guilty about this at all. I’m going to walk in and go, ‘Here, take my kid, thanks, bye.’ ”
There are some important caveats to that sentiment. I don’t entrust our baby’s care to just anyone – only close and competent family members, carefully-screened babysitters, and a thoughtfully-selected and widely-recommended daycare. I will miss my son after a while, for sure; he is adorable and I love his little habits. And my comfort level with handing him over to anyone who’s not his father has definitely increased significantly as Little Boy has gotten older. It wasn’t until he was about four months old that I felt confident giving a caregiver a basic schedule rather than a long list of “if he cries, try this and this and this and that.”
Oddly though, much of my difficulty in leaving Little Boy in the early days was not concern for him, but concern for the person taking care of him. In the beginning, when you’re nursing completely on demand – especially before your baby is old enough to take a bottle – mom’s absence means removing the easiest and most reliable soothing method. Even later, I felt awful heading to school knowing that my husband’s postpartum depression was going to get worse with every minute that he had to take care of a baby who wasn’t perfectly happy. Somehow, I’d internalized the idea that an unhappy baby was my fault even when I wasn’t there.
Now, however, I don’t feel guilty that Little Boy will be spending much of his time with “strangers.” I’m a better, calmer, and more engaging mother if I get real breaks, and my husband will hopefully be a much-less-stressed father when he can stop having to try to get work done during nap time. Plus (weirdly capitalistic as this may sound), we’re paying the daycare providers; I don’t have to feel like I’m taking advantage of their goodwill on those days when my son becomes a Purple Minion.
My brain, however, is not so easily settled. Does my lack of guilt about daycare make me a bad parent? Aren’t I supposed to feel guilty about this?