Claire Manhaus didn’t know how she was going to do it. The Ann Arbor mom had spent four of the six weeks she had off for maternity leave without ever being away from her baby daughter, Ava, for more than a couple of hours. But now, with two weeks left before she had to go back to work, she was in a panic.
“I was trying to think of any possible scenario that would mean I wouldn’t have to leave my daughter,” Manning says, “but there was nothing. I had to go back to work and she had to spend most of her day away from me. That was just the reality.”
Manning isn’t alone. Whether the child is a few months or a few years old when the parents realize they have to make daycare arrangements, it’s tough – for the parent who’s been the primary caregiver and sometimes for the child, who is used to mom or dad being home with him.
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Part of the issue is concern for the child’s care.
“It is hard for me to leave my 3-year-old with new people,” says Detroit mom Danielle Horton. “I fear they won’t take care of her as well as I do. Or follow the special attention she needs.”
Taking the plunge
The first step for parents looking for daytime child care for their kids is to do research and get recommendations.
“If you don’t have family or friends watching your child for you, then you really only have one option – daycare,” says Manning. “And it’s not easy. You want to make sure you pick the right place for your child.”
No. 1 on the things-to-do list is to research daycare facilities, get recommendations and then schedule visits to the top few contenders. Once you make your decision, it’s up to the daycare to make you more comfortable with actually leaving your child.
“For the child’s first day, I like the parent’s to stick around with us for that morning, so they can adjust to us,” says Angela Johnson, owner/director of Rainbow House Day Care in Pontiac.
Michele Michaels, who worked with a daycare center in southeast Michigan, took pictures of the children playing and having fun for one week and put together a scrapbook, so that the parents can know exactly what their children were doing and being taught.
Over time, parents become more comfortable, especially if the kids are adjusting well. And daycares make efforts to help in that regard, too.
“Usually, I have activities already set up for the children who throw tantrums to distract them,” says Michaels.
According to Michaels, parents can help kids adjust, too. She believes short and sweet partings are best, giving parents up to five minutes to say goodbye.
Manhaus is already imagining her first parting with baby Ava before she heads to her first day back to work.
“I’ll make sure she has everything she needs. Give her a kiss and just walk out the door,” Manhaus. “I’m sure I’ll cry my way to work, but it will be OK. I know she’ll be OK.”
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This post was originally published in 2011 and has been updated for 2017.