In two weeks, my baby goes to daycare for the first time.
He’s already one, and in his little life so far he has only met one other baby — once.
I remember the first time he laid eyes on another child his age. It was like he’d had a lightbulb moment, realising that he wasn’t the only baby in the world. He looked so happy; smiling away and even trying to stroke the other boy like he would our cats. But it was also heartbreaking.
Though I was made up for my baby, I couldn’t help but realise just how much he’d missed out on due to the pandemic. I know, we are lucky to still be here, and there is no denying that — we are lucky. But it’s still been hard.
As a mother with postnatal depression, things have been difficult for a number of reasons. But I’ve been hit with an insatiable amount of guilt knowing that my son hasn’t had the start to life that he should have due to the pandemic. It’s out of my control and can’t be helped, but it has made me worry about his development.
I’ve decided to put my son in daycare not just so that I have time to work, but because I know it will be good for him. I know how his face will light up when he’s surrounded by children his own age. I know that he’ll be so excited that he won’t quite know what to do with himself.
He’ll be going three times a week, and at first, I know I’ll feel panicked and upset. He’s been completely by my side for over one year now — so I know it will be upsetting at first, but that’s because I’m so used to him being attached to my hip, and it will be strange not having him in the house while I try to get some work done.
I also worry for him — I worry that he will be really anxious, and won’t like being left in the care of someone else. I worry that he will be too attached to get used to a room full of babies; despite any excitement. I’m worried that he will be a really anxious child, because he’s so used to it being me and him all of the time.
I know I don’t completely have to worry. I recently spoke to Katie Reid, a child psychotherapist in the early attachment service within the NHS, who told me babies born during the pandemic will be fine. She said that not seeing other children during the pandemic, will be more of a disappointment more than anything else.
She said: “If your baby was born this year, the chances are they have spent most of their life within a very small and contained circle of people. It makes total sense that, as you begin introducing them to the wider world, it takes them a little while to learn about and feel confident around other people (even close family), and to need a bit more reassurance and comfort from their parents at these times.
“The current situation is a challenge for everyone, and there is clear emerging evidence that for some babies lockdown is having a detrimental impact. If parents can manage their own feelings of isolation and stress while maintaining a sense of stability and connectedness, their baby should thrive.”
My son is already thriving — but things are changing. Places are starting to open up (much like daycare centres) as Covid-19 restrictions are lifting. It can be scary and overwhelming and make you feel vulnerable. And if I’m feeling that as an adult, how will my baby feel when I say goodbye to him after dropping him off at daycare?
I know I’m probably overthinking it, but it does make me worry, and I’m filled with the dreaded mum guilt. But all I want is the best for my son, and him socialising with children his age will be what is best for him.
I just need to take it step by step — and so he will have taster sessions with me there, to get him used to the environment first.
But I know it will be hard and I’ll probably spend the first day worrying about whether he’s okay. Not just because he might miss me, but I worry that he won’t know what to do with himself because he’s never been in a situation before where there’s a room full of other babies.
All I can do is wait and see how he reacts; and hopefully he will thrive in the busy environment.
Hopefully he’ll make the most of the situation and play and interact with the other children.
Hopefully he’ll have a lovely time — and will come home to me beaming, excited and ready to go again the next day.