Many mothers struggle to make the decision about whether they should return to the workforce, and if so, what childcare arrangements to make. If you have parents (ie doting grandparents) to care for your child, that’s great! But many of us don’t have that option because (1) our parents are not yet retired, (2) they stay too far away, or (3) they really aren’t that keen to become full-time babysitters.
The good thing is that there are many well-established childcare centres of good reputation in Singapore. Some work places even offer childcare arrangements. For example, the staff at Tan Tock Seng Hospital have the option to bring their kids to work with them, and enroll them at the in-house childcare facility for the day while they go about their work.
As the first day of childcare draws near, you may find yourself wrestling with a mix of guilt (“Is this the best for my child?”) and anxiety (“Will he be ok? Does he know I love him?”). You wonder how he will react on that day.
You’ve probably heard more than enough of your fair share of horror stories of children who throw hysterical tearful fits when their parents try to leave them at childcare. At the other end of the spectrum are the children who walk into the room without even a backwards glance at their parents, and peacefully settle into the new routine almost effortlessly.
Prepare your child for this next phase of life in advance, to minimize uncertainty and shock and increase your chances of a smooth transition for both him and you. Of course, a lot also depends on your child’s personality and how quickly he or she adapts to new environments and people. Here are a few suggestions for easing the process.
Visit the centre
Bring your child along when you are checking out possible options, so she can get a feel of these places, and even help make the choice based on her affinity to each one. Bear in mind that your attitude will go a long way in how well your child adapts to the chosen childcare centre.
Introduce helpful routines
At home, help your child to become comfortable with structure but creating some routines of your own at home. For example, schedule in half an hour of reading time right after lunch or just before bed. Most childcare centres run on fixed routines of sleep times, free play times, activity times, meal/snack times and potty breaks, so introducing your child to similar routines at home will enable him to adapt more quickly.
Make time to go away
It would be wise to leave your child with trusted friends or relatives for incrementally longer periods of time, so he has a taste of what it’s like to be separated from you, and learn to adapt. This will help to minimize any separation anxiety he and you will feel on that first day of childcare.
Talk about it
Make time to talk about childcare with your child. Be encouraging and emphasize on how fun it’s going to be, but also help him grasp the reality that you won’t be there with him. Check your attitude. Think positively about all the new experiences that your child is going to have in childcare, and celebrate that he has entered a new and exciting phase of life. And know that your child knows how much you love and care for him, and – at least for now – home is where his heart is.
Use books to paint a picture
Read books about school or childcare – some titles you can consider are “See you later, Alligator” by Laura McGee Kvasnosky, “Puddle’s Big Step” by Amber Stewart and “Max and Millie Start School” by Felicity Brooks.
By Dorothea Chow