Note: This post is a little snarky, or maybe a lot snarky. Please don't take offense at it. Be sure to read my commentary at the end.
How to Make a New Working Mom Feel Bad:
1. Assume she isn't going back to work.
2. When you find out she is going back to work, make an "oh that's too bad" face or comment.
3. Assume she found a "desirable" daycare situation for her baby, like family, or friends, or, at the very least, an in-home daycare.
4. When you find out the baby is going to a regular old daycare center, make an "oh that's too bad" face or comment.
To really hit this one home, say something like, "Can't your parents take him?" or "My friend is using this website to do background checks on home-care places. I could get it for you." or "I bet if you ask around, you could find a home-care place. I knew a lady who only took teacher's kids."
5. When you find out the regular old daycare center isn't a fancy special one, but just a Kindercare, make an "oh that's too bad" face or comment.
6. Offer platitudes about how it will all work out to try to make her feel better.
Okay, so, first, please note that most of my actual friends have not said these things to me, as they've been in the loop on the situation the entire time. It's actually mostly been acquaintances and near-strangers who've commented. And if you are my friend, and you have said something like #4, know that I know that you weren't trying to hurt my feelings; you were just trying to be helpful.
Perhaps the most fascinating thing I've discovered in the last week as I've prepared to go back for work is that somewhere over the course of the last several months, I have learned to believe that by sending my son to a daycare center, he's not in the best situation he can be in. When people ask me "who is taking care of him?" I respond with "He's just at a daycare center." Just? No, not just. It's a very nice facility, with a staff that seems lovely and well-trained and very caring so far.
I shouldn't have to feel guilty for going back to work. I'm not here just because we need the money, but because I love my job. LOVE it. Being a SAHM wouldn't work for me, although I admit that I could probably go part-time if the finances allowed.
I shouldn't have to feel guilty for putting him in a daycare center. I asked around. I put out feelers for a home-care situation. Nobody I knew was able to recommend someone to me, and I just wasn't comfortable finding a place online, regardless of how well it was rated. So I visited a few centers near school and home, and picked this one based on several factors. It's not just a daycare center. I'm not going to let myself say that anymore.
The reality is, I'm a full-time working mom. I love my job, and I love my son. I love my son more than I love my job. I wasn't going to put him somewhere that wasn't good for him. We'll see how this goes, and if doesn't work out, I'll find somewhere else. But for now, I'm happy with it. He's doing okay, he's getting adjusted. And I don't want to feel badly about my choice.
I guess I'm saying that it's really not all the fault of the people who've made those faces and comments, because I've set them up to say them by saying he's just at daycare. I've believed that family or friends or home-care is best, too, and I've felt guilty.
But I'm done with that, okay?
From now on, here's what I'm going to say: "Will's at a daycare center really close to our house. So far, the staff seems really lovely. I really like the directors, and the lady who is with him most of the day is this Bosnian-grandmother type who clearly loves babies and wants to take really good care of him. He's only been there a few days, but he seems to be adjusting pretty well - I think he really likes watching the other babies and can't wait to be able to sit up on his own and play, too."
So that's that.