I held of writing this one for a few weeks, incase we were just having a fluke period of ‘ok’, and I didn’t want to jinx it! But we’re two weeks in to the ‘back at work/ starting nursery’ situation, so an update is in order!
I never thought I’d take the ‘first day of nursery’ photograph when my first born was just 9 months old, but here we are!
Before Oatcake’s first ‘settling’ session, I found myself frantically googling how to help, what to do, etc! But most of the advice was for settling toddlers or preschoolers, not for our little baby boy whose never spent more than an hour or so away from his mum and dad! And even then, only with his grandparents a couple of times! The guilt is so real… is turning his whole world upside down really the best thing to do? We don’t even know these people we are leaving him with.. We had talked the situation round and round in circles, and on paper, yes it was, and we could only try and see! So we asked as many friends as we could, how do we do it? How do we make it as painless as we can? For all three of us! And this is what has worked!
1. Stay for a session. This seemed beneficial for us both. I stayed for an hour, and saw how happy all the other babies were and saw how the staff interacted with them and with Oatcake.. which made imagining him there, without me, easier.
2. Treat it like any other playgroup. Don’t make it special or different.. if you would sit at the edge with a cup of tea and let them play on their own, do the same.. act as though it’s a ‘fun’ place, but nothing out of the ordinary! Else they’ll get suspicious!
3. Leave, quickly! You’ll work out what suits you, whether it be getting them settled with a toy or passing them to their key worker for a cuddle.. but the longer you take to go, the less distractible they are! The nursery drop off adds mere seconds to my commute! Go go Ninja mama!
4. Have somewhere to go. (For the settling sessions). Do not sit outside desperately trying to listen through the walls. You WILL hear a baby cry. It PROBABLY won’t be yours. You WILL convince yourself that it IS your baby and the reason it sounds nothing like your baby crying it because they are SO distressed, they can’t even CRY in their normal voice. When you pick them up and realise they didn’t even care that you’d gone, you will feel like a knob. I repeat.. DO NOT SIT OUTSIDE! Find somewhere seriously un-baby friendly and have a jolly wonderful time.. worrying your head off about where your miniature Siamese twin has disappeared to.
5. It might get worse before it gets better. We had a few great sessions, until the third or fourth, where he cried almost the entire time. He cried, we cried, we questioned every parenting and life decision we have ever made, we took him back, we cried, he didn’t, it got better.
6. Make sure they aren’t hungry/tired/with an ear infection (!!.. that was the tears, it turns out) whilst they’re settling.. anything that makes them grumbly at home, will be multiplied by 100 during these times!
7. Force some sort of comforter on them months before they start!! I’m probably the only parent to ever be disappointed that their child voluntarily gave up their dummy at 7 months! I was relying on that to be the ‘go to’, no tears approach to nursery settling! Since then poor Oatcake has had a toy dinosaur thrust upon him at every waking opportunity, in the hope that he could take something that was a comfort from home! Who knows if it helped, but it made me feel better!
8. Tell them what is happening. I never know how much babies really understand, but on the off chance they comprehend every word we utter, it’s worth telling them where they are going and why, just in case! And also possibly less swearing and chatting rubbish? Nah.
9. Say goodbye. And tell them you’re coming back! The other option is ‘sneaking off’, but usually a few minutes after you go, they will realise! So we always say goodbye! (In a really nonchalant, speedy fashion!)
10. The anticipation is FAR worse than the reality. Really. Babies are SO adaptable, 2 weeks in and it’s already his ‘normal’, which in some ways is sad because our ‘normal’ for the first 9 months was the best time of my life and he won’t even get to remember it, but such a relief, that he is happy and unstressed. And there are even parts of the day (short parts) where I even enjoy being at work! (I will likely retract that statement within a week)!!
Did you/will you send your little ones to nursery? Any more top tips?