I always knew when I was younger that I wanted to work with children but was not sure in what capacity I would do this. There is so much pressure on high school students now to make that crucial decision on what they will be doing for the rest of their lives, as though that is the final decision and the only option for the rest of their working life. I personally found it very daunting at that young age to pinpoint exactly what direction to take. After some study and practical placements in the area of Social Work I ended up making the tough decision to switch courses and move into the field of Early Childhood Education and I have never looked back since.
After around 8 years of working in this industry I have learnt so much about not only children but also about myself. I feel that I have grown quite a lot as an Educator and have gained a great insight into child development and the many ways in which children learn. Over this time I have personally developed my own theories and views on Early childhood Education. I had assumed that these views and personal opinions I had developed as an Educator would then influence me as a parent later in life and make enrolling my child into day care much easier. Oh my, how I was wrong!!
Me at 24, blissfully unaware of how having a child would impact my life
I had heard about the whole ‘mum guilt thing’ but had thought that this would never really affect me as I had an insider’s view of how amazing Early Childhood Education is and the infinite benefits it brings to a child’s life. When my time came around to take that next step in my life and tackle my new role as a mum my whole world changed. I knew I would love my baby more than anything in the world but when that tiny person enters your life I think things are never the same again. Your whole reason for living changes and you now have the crazy responsibility of 24/7 care of another (tiny) human. Although those early days of parenthood are incredibly sleep deprived, overwhelming in every way possible and sometimes leave you wondering how you might make it through another day it is the absolute best thing that has happened to me in life.
I have to admit that because of my experience in early childhood I naively thought that I would know (most of) the answers as a parent. I thought I would know what my baby’s cry meant, how to make them sleep like an angel and how to function on little sleep myself. Instead I was faced with the reality of second guessing every single decision I made, as though any knowledge I had on previous experiences with the early years of a child’s life had gone out the window the second my little boy entered this world. As I look back now at how I imagined myself as a parent I have to laugh. One of the things that stands out to me the most is that I thought I would never put my child in bed with me….because, you know, I did not want to encourage bad sleeping habits. That one still seriously makes me laugh, even as I am writing it.
Backpacking through Greece, still blissfully unaware of how having a child would impact my life
As I quickly realised everything that I thought I would be as a parent was fast changing I still assumed that I would feel fine with coming back to work and enrolling my son into care as, like I previously mentioned, I am very aware of all the positives early education has on a young child’s development. I really enjoyed my maternity leave and could not believe how fast that 6 months went by. Before I knew it, it was time for me to fill out those enrolment forms that I had myself handed to many parents over the years. Initially I was excited as I prepared to enrol my son but that excitement quickly turned into that dreaded ‘mum guilt’ that I had heard of. Even though I could not believe how big my tiny baby had grown already in his short life, he all of a sudden seemed so small again when I had to think about him attending day care. Although, unlike most parents, I am lucky enough that I can work where my child attends care, but this still did not make it much easier on me. I just wanted to stay home with him and protect him for as long as I could. But, I had to remind myself of just how wonderful my colleagues are, the people that would become my son’s educators. I reminded myself of the special role they would play in his life and the skills they could help him learn that I could not, such as how to become more settled and content with himself and how to build more relationships, outside of his close family.
Marrying Chris, shortly before discovering how having a child would impact my life. In truth, having a husband prepared me in some ways for having a child
If I am being honest the first few months were super tough. I felt guilty as I heard him cry (the downside to working at the centre he attends) and my heart broke a little as he would see me and wonder why I was not consoling only him as I would at home. He also managed to catch every germ that he possibly could (and I am sure there are many more to come) as his body begun to build up his immune system, which meant a lot of time off work for me and many absences for him causing him to take a while to settle in. But I can now say that I am enjoying the whole day care experience as a mum a whole lot more. As I sometimes spot my son around the centre or catch a glimpse of him in his room I can see the change in him already. As he is settling in now he is becoming more adventurous and familiar in his surroundings. I love that he is building relationships with a wider group of people from a young age and has the opportunity to explore these relationships in a social environment.
Me and Benji, now painfully aware of how having a child impacts your life
I guess the main thing that I have learnt in this whole process is just how difficult, daunting and uncomfortable the thought of leaving your child in the care of someone else is. But I just want future parents of our centre to know we are here to fully support you. We know how overwhelming and emotional it can be to start day care, especially with your first child. As Early Childhood Educators we are not just here for the children, we are here for the mums that try to hold the tears back until they get out the gate after dropping off their child, we are here for the dads that have to pick up their child when they are feeling unwell and we are here for the grandparents that feel guilty when their grandchild wants them to stay longer and play with them. We know at times there are certain aspects of day care that can be so upsetting as a parent but we want you to know we are here to work with you through these days and for you are your child to enjoy all the other amazing elements of attending our centre. The good days definitely outweigh the bad and when you begin to see your child flourish in a new environment it is truly beautiful!