'Drop off is sh*t': 12 facts I learned the hard way now that my baby just started daycare.

I have recently become a daycare mum. Up until a few months ago this was foreign territory to me, in my BC (before children) days I used to be an entertainment journalist rubbing shoulders with celebrities. And then, next minute, I’m spending all of my free time reading daycare reviews. Life comes at you incredibly fast.

As a first time mum, I was blissfully unaware of the chaotic world of tours, anxiety, name labels and rashes I was about to step into. Anecdotally I had heard from my friends who had kids, all who told me to be prepared for a lot of emotions and big transitions. 

But like most things with motherhood, you never really know what you’re in for until you’re smack bang in the middle of it. So as much as that statement rings true, I believe knowledge is power and perhaps my learnings can help you navigate — or at the very least begin to prepare you — daycare. Here are my 12 hard facts that I now know to be true about daycare.

Watch: The daycare that does it all. Story continues below.

Video via Mamamia

1. You’re going to get sick. 

I was warned. Boy, was I warned. Almost every single one of our parent friends spent most of their first year in daycare sick. Every time I would see their children, a crusty nose was a permanent fixture. I’m only four weeks into our daycare journey and my daughter has had a cold for what seems like the entire time. My husband and I have not been immune, and it’s just one big germ-fest in our house. My advice? Try to remember that building this immune system is just another piece of the puzzle that will help your child in the long-run. 


2. You need a bulldog mentality.

In case you haven’t heard, there is a major shortage in the childcare sector which means finding placement is highly competitive. Another gorgeous COVID hangover, this issue has meant that while understaffing still lingers there are fewer spots to go around. My advice is to tour as many places as possible because there are going to be lots of pros and cons that come up on your list when you begin your search. In my experience, there is no ‘unicorn daycare’ that hits all of your priorities but you will start to see what you do and don’t like. Once you have a shortlist, get on their waitlist ASAP and contact them regularly to stay top of mind. As soon as a spot opens up, you want to be the first in. Activate that bulldog mentality! 

3. First day drop off is really sh*t.

I don’t want to mince words, that first day drop off felt like a whole piece of my heart was ripped out. This tiny human who had been attached to me (both on the inside and the outside) for over a year is now being sent into the care of a stranger. I mean a professional stranger, but someone else nonetheless. Be kind to yourself and feel all of the emotions, this is a big change, and it’s OK to be a little off kilter. 

4. The community of parents will fill up your cup.

One day I posted on my Instagram stories about how much I was struggling with the drop off and seeing my baby cry. Within minutes, my DMs were flooded with messages of support from parents far and wide who had experienced the same thing. Whether they were close friends or former work acquaintances or complete strangers, it was so comforting to know I wasn’t alone in this moment. It’s so cliche but I really felt so held by a community of parents who made me feel at ease in this new stage of motherhood. 

5. Self-care isn’t shameful.

I was fortunate enough to have a few weeks off work while I transitioned my daughter to daycare. One friend suggested I get my nails done or take myself off to the movies while she was being looked after. I immediately balked at the suggestion — I needed to do washing and clean the kitchen, I couldn’t do that! But in fact it was exactly what I needed to do. After a difficult pregnancy and a challenging postpartum phase, I really hadn’t had a self-care break in a long time. I pushed the shame away and leaned in because these opportunities don’t come around often! 


6. Your mind is always in two places.

Since having a baby my mind has expanded in knowledge and at the same time I often can’t remember the word for ‘shoes’. While the mumble, jumble in my head is getting slightly better, finding the balance between work-mode and mum-mode is an ongoing challenge. In one millisecond I’m trying to figure out what to make for dinner, how to combat that weird rash on my daughter, write an article and lock in an interview. It’s a lot, but it sure is nice to use parts of my brain that have been switched off for a while. 

7. They’re not you.

This one sounds quite harsh but I’ve learned to be at peace with the fact that the educators at daycare are not me and they never will be. They’re sturdy, professional placeholders who are doing a great job until my child can be in my care again. As a type A personality it can be quite challenging to hand over the reins but I’m all about growth in 2023, baby! 

8. Your time is so much sweeter.

On the days Augie is at childcare I am so productive, but I miss her. God, do I yearn to hold my baby. So I take this as a really nice piece of collateral — I get the opportunity to recharge and miss my child, which in turn, makes our days off together so much more fulfilling. Because being a full-time carer is a huge job so it’s nice to get the opportunity to take a break every now and then so I can be the best mum. 


9. Daycare clothes get ruined.

I was warned, but I didn’t really have an understanding about HOW dirty my child would get. When I pick her up she truly is a dishevelled mess, in the best way possible. I’ve learned to leave all the cute clothes from her grandparents at home and send her off in Big W’s finest. 

Listen to This Glorious Mess, In this episode, Leigh and Tegan talk to Jae Fraser, Founder and Managing Director of Little Scholars School of Early Learning about the different types of centres out there and benefits of sending your little ones to daycare. Post continues after audio.

10. You learn to advocate for your child.

This whole motherhood experience has taught me a valuable lesson in finding my voice when it comes to advocating for my child. I must admit I’m a bit of a people pleaser and never want to rock the boat too much, but it's in my daughter’s best interests, I have to be her biggest protector. Thankfully, I haven’t run into any major issues but when Augie came home two days in a row with a bad nappy rash, I plucked up the confidence to have a word with her educators and explain to them how to best manage the situation. 

11. Sand. Endless sand.

No matter how hard I try to eradicate every last granule of sand from the sand pit, I can’t seem to do it. It. is. EVERYWHERE. Yes, it’s sending me mental but also I just have to get over it. 

12. Seeing them explore new things is the best.

For every fear and hesitation I had about handing her over to strangers, I have been so pleasantly surprised about how rewarding it has been to see her thrive. Watching her on the daycare app truly fills my day with joy. She is making friends, learning new things about the world and figuring out who she is as a little person. And that, my friends, makes it all worth it. 

Feature Image: Instagram

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