Finding Attachment in Daycare


When we moved out to California four years ago, we had a pretty rough start.  Our first daughter, Gabi, was around 18 months old and the daycare center that we selected for her was awful.  It was like Lord of the Flies.  They couldn’t give me a good picture of what was going on every day except for, “Yeah, I just looked in the window of the room.  She’s fine.”  They lied about food.  They spent more time figuring out whose turn it was to go on break than connecting with the kids.  She came home with snot and food caked to her face.  And on and on and on.  She was just a number.  Just another snotty kid they had to keep busy. She was miserable.  So were we.  Leaving her in that place during the day left me in a total panic the entire time we were apart.  We couldn’t get out of there fast enough, so when we heard about an in home daycare where the children were happy and loved, we couldn’t switch fast enough.

The change in Gabi was immediate.  I remember lurking just outside the screen door out of sight that first day to see if she would cry.  At the previous daycare she would cling to me hysterically from the moment we walked through the door in the morning.  On this first day at the new school, Gabi let out a single “WAAA!” as I walked out the door, but as I listened, I couldn’t hear her cry.  Instead, was that her talking to the other kids?  She blossomed under the love and care of Teacher Carmen and Teacher Cynthia.  It has been such a joy to partner with them to help her grow into the amazing, bright, curious, vivacious little girl that she is.

When I returned to work after having Katie, Teacher Carmen and Teacher Cynthia felt nervous.  Katie was refusing bottles at home, sleeping in bed with us, and being worn in the baby carrier for most of the day.  Cynthia worried that her transition to daycare would be a tough one.  A few days in, though, Katie, Carmen, and Cynthia had the kinks worked out and all three were happily settling into their new partnership together.

Things have gone so well at school that lately Katie has seemed to prefer to play at school than hang out with boring old Mama.  As soon as I walk in the door, Katie dives into Cynthia’s arms or fights to get to the floor to head to the playroom.  At lunch time, Katie has even started crying and clinging to Teacher Carmen when I pick her up to nurse her.  Oh, she’s happy enough to nurse, but she eats quickly so she can get back outside to play.  Wham, bam, thank you Ma’am!

Both Cynthia and Carmen were worried when Katie started to seem to prefer them over me.  Cynthia explained that a few years ago they had a mother who became so jealous of her daughter’s bond with them that she ended up pulling her child from the daycare.  That broke my heart.  I can’t imagine feeling upset about my child feeling safe and happy at daycare.  Don’t we want our children to be in the very best place we can find for them if they can’t be with us?

What makes daycare tolerable for me as a mother is knowing that my child is in a place where she is loved so much that she feels as comfortable there as at home.  I would never feel jealous of my daughters’ relationships with their teachers, even though my 9 month old reaches and grunts as soon as she sees Teacher Carmen.  I am her mother.  There is nothing on the planet that will replace me.  I am food, life, and comfort to her.  I am not worried that her beloved teachers will get in the way of that.  I am completely confident of my place in her heart.

One of the principles of AP is ensuring that we provide our children with consistent and loving care, and I am so full of gratitude that I have found caretakers for my children that love them so deeply and who are willing to bond with them and treat them as they would their own children.

Leaving my girls to go to work was incredibly painful.  It felt almost violent to be wrenched away from my babies like that, but knowing how loved my daughters are helps mak leaving them to go to work tolerable.

Gabi, Katie, and Teacher Cynthia

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3 responses to “Finding Attachment in Daycare

  1. Love it. I may have to get your daycare provider’s information. We have a wonderful AP nanny but she will only be with us until the end of the year! All of us are going to be sad when that day comes..

  2. Love this article! Children should be happy at their daycare. I think this highlights the fact that if they aren’t, we shouldn’t just brush it off as just a problem being away from mom and dad. Libby Drew has a teacher that she will leave me for and I feel good about that. I like the talk about the transition from one to two in daycare!

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