Thursday, 24 October 2013

Why we are a nursery loving family

I have been on maternity leave since May. When I went off work, Siena was taken out of nursery so she could stay at home with me, partly for financial reasons, but also so we could spend time together. For the most part, it has been lovely. I went back to work full-time when she was three months so I was glad to spend some time with her one on one before Hugo arrived, and then as a little threesome when he was born.
During this time, she never asked to go to the nursery, or "big school" as she calls it. I thought she might, considering how much she has always enjoyed going. She would constantly tell me about us about her friends at nursery, both the children and the staff. The staff are absolutely lovely, clearly loving Siena and being really good with her. I cannot rave enough about the nursery and how it has helped Siena's development and language skills. But overall, she seemed happy being home with me.
Yes, these last few months have been lovely. But then, with Hugo turning three months old, I have been finding things a little more difficult day by day. Siena would ask me every single day if we were going to go and see her friends. She's really sociable and loves being around other kids. However most of her friends have now started school or preschool, whereas in the summer holidays they would usually be around playing in their gardens. She is also almost three and in tantrum-mode full-swing! I know she is only testing boundaries, and probably frustrated when she can't do all the things she wants to do. I try and be patient, and explain things to her calmly. But then being sleep deprived with a young baby can make that difficult.
I openly admit I am not very good stay at home mum. I rarely have dinner on the table for when Barry comes home from work. The house isn't usually spotless. And as much as I love going to playgroups, the park or the library, I quickly run out of ideas to keep Siena busy and entertained. Even though I genuinely believe it is good for children to know boredom to encourage them to find ways to amuse themselves and increase their imagination, I have to say I do not think it is always fair on her when it seems to be more often than not that I ask to play with her toys or do some drawing while I tidy/empty the dishwasher/sort out the laundry/feed Hugo....
Dare I say it, I think Siena is in a much better environment at nursery. There. I've said out loud. (awaits backlash!). Now, please don't get me wrong. I am not saying all children would be better off at nursery. I am just saying this works well for my family.
This week, I have met with work to discuss returning to work in the new year. Since this meeting, I am starting to feel more in control, as I know what I am working towards. Granted, when I do return to work, I will probably complain of how difficult I find being a working mum as Barry helpfully reminded me. Apparently I thrive under stress, or so he tells me.
When considering our options on my return to work, Barry and I have gone through our accounts to check what we can afford. Indeed, the cost of childcare is so high that we have to check that I can actually afford to work... ridiculous! Anyhow, ideally, the best scenario would be for me to work my full time hours over 4 days, or for Barry and I to both go part time, thereby reducing the need for nursery.
Alongside this, Siena had her first day back at nursery. We have decided to put her back in for two days a week for the time being. Barry takes her in the mornings and picks her up after work, giving me the whole day free with the bambino! Lovely! When I told her about it last week, she did this cute little face she does and said "thank you mummy!" over and over again while hugging me. As much as I'd like to say I was upset that she didn't seem to show any upset of not spending as much time with me, I was glad to see that she still looked forward to going to nursery. Then on the morning she was going back, she woke up and told me everything she was going to do "I am going to see my friends, do some painting, read some books, do some counting..." and she almost ran out of the door! When she got home, she told me about her day with excitement still. Barry said she ran through the gates when they got there and got stuck in. Not only am I glad that we get our money's worth, but more importantly, I love that Siena loves being in an environment where she is surrounded by other children, and that she loves learning new things.
Now I am thinking maybe it would be better for Siena (and then Hugo) if they went to nursery four days a week when I go back, so they don't miss out...
As with all topics concerning parenting and raising your children, I have received and/or read a lot of lovely (!) comments over the years concerning our decision to place Siena in nursery full-time:
"well if that's what you want for your children. I just could never do that to my own children"
"you will miss so many of your child's major milestones by going back to work full-time"
"you must find it so hard having to work full time rather than look after your child"
"what's the point of having children if you are going to keep on working full-time"
Ah, how I love these comments. It is as if there is only one mould for the perfect parent, and if you are not from this "mould", then you might as well walk around with "I am a bad parent" written on your forehead. In flashing lights. I honestly do not think there is only one way on how to be a good parent.
The way I see it, I work because I want to. I am about to qualify in my role as a lawyer, which I have spent over ten years studying and working for. Throw in the fact that in that time, I've not yet turned 30, I've had two children, bought a house, taken the slightly scenic route to qualifying, I would say that's not bad. In fact it's pretty damn good!
I hear some people thinking that that's all about me, but nothing about the children...
Well, personally, Siena has an incredible vocabulary for a two year old, even if I say so myself. This is especially impressive to me as legend is I did not talk till I was about 4, and even had tests done to check whether all was "normal"... (before you ask, all was fine! ;) Siena is also a very curious little girl, eager to learn and understand how things work. She knows more about gardening than I do from helping Barry in the garden. She comes up with new words daily, whether it be combination or fortunately. She thanks me for every single meal I cook her by saying something along the lines of "thank you mummy. This is really delicious". She loves her brother and is always kissing him (when she isn't randomly roaring right up in his face that is). She never ceases to amaze me.
I am not going to say that Siena is a genius child (however much a secret part of me thinks she is!). I'm sure this is how most toddlers are.  But what I am getting to, is that by attending nursery on a full-time basis, rather than more time at home with either me or Barry, she has nevertheless developed into an amazing little girl, and I am very proud of her. She does not come across as a child who feels deprived of love or care.
Barry and I also make sure that we leave work on time, which at times is easier said than done, especially in my case. We make time for Siena in the evenings, chatting to her while she has a bath, reading her stories at bedtime. And at the weekends, we rarely stay in. We are usually out and about exploring, going for walks, meeting up with friends. Therefore in my opinion, she has the best of both worlds.

But I want to stress that this is what works best for us. I am not casting any judgment on parents who decide to stay at home rather than work, as I know everyone has their reasons behind the choices they make. Whether working parent, stay at home parent, bit of both, we could really do with supporting each other more and stop judging each other over our lifestyles and decisions. Especially if the children appear bright and happy. Isn't that what being a parent is all about: ensuring that you provide a loving upbringing for your child? 
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