As a parent it’s hard not to form strong opinions about the way you choose to interact with your children, and the way you expect others to treat them.
I am an attachment parent. I do my best to stay ever mindful of the attachment parenting principles in nearly every contact I have with my son, Oliver:
- I continuously learn about parenting options and practices.
- I breastfeed Oliver frequently on demand and plan to do so for quite some time; we practice child led weaning.
- My partner and I are sensitive and responsive to our son’s physical and emotional needs.
- We are in frequent, almost constant physical contact with Oliver and show plenty of physical affection.
- We share sleep.
- My husband and I are careful to make time for each other and ourselves.
- We practice gentle discipline, which does not include the use of punishments, shame, guilt, or bribery.
Most importantly, with me at home full time, we provide consistent and loving care to Oliver around the clock.
That, unfortunately, is about to change.
We can’t afford for me to stay at home forever
We’ve made it work for as long as we can, but after two years I must start the terrifying and overwhelming task of finding alternate care for my son.
In my community, child care spaces are in very high demand. When I look at my options, even at reputable daycare centers, I worry.
- I worry they will rely heavily on time outs and rewards to shame and bribe good behaviour.
- I worry they will be unwilling to work with my son’s elimination communication since most other children his age are in diapers, and his signals are not always very obvious.
- I worry he has never been expected to sleep without me and without nursing, and how the caregivers at these day cares will react to that at nap time.
- I worry about the formal and often rigid structure that most day cares employ out of necessity, and what it means for my son’s hunger and thirst cues.
- I worry with so many other kids around, he will not be able to get the physical attention he needs.
- I worry about pretty much every aspect of Oliver’s care.
I know firsthand that many aspects of attachment parenting are nearly impossible to provide under group-care circumstances. But more than anything else I worry about whether Oliver will receive consistent and loving care.
It doesn’t matter if the daycare does everything exactly how I would the two days a week he will be there. A different system in one environment won’t destroy the system we have at home. It’s only important that Oliver feels safe and loved there.
I want Oliver to have a caregiver with whom he can bond, who he will love and respect, and who will love and respect him in return. I want Oliver to have a care giver who will form their own attachment with him. That attachment doesn’t have to look and feel like the attachment he has with his father and me, nor should it. That attachment just needs to be positive and secure.
With all of this in mind, I’ve changed my strategy a little bit for when we interview our choices.
Discipline Methods and Education Matter
I will still ask about what kind of gentle discipline they use, and how flexible their feeding schedules are. It is still important to me that my son never be left to cry by himself no matter what the circumstances and that they are willing to work with us to at least minimally support Oliver’s interest in the potty and our use of cloth training pants and diapers.
But more importantly, I am also curious about the qualifications of the staff:
- Are they educated about child development and how to interact with, adapt to, and support my son as his needs grow and change?
- I want to know each daycare’s rate of employee turn over. Will my son see the same faces every day? What about very week? Can he expect to have the same care giver next year, or in two or three years?
I am curious to observe other children in their care interacting with the staff:
- Are the children comfortable about being left with these caregivers?
- Are they quick to go to these caregivers for help or comfort?
- Are the children comfortable expressing themselves around these caregivers?
- Are they encouraged to express themselves?
There are aspects of attachment parenting that I am willing to let go of two days a week. But this one is most important.
No matter what, the transition to daycare will be a stressful one for me, and likely a stressful one for Oliver. But focusing my priorities and letting go of my anxiety over the little things is important.
If I can find a daycare that will provide Oliver with the consistent and loving care I am talking about the little stuff won’t matter. Oliver’s transition to daycare will be made easier if I can be confident in, and even excited about, the relationships he will build there and just relax about the rest.
Photo credit: Author
Julian Wotherspoon is a stay at home mom (for now) to her 1.5 year old son Oliver. Julian writes about attachment parenting and natural living at theconnectedmom.com where she is an editor and weekly contributor.