Emma started attending full day infant care centre when she was 15 weeks young and child care centre when she turned 2 years 4 months old. As a full-time working mother, the school has been a great pillar of support in my parenting journey right from the start.
There were times where I wondered if I had put in enough effort in the upbringing of Emma by sending her to school at such young age. However, I found that having limited time with Emma pushed me to be more mindful and diligent in my daily parenting. Besides, it was a great comfort seeing how well Emma has been growing and learning with the school.
I'm sure every parents who have sent their child(ren) to infant care and child care centres have their own stories to tell, and here's our experiences over the last 3 years and 3 months to share!
Infant Care Journey
At 15 weeks young, Emma didn't have much problem adapting to the new school environment. In fact, she was drinking her milk much better than she did at home. On the other hand, I was the one who took quite a while to adapt. However, the teachers were assuring and always happy to answer my questions to calm my nerves.
Besides the overwhelming separation anxiety, I was really worried about the health and safety of Emma after entering the infant care centre. Thus, I was very determined to breastfeed Emma in order to strengthen her immunity. So, it really helped that the teachers are the infant care centre were supportive of warming up and feeding the expressed breast milk.
With the daily updates on her activities like amount of milk she drank, duration of naps and number of poos she had a day from the school, we were confident that her basic needs were well taken care of. The teachers also provided a more detailed written report on their growth and development quarterly. These reports help to keep us on track on her development easily.
Things were going really well apart from the instances where Emma fell ill from the immunizations and viruses or injured. Taking leave from work and taking care of baby Emma was pretty stressful for me. There was a time where I had to take urgent leave for almost a week when she was hospitalized. When Emma illnesses dragged on for more than a few days, I had to seek help from my mother for help.
Child Care Journey
Moving on to child care has been exciting and enriching for Emma. After mastering all the physical motor skills, she was all ready to start their toddlerhood - talking, understanding, questioning, socialising and more. She enjoys her school and loves her friends.
Seeing how much she has progressed over the years, we know she has learnt lots from the school. With the short 2-3 hours on weekday nights, we had to rely on the school for most of her learning. As much as I could, I would squeeze in some time for simple activities like colouring, reading, singing and play after our dinner and wash up on weekday nights. We would then maximize our quality time on weekends for new experiences like swimming, outings and travel to complement her school learning.
The school conducts speech and drama enrichment class during school hours so we didn't have to set aside weekends for it. But, we received a thick file for us to go through with her at home. Similarly, the detailed written report of her development, outlines of lessons, some of their completed artworks and parents-teachers meeting kept us updated on her progress as well. These days, we also received daily first-hand updates from Emma about happenings at school personally.
Childcare or Not?
Nevertheless, I'm not advocating all parents to send their children to child care centres like we did as every child and family situation is different. It works for us but there are still cases where child care setting does not work for their child and parents had to withdraw their child from the school. So, my little advice to fellow parents who are considering child care or preschool centres: Keep your options open and you will eventually find one arrangement that works best for your child and the family.
Another new journey awaits!
As positive as I'm about entrusting my two precious to the infant and child care, I'm as reluctant to let them go. I don't know if it will get easier the second time and I'm praying hard for a relatively smooth journey for mei mei too!
I can still remember the first few days when I sent Emma to the school. It was so hard and I simply couldn't control my tears and wild thoughts. Hubby knew how struggling it was for me so he took a few days of annual leave to accompany me. We went for a movie, settled my pumping schedule and ran some errands before I return to work.
This time, Hubby will most likely have the same leave arrangement as before - a few days of leaves after delivery to tie up ends, a week after our confinement lady leaves to help with the transition, and a couple more days towards the end of my maternity leave when mei mei starts school and myself back to work. But, good news for us! Hubby could now save some annual leaves with the 2 weeks of paternity leave (1 week more than 2013!). 2 weeks of paternity leave seems short but I'm sure the additional 1 week will come really handy to help our family gets settled down faster!
While Hubby couldn't lend a hand with the non-stop breastfeeding, there are still some baby caring activities and countless errands he could help. To be honest, I was quite helpless after my confinement lady left. During the first month, I was told to rest more so I mainly breastfeed, eat, nap and left Emma in the confinement lady's good hands. I did a few days crash course to pick up the skills but it actually took some time for me to be more confident to handle Emma alone. Even though I might be a little more experience this time, extra help from him is certainly welcomed. Having him there by the side also act as a great emotional support!
Paternity leave is also a good time for Hubby to bond with our new baby! Unlike mums who are bonded naturally with the baby since pregnancy and during breastfeeding, the dads actually didn't have the privilege to do so. So, it is actually important for dads to spend some time together with the baby. Besides, we would also need to figure out the best routine to get both children ready for school and me to work towards the end of my maternity leave. Hopefully, things settle fast, and we get to steal some time off for a movie and kids-free date before I head back to work!
Read more about what Hubby had to say about paternity leave on: http://www.smartparents.sg/parenting/dads-welcome-extended-paternity-leave-7295420