I became a first-time mom in fall of 2019. Prior to getting pregnant, I thought I could never do the stay-at-home mom thing. But, after spending a few months at home with my daughter, the thought of her being away from me, of dropping her off at daycare seemed unbearable. Not only had I seen every aspect of her whole life thus far, I loved our slow mornings and the occasional stroll around Target just to get out of the house.
Well, the end of January 2020 rolled around, and my maternity leave was coming to a close. My new hopes of being a stay-at-home mom just weren’t going to happen. We had secured our spot at a nearby daycare center during my first trimester, and we had heard wonderful things about the center from a few other families who brought their kids there. This still didn’t stop me from sobbing all the way home after taking her the first day. Luckily, we started bringing her a few days before I went back to work so we could test out our new routine.
We quickly realized our baby was in great hands, and each day got a little easier to drop her off. I slowly settled into a new job, milk pumping schedule, and evening pick-up routine. Things were going pretty smoothly. Fast forward seven weeks to March: I went home on a Friday and never returned to the office. Like many, both my husband and I were told to immediately work from home for the foreseeable future.
Our daycare center did everything in its power to stay open throughout the entire pandemic, and it has. We really didn’t have a ton of details to go off of at the time, so we kept our baby home for the first week and a half. Although we were still uncertain of the future, we started bringing her just a couple days a week, but quickly realized it was next to impossible to focus on our jobs and care for a 6-month-old baby. We eventually took her back full time. It was such a hard choice as a parent, with neither option feeling like the right one.
Thankfully, the daily reports they provide with notes on her activities, meals, and even her poop schedule were a constant reassurance. The cute photos they included were the icing on the cake. Despite all of the changes the staff had to navigate, they kept up with the updates. Through these daily reports, we get to see her learn new things, try new foods, make new friends, and even move up to a new classroom.
Not only did the events of the past year underscore the incredible importance of our teachers and child-care workers, it made me realize I didn’t really know the best way to support them both mentally and tangibly. I am so thankful for everything they have done for our family.
I reached out to the director of our daycare, who has been with the center for more than 20 years. She said she has never seen a situation that compares to the pandemic. Sure, there are things like unexpected building issues, weather events, and teachers coming and going, but nothing that has been as long-running as this.
The center has gone above and beyond to support their staff by doing things such as providing a new, relaxing break room to decompress for a bit, writing more thank you notes and sharing motivational quotes, and providing more catered meals to lift spirits. They have had a new level of understanding when it comes to day-off requests and aiming to meet the needs of everyone’s mental health.
Although there is some light at the end of the tunnel with increasing vaccination rates, we are not out of the woods, which means the added stress will continue for these important caregivers.
So, I asked the director of our daycare for some things parents can do to continue to be extra supportive to the teachers or daycare workers in their lives. I added in a few things that I’ve witnessed, too.
- Be Understanding — The best and easiest way to be supportive is to be understanding and empathetic and know that teachers are doing the very best they can. Be kind when teachers make a mistake.
- Follow the Guidelines — The information and guidelines constantly change, and the decisions can often be tough. Even if you don’t agree with safety protocols, or they differ from other businesses, do your best to follow the center’s procedures.
- Share Information — Teachers want your mind to be at ease if you have questions or concerns. Schedule a 10-minute call with them if needed or put questions in the app if one is available. Similarly, if your child is struggling with something find a way to communicate that with the teacher so they are aware. This year has been hard on everyone.
- Keep Them Home if Sick — If your child is sick, keep them home! Having a sick kid in a classroom can add a lot of extra stress to the teacher and puts others at risk.
- Provide Resources — Ask if there are any materials the classroom needs that you could provide. It might be as simple as saving extra milk jugs or toilet paper rolls for a craft or cleaning out crayons from home and bringing them in.
- Coordinate With Other Parents — A few months ago, another parent at our center emailed a group of parents and asked if we wanted to chip in to have a nice lunch catered for the staff. With the number of parents on board, it was little cost to us, but provided such a special, well-deserved treat to the teachers.
- Give a Handwritten Note — I think handwritten notes are often overlooked, but a quick thank you and some words of encouragement can really go a long way in someone’s day. (We actually received one from our daughter’s teacher, and I’m definitely saving it!)
- Bring Flowers or Snacks — Pick a random day (not a holiday, just like a Tuesday in May) and bring in an unexpected bunch of flowers to brighten the classroom or a bag of Topsy’s popcorn for the teachers.
Recently, we have been able to start going inside on occasion for pick-up, and it has been such a wonderful experience. The last time we could do this, I was carrying out our daughter in her infant car seat, and now she comes running over and can name her friends. She has grown so much over the last year, and while the pandemic has been tough to do much outside of our home, I am so very happy she has such a wonderful place to learn, grow, and play.