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How Long is Too Long to Be Away From Mom and Dad?

work life balance and daycare centers

Being away from home -- how much is okay?

I know I’m approximately the 100 millionth parent to struggle with the question of being away from her most precious human being.

I’ve read the research on healthy and happy kids in daycare  (indeed, I share it with my readers a lot).

I loved my son’s daycare and I love his preschool — packed with valuable experiences like building community, learning to trust other adults, forming relationships, and yes, smearing himself with clay. That all happens while he’s away from me during the day, and it sounds pretty great.

So why is it something I struggle with on almost a daily basis?

Every morning, my son has a routine: I pick him out of bed, he sleepily rests and cuddles on my lap on the couch (possibly my favorite time of the day). And then he asks,

“Is it a school day?”

“Yes, lovie, it’s a school day.”

“Whhhyyy?!” he whines. My heart breaks a little. I ride a fine line between playing dumb (really, I’m surprised you don’t want to go to school!) and acknowledging his feelings. Something like, “I hear you little buddy. It’s hard to start the day sometimes.”

Because that’s what it really seems to be: we struggle with transitions, not really with being at school. Indeed, when I pick him up most days — his face covered in paint, sweaty from running and excited about story time — he’s telling me he doesn’t want to come home. He’s in the groove, and it’s just flat out hard to move from one place to another, home to school, school to home.

So for the most part, my struggle isn’t over whether or not being away from me is bad for him, although in my more vulnerable moments those thoughts do knock around in my head. I never imagined myself not working and at the end of the day I know that (beyond the financial reality), we are a happier family with me as a working parent. But even if I know that intellectually, it doesn’t change the fact that we miss each other and I have so little control over his world for all that time during the week.

So when he asks if it’s a school day and the answer is “no,” we look at each other, laugh and share a giddy moment of excitement and (though I don’t show it to him) I feel a sense of relief. Today he can relax and take things at his own speed. And for this day, I can just be a mom.

Read about the personal struggles 6 other parents try to hide from their kids.

Image: flickr

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