Settling a child into nursery: the heartbreaking stage

So, as I mentioned in my last post, I’m back at work soon. And I’m all sorts of nervous and excited about this, and rather glad that my line of work is the kind of thing that is a) quite easy to stay involved in as it’s all online and b) quite easy to stay involved with if you’re a blogging, tweeting, possibly-Google-plussing community addict, which you obviously are if you do my job.

The thing about going back to work is that childcare has to be worked out.  Three days a week Ramona will be with grandparents, with whom she’s already happy and comfortable and has been left a few times to get used to the idea. But I also wanted her to go to nursery. Not because I’m itching to spend hundreds of pounds every month (and it is, at this end of the country certainly, a phenomenal though understandable fee), but because otherwise she doesn’t see very many other children.* I also think it can’t hurt to get used to the general routine. Astonishingly, school is just three years away, and becoming accustomed to the coming and going of large groups of kids with various tall people dotted about telling you what to do is no bad thing.

So, we started the process. We were lucky enough to find a nursery we loved on the second attempt (sorry, I won’t be sharing which as it’s just plain creepy to have the interwebs know where your child is spending her days). It’s well-resourced, cheerful and full of really lovely staff who exhibit a natural and boundless affection for their variously dribbling, snotty, wibbling and pooing charges. Lots of hugs and kisses, plenty of toys, books (Ramona’s current Reason for Being is to turn pages in board books) and good food. What else could anyone want? In fact, sign me up. I’ll even go to the loo myself.

But of course Ramona’s used to having mainly me around. The first few sessions, getting gradually longer, involved more and more crying, most of it solved by getting her engrossed in some books, or feeding her, although the last time the books only worked for a little while and she wouldn’t eat or drink milk. It was only on the last one that she actually clung to me and sobbed when we arrived – before that she’d smile at first and take a few minutes to realise I wasn’t there. On the advice of the nursery staff I’m basically going in, sitting her down, handing over her milk and buggering off; in their experience a drawn out goodbye only makes things worse.

It is, absolutely, heartbreaking (I sort of thank God she can’t say ‘mummy’ yet, because I think that would finish me off entirely). I know that she’ll get past it and that tears in the morning will become tears of wanting to stay there in the afternoon; after all, she doesn’t have a sandpit and water table and music area and whole crate full of phone-like toys etc at home. And all those things are, she will discover in due course, way more interesting than having me to poke every ten minutes. But I do wish I’d started this all earlier before separation anxiety had a chance to kick in (on her side – mine started before her head was all the way out), and I would have done if we hadn’t been away. But what’s done is done.

I try to make up for it with extra snuggly time – we spent ages cuddling in bed, her dozing and snorting on my chest, then beaming at me – but that only seems to make it worse for me.

The funny thing is, I have no doubts whatsoever about going back to work. I always wanted to and even after a break I can’t imagine not doing my job; it would be like not being me. So I’m not sitting here just to justify it to myself. Even if I was a SAHM, I’d send her to nursery for the socialisation and so that she can be taught by someone other than me.

Still, nothing teaches you to handle guilt like parenthood. Indeed, if you can get past the things you ‘should’ do during pregnancy, the things you ‘must’ do after the birth and the routines they ‘ought to’ follow thereafter, you will be TOTALLY INDESTRUCTABLE.

Women weakened by childbirth? Ha! I’ve never been tougher in my life.


*One of my friends has a daughter just five weeks older than Ramona. Every single time Ramona sees said mother and daughter coupling, she is having a bad day. The other child is frighteningly well-behaved and perfect. Mine – so cute, able, confident and lovely so much of the time – has a meltdown. And to make matters worse, when we see them as a family she is scared of the father’s voice. It basically means that among our closest friends at least one couple think our child is part-demon. This makes me sad, and also makes me think Ramona must, must, must be around other kids her age!


  1. I can only imagine how tough it must be to leave Ramona in a nursery! I find it hard enough leaving Elfie with my mum, and I get photo updates throughout the day but it just leaves me jealous (I want to be at the park! I want to be swimming!). I do think a little bit of separation is good though, and I’m sure you will agree that a little bit of work and grown-up time for mummy is also necessary. Good luck with it x


    1. Exactly – mummy still needs to be who she is as well as a mummy. It’s all tangled up together now, but the different bits still need their own time and space, and that includes working. Obviously a nursery isn’t right for Elfie, but I reckon with her sunny disposition she wouldn’t have had too much of a problem. But I know what you mean; when I leave her with grandparents I’m happy to have the time off and know the separation is good for her but I also constantly feel like something’s missing and I’ve forgotten to do something really important…

      Thank you x


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