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Sand, snot and sewing?! 41 things no one tells you when your little one starts daycare

Jessica Bosco

Jessica Bosco

Jessica is a writer, editor and professional wrangler of two boys. Working in women's lifestyle publishing for over 15 years she has written about everything from fashion and beauty to royal weddings and true crime. These days she loves helping parents navigate pregnancy and the early years of raising little ones...
Created on Oct 29, 2023 · 7 mins read

There are so many parts of this parenthood game that no one warns you about. Breastfeeding – ‘whyyy is this so hard?’ Sex after baby… WTF! And then along comes daycare.

Sure, making the decision to send your little one to daycare is a big deal and finding someone you trust to care for your precious bub is always going to be a big decision. But making the decision on which childcare to choose is the hard part, right? Then maybe those first couple of drop-offs might be tricky – but then it’s smooth sailing, right?

Well, strap in friend, because sadly the fun is only just beginning… Because we’re those friends that aren’t going to sugarcoat things for you – we want you to feel prepared for anything daycare life can throw at you (metaphorically and literally 💩) so we’ve pulled together a few things no one tells you about starting daycare…

  1. You’ll pay the daycare half your salary and in return, they’ll give you a new virus every second week to take home 🦠.
  2. Daycare sickness is a new kind of evil – they are going to get sick constantly for about 6-12 months (and remember it’s normal for little ones to get around 10-12 viruses a year so strap in and ride the wave – it will settle down.
  3. Also, WTF even are some of those daycare illnesses? They’ll come home with all sorts of germs you never even dreamed imaginable. Gross 🤢. If you manage to avoid getting them yourself – go and buy a lottery ticket asap.
  4. Sand. SO. MUCH. SAND.
  5. Dress-ups. WHY SO MANY DRESS-UPS? Book Week, Easter Hat Parade, pyjama week – actually pyjama week we’re ok with 🤣.
  6. And don’t even get us started on the ‘please make the costume yourself don’t just go out and buy one’ emails 🤬. Your child’s attention span & appreciation Vs the effort required for these DIY (Sewing? Seriously?) creations is not ok. That ‘how did I get here’ moment that hits you while hand sewing costumes at 2 am…
  7. They will cry – you will cry – but you will all be ok and it will get easier 🙏🏽
  8. Managing the work juggle is tough on a good day – let alone when you’re struck with sickness, so take care of yourself and have a chat with your boss about expectations and flexibility.
  9. Knowing when to keep them home and when they’re ok to go is like trying to solve the theory of relativity. We put some tips together here.
  10. Drop-offs can be brutal – they will cry/scream/claw at you and make you question every life choice up until that moment 💔 but 9 times out of 10 they will stop crying 5 minutes after you leave.
  11. But also when they first start sometimes they won’t cry initially and you’ll think you’re in the clear – then week 2 comes and BAM. Once that initial novelty wears off the tears come hard.
  12. However, the act of having a carer extract your screaming baby/toddler who is clinging to your body is one that will stay with you – but it won’t traumatise them we promise, they won’t remember it!
  13. What they will remember? You/your partner walking back in that door at the end of the day and showering them in cuddles and love!
  14. Don’t be surprised if they cry at pick up too – it’s like they let themselves have fun and then they see you and remember how much they missed you. Equal parts adorable and heartbreaking.
  15. Those cuddles when you pick them up though? Pure magic.
  16. Seeing them love a carer/educator will warm your heart and also break it just a little.
  17. The amount of poo/bum/bodily functions talk that they learn and think are HILARIOUS 💩.
  18. The, ahem, insights they share about you/personal family stuff with the educators 😳. TMI.
  19. Remembering to pack their favourite toy/blankie etc can be the difference between a smooth drop-off and feeling like the worst parent in the world for the entire day.
  20. That moment you hear your phone ring and see that it’s daycare calling… (and the relief when they just want to talk to you about your account).
  21. The guilt you will feel of being the one running out of the office to pick up your sick child. Again.
  1. The guilt over being the last parent at pick up. Again.
  2. But also… Don’t feel guilty about sending them to daycare – and especially don’t feel guilty about enjoying work/time away from them.
  3. Even if you’re not vibing going to work (or are struggling with the separation from your little one and hate drop-offs yourself) try not to let them see that! Omit positive vibes, tell them you’ll miss them too but you’re so excited to pick them up later and hear all about their day.
  4. Daycare is great for their development and social skills and don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise.
  5. All that cute art they bring home 🤔… Sure it’s adorable – but umm are you meant to keep it all???
  6. You’ll be amazed as you start to see their development skyrocket – new words, ticking off milestones and becoming their own little person right before your eyes.
  7. You’ll live for those daycare updates/photos during the day 🥰.
  8. Seeing your child make their first friend? Priceless.
  9. It’s very common for little ones to hit/bite/scratch, so don’t be surprised if your little one is on the receiving end – or is the one dishing it out. It doesn’t mean that they’re destined to be a bully or be bullied. It will still break your heart though.
  10. Trust your gut – just because you’ve chosen this daycare if something doesn’t feel right say something. If you don’t like the answer – you can always move your child somewhere else.
  11. Chatting to some of the other parents at drop-off/pick-up can be helpful if you have questions about the centre, are looking to make friends in the area or just to have a friendly face to talk to at the end-of-year concert.
  12. Playdates with daycare friends can also be a great way to help your little one develop friendships and make them excited to go each day to see their friends.
  13. Take your little one to buy a special backpack or drink bottle or new shoes – something to make them feel special and excited about going and getting ready in the mornings.
  14. Don’t send them in their best outfits – have a dedicated daycare wardrobe for all those inevitable paint, mud and ‘what the heck is that 😳’ stains they will come home with. Go cheap and cheerful here – save the designer duds for the non-daycare days.
  15. Label everything – things will still go missing but this will help.
  16. Sitting in the car for that extra 5 minutes when you arrive early for pick up is everything.
  17. When you’re toilet training and all those nice soiled clothes come home for you to deal with after a long day at work. That’s fun.
  18. Naps naps naps – sometimes a blessing and sometimes a curse. Some babies/toddlers refuse to nap at daycare and you’re dealing with an overtired little one at pick-up.
  19. OR when the teachers let them sleep when you’ve specifically asked them not to – and they’re ready for an all-night rave come bedtime 🤡.
  20. That moment you see them in the rearview mirror and they have fallen asleep in the car between daycare and home. Game over.

Daycare. What a doozie huh!

There are so many good elements to daycare (and if you need some more tips for managing it we’ve got some great ones for you here). Managing that first year of illness, the emotional rollercoaster and figuring out how the heck you’re meant to hold down a job/career/home/social life/sanity amongst it all can be brutal… but hang in there, remember it will get easier and they (and you) will be thriving in no time!

Related Articles

When to keep your child home from daycare?
How to choose the right childcare for your baby
Returning to work after baby number two (and why it’s OK to ugly-cry at drop off)

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