October 15, 2018

Back to Work After Baby: Adjusting to Our New Normal

Contributed by Toni Berrafato, Program Evaluation Specialist

We did it! Aria and I have successfully made it to one month of our new normal – a working mom who relies on child care. If you remember, at the beginning of the school year I documented how I planned to make the transition to child care with Aria, and we couldn’t have done it without the support and communication from her teachers. Going into our “new normal” was a bit intimidating – mostly because of the inevitable feeling of only seeing my baby for a few hours a day. While hard at times, it’s been a heartwarming journey.

Our First Visit

I have a very Type-A personality. My plan A has a plan B and when that fails – no problem, I’m set all the way to plan E. Part of my plan was to take Aria to visit her teachers and her classroom prior to starting so that she could “become more familiar” with her surroundings. At the end of the day, the visit was probably more for my comfort than hers (and that is okay!!)

I already knew my daughter’s teacher in a professional capacity. She is a wonderful infant teacher and provides a high-quality learning environment for her children. What I hadn’t experienced before, was the way she communicated with parents. I could feel a distinct difference in the way that she spoke to “Toni as a Mom” as opposed to “Toni as a coworker”.  It seemed as though she had read my emotions and began to ask the right questions to figure out what we needed. Lisa could sense my hesitations and asked question after question to learn more about ”Toni-as-a-mom” and in the process I learned more about myself.

The thing that caused me some of the most anxiety before going back to work was Aria’s feedings. She is breastfed and used to an “on-demand” feeding schedule so I was nervous about how this would translate in a child care setting. During our visit, Lisa described how they would support us through the transition and assured me that everything was going to be just fine. And guess what? Aria’s teachers have worked with me to ensure that Aria was able to be fed as on-demand as possible.

They say you only have one chance to make a first impression, and our first interaction as ‘Mom and Teacher’ helped to create a solid foundation for a trusting relationship to form.

Drop-offs and Pick-Ups

Throughout our initial weeks, I have made a conscious effort to “linger” in the classroom during pick up and drop off. Although sometimes it’s hard to make myself slow down, I have found this to be a vital part of our communication and continuity of care. It gives the teachers and me the opportunity to share even the small details about Aria’s day or night. We generally talk about how she ate, how she slept, and her mood. This insight is so helpful for both parties to anticipate her needs.

In the morning, Lisa physically welcomes Aria into the classroom by taking her from me. This is a small detail that made a big difference and provided me with the feeling that the teachers love, notice, and care for my child on a daily basis—even if they had to set her down to play moments later to help another child.

In the afternoon, I love to hear the details about what she likes to do while in the classroom and how her little personality is developing. This helps me to feel connected to her growth and development when I’m not with her, especially since on workdays when our time together is limited.

These small but meaningful moments are helping us build a strong foundation of trust and respect. It gives me peace of mind and helps to ensure continuity of care.

Getting to Know her Doodle Family

As adults, when we meet someone new, it takes time for us to learn their likes and dislikes and build a level of trust. The same applies for our children and their teachers. At first, I felt anxious dropping my daughter off with a teacher whom I was less familiar with. I knew I just had to provide them with the information they needed about Ari and allow time for them to get to know her, and for her to get to know them. Eventually, I was able to sit back and admire how well they demonstrate that they know my daughter and her cues—and even on some occasions they respectfully make suggestions about adjusting her schedule to better meet her needs.

There have been many heartwarming moments, photos, and conversations shared between myself and each of the teachers in the classroom—all of which have started to make this little classroom community feel like family. One afternoon, I noticed from the hallway Aria on the lap of one of her teachers, being read a story. It was such a sweet moment, to watch Ari forming a nurturing relationship with the teacher who cared for her all day. Miss Jezebel, a Teacher Assistant in Aria’s classroom has gotten to know her so well. Recently, she said to me “I noticed that Aria has a cry for when she is hungry, and a different cry for when she is tired.” As moms, this is second nature, but to hear it from Miss Jezebel was heartwarming and put my mind at ease.

Tadpoles and WatchMeGrow

Tadpoles and WatchMeGrow have given my husband and me so much peace of mind during this time of transition for our family. I was viewing the classroom camera one day and could see that Ari was upset and her teachers were doing everything they could to soothe her; to no avail. I decided to call her classroom and the first thing her teacher said when she picked up the phone was “I’m so glad you called! She never cries like this.” Over the phone we were able to problem solve and determine what Aria was actually asking for. A relief for all involved!

The pictures my husband and I receive via the Tadpoles App of Aria smiling with captions like “I love Doodle Bugs!” have made our day. Albeit simple, it has been a powerful communication tool that puts us both at ease knowing she was happy and that we have get a glimpse at our girl while at work.

Being apart hasn’t been easy, but having the ability to “see” her during the day is something I’m so grateful for.

A Second Home

Doodle Bugs! has quickly become a second home for my daughter and all of the teachers who look out for her well-being and education have become an extended part of our family. I feel fortunate to be a part of such a caring and nurturing community of individuals who have nothing but the best interest of my child in mind. I can rest easy knowing that Aria is safe, loved, and engaged in rich experiences while I am at work.