I was warned that the first 6 months of daycare would be challenging. The transitions are tough, the routine is new and the illnesses are rampant. While my son was thriving in this new environment, I had no idea how sick we would be for half a year. My otherwise healthy, happy, energetic one-year-old was dealing with a new illness every week – yes, week! And so were my husband and me.
My guy started daycare in September last year, just in time for the Winter germs to settle in for a long hibernation. We battled the usual suspects – cold after cold, virus after virus, and in my guy’s case, five ear infections in five months. Everything came with a fever, goop, coughing, rashes, and stuffiness. We got our first call for an early pick up on his third day. I had only been back to work for two and half days before I had to take time off.
I could deal with being sick. But when your little one is sick, they can’t be in daycare. This creates an emotional and logistical nightmare. If your little one is healthy and typical and is going to daycare or school for the first time, here’s my advice:
- Remember, germs are good and viruses are normal.
I am not really a clean-freak mom. I think germs are good! Great, even! I read a book called Let Them Eat Dirt, which really made the case for germs in building microbes and a healthy system in those early years. Even my doctor reminded me that all of the viruses kids contract when they start daycare or school are normal. By all means, build those immunities. But you have to be prepared…
- Keep it clean.
The usual tactics aren’t much of a safeguard, but do them anyway – handwashing, vitamins, flu shots, hand sanitizer (for parents). Colds are going to happen, but do what you can to minimize the transmission to protect others. Plus, there is some really nasty stuff out there that you can avoid with good habits.
- Make a plan.
You’re going to have days where you kid can’t go to daycare or school. And that might mean you can’t go to work, or you have to call in the reinforcements. It’s always good to have a back up plan ready – do you have a grandparent or sitter than can be ‘on call’? Do you have any flexibility at work where you can shift hours, work from home or take time off when you need to? Can you and your partner take turns with a sick child? Have these conversations in advance so your plan is in place when you’re covered in vomit, going on no sleep and have a crying child in your arms. Yes, us parents have to sacrifice vacation time and pay sitters when we already pay for daycare. Yes, it’s unfair, and yes we will get through it.
- Prepare for sleepless nights.
Flashback to those newborn days where you were up all night – and all day. A sick child can mean lots of late night crying and snuggles. Plus, they might be teething or transitioning at the same time, which doesn’t help. That means parents aren’t sleeping at night, plus you’re caring for a sick child all day while catching up on work. Remember that self-care is important or you will crash. Adrenaline can only go so far.
- Know your health care options.
Make sure your Doctor’s phone number is handy, know their hours, and know your options for when your Doctor is not available. Do they have an on call service? Does your State or Province have a telephone service for health care questions? Where is the closest clinic? Which ER is best equipped for children? What’s the parking situation there? You might need to act fast in the case of illness and it’s good to have your options at your fingertips so you can make the best decision in the moment.
- Be an advocate.
I truly believe that my health care providers know a lot more than me – the first-time, worried mom who just googled herself into an early grave. I trust them and I listen to them and they have been spot on. But if your child is not right, you know. If you think you were dismissed with a cold but you know it’s something more serious – push for more. If you don’t think you need antibiotics for a sniffle, do your due diligence. Go with your gut.
No one said that being a parent is easy, but I was not prepared for the extreme juggling act that came along with my sweet and precious bundle of germs. Like everything in parenthood, this too is a phase.