“I still remember the first day when I stood outside the classroom and wept my heart out, thinking what she would probably go through, as to how would she take it, how would she be treated? This was her first exposure to the outside world”. And that’s how Dr K Neelima, mother of Saishta Anand, shares her first day experience of sending her toddler to KLAY, one of the largest DayCare and Playschool chains of India. Neelima is not the only one to feel the pangs of anxiety. Most women are always in a dilemma over when to put their child to DayCare as they head back to work. Should I send my infant to a daycare? Or should I wait till they learn to walk and talk? Every working mother suffers from a Hamletian dilemma at some point or the other.
In India, motherhood is a hallowed pedestal from where begins her never-ending job. She has to be the fountain of unconditional love, relentless attention, companionship, charity, as an ideal care-giver and perfect teacher. If she flounders, she is branded a failure. This often puts the burden of expectation on the mother, eluding her judgment, ability to think and act with clarity about her professional and other responsibilities. She has to deal with a thousand questions and worries regarding her decision to put her child in a ChildCare facility. Mothers often feel so guilty that they are seen at the door waiting and biting her nails and sometimes even sobbing. At times, especially with toddlers who take time to settle down, mothers are too anxious to wait outside or step away and insist on taking back the child.
Such reactions from parents can be counterproductive and can aggravate separation anxiety in junior and senior toddlers, who somehow can relate to their parents’ anxiety and start feeling helpless among strangers. This leaves them more vulnerable and they can take months to adapt to a new environment.
Other than resolving some practical problems that will be a decider, there are other more emotional and developmental milestones to be considered.
Psychiatrists believe it is better to put a child to DayCare as early as possible – by the age of six months when they still do not develop they can adjust easily to caregivers and are not so attached to suffer from separation anxiety been if the staff is changed. Older children develop means to try and get away from the pre-school or DayCare Centre. And if parents give in to this emotional manipulation and pull out their children instead of just letting the professional caregivers do their job, it may lead to behavioural issues.
Take the case of Vaishno Saxena, mother of Akshadha Saxena gave her toddler 2 months to settle down, though she was nervous in the beginning as Akshi used to cry a lot. “Within two months of being in KLAY, Akshi looks comfortably settled and is able to learn new things. For me it was a hard decision to take but I did,” adds Saxena.
Early childhood care has an immense impact on the child’s overall development and it also provides a valuable support to families with young children. Numerous research papers and studies support the contention that a good ChildCare facility helps nurture and develop a better cognitive and social development for children. They develop memory, language, school readiness, reading achievement, the nature of relationships with parents and teachers, social skills, work habits, and behavioural adjustment.
With children out of school, physical distancing as the new norm, and children’s rights under threat, the new world order has “turned back the clock” on years of progress made on children’s well-being. However, it’s not all bad. As a human race, we’ve been built to adapt: we’ve seen a tipping point in technology-enabled education and the promise of a new education policy in our country.