I’ll never forget the first time I left Sophia at nursery. My arms were shaking as I passed her over to one of the assistants, and I held onto her for just a little bit too long, breathing in her smell and savouring those last few moments before I had to give her up for seven hours.
Apart from the time that I was bridesmaid at my best friend’s wedding and my mother in law took Sophia for the day, it was seven hours longer than I’d been apart from her in the five months that she’d been alive. And the first time I’d ever left her alone at all with relative strangers.
Luckily, with supportive, understanding smiles, her teachers kindly but firmly ushered me out of the room before I started weeping. On the way out, I paused to look back through the window of her classroom and realised that she hadn’t even noticed that I’d gone. She was already engaged in the activity her teachers were setting up, and she looked decidedly happy. This was definitely going to be more difficult for me than it was for her.
Ever since that first day, I have been inundated with questions. Some people wanted to know why I was sending her to nursery when she was so young and I wasn’t yet back at work. Some wanted to know how I’d chosen the nursery that I did and whether I was happy with my decision. Everyone wanted to know how Sophia was getting on. I waited long enough to feel like I was qualified to give you all a thorough response, and now here it is. I hope it will help a few mums going through the difficult transition of placing their child into daycare, and answer some of the questions that you have about the process too.
Trust me, it all ends up being a lot easier than you think it’s going to be!
OK, there was that one time that she had a bit of an off day and I received a call saying that Sophia was refusing her bottle and could I come and collect her three hours early…But even then I arrived to find her sleeping soundly in her designated cot in the sleeping room, clutching onto her Jellycat bunny and blissfully unaware that I had sprinted all the way there in the scorching midday sun, and had arrived sweaty and panting, about to pop an artery with worry.
In time I’ve come to realise just how adaptable and resilient babies really are, and how cherished and supported she is at nursery, and my anxiety about leaving her has all but evaporated.
I didn’t have a lot of choice when it came to the decision of whether to put Sophia into nursery or not. Faced with an imminent return to work (which has since been postponed), I frantically began to research the various childcare options available to us in Qatar. We could have opted for a nanny, but we felt that a structured day, a change of scenery and contact with other children at nursery would be good for her, especially as she was already starting to show signs of being an inquisitive baby who craves stimulating environments and social interaction (in short, she was getting bored in our apartment with the same old boring toys and only me for company – and who could blame her!).
Then came the difficult task of choosing which nursery to place her in. I read through all of the online resources I could find – the most helpful of which was the Doha Mums Nursery Guide, and we weighed up all of our options: British curriculum vs. another; proximity to home vs. proximity to the office; various opening times and policies and languages spoken.
We eventually alighted on Twyla Nursery: a British curriculum nursery in a spacious, colourful and stimulating setting, with some of the friendliest and most welcoming staff that we had encountered on our search. The hours (7am – 2pm, which can be expanded up to 6pm for a little extra money) suited our daily schedule and we were excited about the fact that even though Sophia was in the youngest class, ‘Cheeky Chicks’, they still had a structured day with set activities aimed at her particular developmental stage, and that they were supportive of individual parenting styles – embracing things like baby-led weaning for example. Based on The Pearl, it also happened to be the nursery closest to our home, which was a bonus!
Much to my relief, from day one, Sophia has adored going to Twyla. She shrieks with excitement as we enter the front door at the beginning of the day. She reaches out to her teacher’s open arms when we arrive in her classroom without a glance back in my direction (much to my disappointment!). She enjoys circle time with her friends, singing songs and interacting with the other babies, learning the rules of social interaction. She adores the sensory play that her teachers organise each week, and I find myself looking forward to the photos that they send me of her giggling uncontrollably as a ball was bounced in front of her, or of her face screwed up in concentration as she touched ice for the first time, or played with multi-coloured balls floating in water. She also loves going to play in the ‘Outside Den’ and getting some fresh air during the cooler months. When I pick her up, she is full of gummy smiles which make my heart melt a little inside.
She has always been a baby that has picked things up quickly, but since she started going to nursery her development has come on in leaps and bounds. “Sophia is so strong and so determined!” her teachers told me at the beginning. Now it’s, “Sophia is so mobile now, and she’s pulling herself into a standing position. Soon she’s going to be walking!”. I see her watching the older children and trying to copy what they do. She’s such a sociable baby these days, and wants to reach out and touch other children, to communicate with them and sometimes even plant a big sloppy kiss on their cheek! I’ve loved watching this part of her character emerge and I know that nursery has had a big part to play in helping her to grow into the friendly, sociable and confident little girl that she’s rapidly becoming.
Best buddies – Baby Sunshine and Baby Moon
From my side, I feel like the nursery has done a great job at giving me the confidence I need to get on with my own life while I’m away from Sophia. I receive a daily report in her log book which notes everything from how many diaper changes she’s had, to how much food she’s eaten and naps she’s taken (and when), and gives a little commentary on her day and how she’s been. I can’t wait to get home and devour this, partly because I feel like I can live a bit of her day with her through this, and partly because of the sweet comments the teachers always write about my daughter, which as a proud mama, naturally I love!
They are slowly phasing out this book in favour of an App, which you can download on your phone which is updated by the teachers electronically and includes photos of the children enjoying the activities they have undertaken that day.
Most importantly, above all else, I have loved the fact that the nursery is such a warm and nurturing environment. It might sound silly, but the teachers and assistants do truly love children – you can see it in the delight in their eyes when Sophia comes through the door in the morning and the way that they interact with all of the babies in their care. All of them have years of experience and many of them even have families of their own back home.
For all of you parents that are about to embark on your own nursery journey, I urge you to find somewhere that can offer your child this kind of environment; a ‘home away from home’ if you like. State of the art facilities and world-renowned curriculums are all very well, but up until the age of four when your child starts school, all they really need is love.
And hang on in there, the separation does get easier. Especially when you realise that you have the time for a manicure, to take a bath, write a blog post AND a sleep all in one day. Having coped for so long without any family in the country for support, I finally have a bit of breathing space to do some of the things that are just for me, which I have neglected since becoming a mummy. In turn, I find that when I’m with her again after a day in nursery, I’m more present and engaged, giving her the time and attention she needs and deserves. Nursery costs money, but that, to me, is priceless.
How did you decide which nursery to go with and how has your nursery journey been for you and your child?
Twyla Nursery, Parcel 16, 29 La Croissette, Porto Arabia, The Pearl Qatar | +974 4427 3422