Dropping Rhys off at daycare for the first time, when he was 4 months old, almost exactly a year ago, was the hardest thing I've ever done. I cried harder than I ever have in my life that morning . . . and at lunchtime, when I was able to go visit him, I RAN down the stairs of our office building to get to my car, not wanting to wait for the elevator and waste even a second of my precious baby time.
Dropping him off continued to suck, every morning, for quite some time. I maintain that 4 months (even though, I know, it was a "generous" allotment of paid leave for an American mother) isn't enough. I believe strongly that new moms should have AT LEAST six months. The AAP recommends that babies be exclusively breastfed for six months (and that they continue to be breastfed for a year, at minimum, after the introduction of solid foods at six months). Pumping? It is HARD, yo. And a mom who heretofore may have had a great milk supply might find herself suddenly struggling when faced with a pump several times a day instead of a baby. Returning to work before 6 months has the capacity to sabotage breastfeeding, in my opinion . . . but I digress. This isn't the post I set out to write.
My point, however indirectly I come to it, is that sometime around 8 or 9 months, I began to believe it was in Rhys' own best interest to be at daycare, perhaps not for the 40 hours of week I was forced to send him there, but at least for SOME time, on a consistent basis. He was taking an interest in the other kids, genuinely PLAYING with them.
This isn't to say that I think there's anything wrong with stay at home mom-ming . . . just that in our own personal case, for my own personal baby, having chunks of time nearly every day to entertain himself with the aid of a few other kidlets has been a positive thing. Rhys is friendly. When we've set him up on "playdates" with friends' kids, he shows lots of interest. Shares his toys. Smiles, claps and tries to engage with them. We've taken him to play parks and he's run around, giggling, squealing and saying "HI!!!" to any kid within a 3 foot radius. They don't always say hi back, which breaks my heart a little, but the fact that he tries? That he wants to make friends? I am So. Proud. For a kid with an admittedly pretty misanthropic mother, Rhys is a gregarious, exuberant little guy and I hope he never stops being so open, happy and friendly.