I was used to being away from my 2.5 year old daughter 40+ hours a week. She was accustomed to socializing with kids her own age. Throw us together 24/7 in a new state, uprooted from friends, family and routine…what could go wrong?
It was the summer of 2016. As the 45-minute tantrums raged on, I took solace in the fact that schools would be starting soon. I would find a very part-time play school for both of our sakes (and for the baby on the way to have at least a few hours of undivided attention!).
Except as I called places here in my new town, I heard variations of the fact that a program didn’t exist for 2-years-olds, unless maybe you were willing to pay a traditional daycare for 50% of the time. I was thinking along the lines of six hours a week, not 20.
Now, Iowa City is amazing and so much more progressive than Shreveport, Louisiana, (where we lived before) in many ways.
But not on this.
My friends who stayed home in Shreveport almost universally had their kids enrolled in a “Mother’s Day Out” program, starting as young as a few months (what I’ll refer to as “Parents’ Day Out” (PDO) because dads stay at home too!). Sometimes it was only for one morning a week. But this was one morning she could count on to do whatever she wanted–clean her house, get her hair cut, or just enjoy peace and quiet at home without the possibility of a little person needing something, needing her.
Without the presence of PDO programs in Iowa City, my takeaway was that as a new stay-at-home parent, I shouldn’t feel the need to spend regular time away from my young child.
And this led to guilt during a time when I was already struggling with how to define myself amidst so many changes.
I’m not saying that parents need to drop their young kids off one morning a week–if you are able to maintain your sanity with so much togetherness, more power to you. Or maybe you have a partner who is around a lot or family in town. But for this pregnant mom that late summer, with family 1,000 miles away and a husband putting in long hours, it would have been nice to feel that support.
I’ve since learned that a few in-home providers offer something similar, but this seems more of a word-of-mouth thing and not like the programs I was familiar with.
If there are any area churches or other centers interested in starting a PDO program, please let me know, and I will assist how I can.
I have about two years left in Iowa City and would love to help bring this southern tradition to fellow stay-at-home-parents before I move.