Many years before my daughter with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) was diagnosed, I quit my job at a university to become a devoted stay at home mom. My baby girl was just six months old at the time. I traded my pantsuits for yoga pants, my morning Starbucks cappuccino for homemade coffee – that I would end up reheating several times, and talking to my coworkers about politics for singing “Baby Beluga” to my one and only audience – my little girl.
I enjoyed being able to spend my days with my daughter, never missing a milestone and being there during what the experts say are the most important years of a child’s development. It was clear from the start that my daughter was one smart cookie, so I took complete advantage of being home with her and began teaching her the alphabet, numbers, colors, shapes, and more from a very early age. By 18 months old, she knew well over 1,000 words and could talk in complete sentences. By age three, she already had enough knowledge to enter kindergarten. This mamma bear did good… real good.
Fast forward a year and another baby girl later, I began looking into childcare for my children so that I could return to the workforce only to find that the cost of childcare was ridiculously expensive. After doing the math, my husband and I realized I would not be making much money at all due to the high cost of a quality daycare for our children. I know there are some companies that try their best to provide support for employees who have children. These employee engagement companies are seen as a godsend, unfortunately, by the time I found out about these companies, I had already decided on a new path in my life. It was then that I decided to open my own licensed home daycare. That way, I could be home with my children and work full-time as well. I was killing two birds with one stone.
I loved my job as a child care provider and I took it very seriously. As a business management major and a mother myself, I knew what I was doing. I had daily schedules, meal plans, a kindergarten readiness program, and weekly reports for the families. I took pride in my work and I absolutely adored the children in my daycare. I treated them like family, because they felt like family to me and I can honestly say that I loved each and every one of them. My daycare and the children were my heart and soul.
My home was filled with six children at a time, all under six years old. My daughters loved having their home turned into a daycare, because to them, it was like having a playdate with their friends every single day. My ADHDer was the oldest child at my daycare, but she had no problem playing with the younger children, because like many children with ADHD, she was immature for her age. Having a daycare had other benefits for my children as well. It taught my children about sharing (their toys and their mother), cooperation, and socialization. Everything was going great until my then undiagnosed daughter entered kindergarten.
My daughter began getting homework in kindergarten and I don’t mean the cutting and pasting kind. She was getting legitimate big kid homework. Every day, she had to complete two pages of math, two pages of language arts, read for 20 minutes, and practice reading her Sight Words. Occasionally, she was also given science homework as well as family projects to complete. I was surprised by the workload my five year old was getting, but I figured it was normal for a private school. I couldn’t leave my house to pick my daughter up from school since I had to work, so my mother or my sister in law would pick her up and bring her to my house. My daughter would get home around 3:15, which is when some of the daycare children were still napping. I would take advantage of that and try to help her do her homework while keeping the daycare children happy and busy with quiet activities and afternoon snacks. As you can imagine, that didn’t work out so well. Any little noise the children made distracted my daughter. When she became frustrated with her homework, she would have full-blown meltdowns, which woke up the daycare kids that were still napping. I was constantly having to leave my daughter, because the other children needed my attention, whether it was to take them to the bathroom, refill their sippy cup, help them with a puzzle, etc. Whenever I left my daughter alone with her homework, none of it got done. I had to be right next to her the entire time, which would take her hours and hours to finally complete. It was an absolute nightmare for my daughter and myself.
After my daughter’s official ADHD diagnosis that year, she began taking medication and attending counseling sessions. She was also diagnosed with depression and anxiety, which completely shattered my heart. I knew she inherited ADHD from her father, but I felt like she developed depression because of me not being as good of a mother as I should have been. The child psychologist suggested I visit her classroom to monitor her if I could. Of course I couldn’t. My work hours were from 7:00am to 7:00pm, which did not allow me time to volunteer in the classroom. My work hours also didn’t allow me time to take her to her many doctor’s appointments either, so my mother had to take her in my place. Being a child care provider is not like most jobs. I couldn’t just decide to use a sick day or a vacation day. Families were relying on me to take care of their children every day. If my daughter was having a meltdown at school and I was asked to go down there and pick her up, I couldn’t. That would mean that I’d have to notify four families to leave their jobs early to come pick up their children from my daycare just so I could pick my daughter up from school. That was never going to happen.
The child psychologist also suggested I work with my daughter at home by practicing the coping strategies she learned during her counseling sessions. When was I going to have time for that? During Circle Time? When I was washing the glue off of six sets of little hands? While I was making dinner for six hungry kids? I felt like Stretch Armstrong being pulled in many directions and my job wasn’t allowing me to be there for my daughter the way I needed to be.
I knew what I had to do. I had to put my daughter first. It was clear that she needed me and unfortunately, having a home daycare was making her life much harder than it already was. Because of my job, she could never complete her homework in peace and I couldn’t help her practice what her psychologist taught her. She was having a difficult time making friends at school and relating to her peers. I know this is common for children with ADHD, but I felt like being around younger children at my daycare all the time had something to do with it too. She wasn’t used to being around children her own age and since I couldn’t leave the house, I wasn’t able to take her to the park or playdates after school. I felt like I was trapped. Because of my job, I couldn’t take her to her doctor’s appointments, school, field trips, or activities. Most importantly though, because of my job, I couldn’t be the mother she needed, wanted, and deserved. Looking back on it now, perhaps if I’d have looked for the best HR software, I might have been able to streamline some of the responsibilities and make life a little easier for myself and my business.
After many tears, I decided to close my daycare and become a full-time stay at home mom for my daughter once again. I was an emotional wreck when I quit my job. I was sad about closing my daycare and saying goodbye to the precious children I loved so dearly. I was also sad about the fact that my family would now be a one-income family and we’d all need to make sacrifices. Most of all, I was sad about the fact that my daycare had made my daughter’s life so difficult and I was sad about the fact that it took me so long to realize it.
I felt like a failure, both as a mother and as a businesswoman. My husband assured me that I was doing the right thing. He said he would support my decision as long as it made me happy. That’s the thing though. Closing my daycare didn’t make me happy, but I knew that continuing to run my daycare would only make things worse for my daughter and that would make me more unhappy. I did what I felt was right in my heart.
Fortunately, soon after I quit my daycare, I saw almost immediate changes in my daughter’s life. Mornings were not as rushed as they used to be when I had the daycare. If my daughter is having an “I don’t want to go to school” type of morning, I’m able to give her my full attention to help calm her nerves and practice one of the techniques her psychologist taught her. I’m able to take her to school and make her and her best friend laugh while they wait in line. I’m able to volunteer in her classroom, which she surprisingly really enjoys. I’m able to pick her up from school and ask her how her day was. I make her crack up by sticking my tongue out and making a silly face at the bullies behind their back as we walk to the car. At home, I’m able to provide her with a calm and peaceful environment as she does her homework. I still have to be right next to her the whole time, but I don’t mind at all. Reading is not her strongest subject, so I’m able to spend extra time with her reading. In the evening, I have more time to play with her, cuddle with her, enjoy her, and love her. Every night, I do her bedtime routine with her and as I lean in to give her a goodnight kiss, she always puts her hands on my cheeks and tells me, “I love you, Mommy.”
Did I make the right decision? Definitely!