It’s 7:30 in the morning, and I catch myself dragging my feet into your classroom. I’m busy complaining about how I’ve been up for an hour and I barely slept. Meanwhile, you’ve been here since six o’clock. You turned the lights on in your classroom before I even opened my eyes. You arranged toys, prepared food, and tidied up a room that will soon return to disarray when the kids arrive.
I walk in and expect you to notice me. You do a great job of greeting me by name even though you have thirty other things to do. There are several parents dropping off their children, one of the babies is screaming, another is starting to fuss, and another needs a diaper change. You’re simultaneously feeding a bottle to a baby in your arms while comforting another who wasn’t ready for his parents to leave.
As if I’ve forgotten that you’ve cared for my baby for half a year, I remind you what size bottles he needs, what food he can’t have, and what time he prefers to eat. You smile and take note, even though you know him–and every other baby–like the back of your hand.
Before I leave, I spend an obnoxious amount of time kissing my baby, squeezing him, and begging him to behave. All the while, you stand by smiling and promising me he will.
When I return nine hours later, you’re still there. Your shirt is stained, and your hair is pulled back. Your feet are tired, and your back aches from bending, lifting, and carrying all day. But, your smile hasn’t faded. You greet me and prepare my son for his trip home, singing to him and telling him he is loved. Soon enough, I leave, knowing I’ll see you again in a few hours.
But, what if I don’t see you again? What if you decide not to return? It’d be a shame if I left everything unspoken. I have so much to say, and so much to thank you for.
I know you’re tired. You work long hours, and I doubt you’re compensated properly. You earn minimum wage while you try to save up for your next dream. Maybe you’re saving so you can go to college, start your own businesses, or buy a better car. Whatever it is, I wish I could provide it for you. Your life’s work is helping my child grow, and there is no price tag for that.
I wish I knew you better. You know everything about my son, yet I don’t even know your last name. You pour your heart and soul into the babies you see every day, and I wonder if you have children of your own. Maybe you have suffered loss. Maybe you can’t have children. Maybe you have your own babies that you are away from. It hurts my heart to know you may bury that pain every day.
Your feet are sore. You’re tired of washing your work shirt each night. You’re underappreciated by those around you. You’ve seen diapers far worse than I have. You’ve been on the receiving end of complaints for things over which you have no control. You spend hours of your day feeding other people’s children, but get only a short break to feed yourself. I know you’re exhausted and undoubtedly stressed.
But I also know you’re selfless. You’re creative. You’re caring, gentle, and kind. You make my son feel safe, and you give him love.
It’s not easy for me to be away from my baby. You know this. And because you know this, you do your best to raise my son into the human being I want him to be. You’re doing such a good job. I wish I remembered to tell you that more often.
You are like the building blocks my son loves to play with – adaptable, colorful, and full of potential. Your job is the most important job in the entire world, and I know I don’t thank you enough.
A Day Care Mom
This post was originally written in 2016.