I’ve just put a visibly upset Stanley to bed, we’ve had a little chat about what is happening tomorrow and I’ve explained that things will be fine. It’s the evening of Wed 29th Aug and everything will change in the morning. You see, tomorrow is the very last day Stanley will go to his childminder.
If you can imagine the M&S voice over lady…this is no ordinary childminder, this is Margaret OUR childminder!!
This is the woman who I instantly trusted to look after my 8 month old chubby bundle of joy, at a time when I didn’t trust anyone, anything or the world in general.
I was faced with going back to work, something I wasn’t relishing anyway and leaving half of my heart (or so it seemed) in someone else’s care, a stranger’s care. It was a last minute search for that ‘perfect‘ person, somebody who had to live up to the impossibly high standards in my head, somebody who I needed to be able to like, befriend and trust on first impressions.
Emotions were running high, as I would imagine they are for any mum in a similar situation but my world had just been turned upside down. My Dad had stepped in and agreed to have Stanley for the part-time hours I was due to work. Hooray!! It was absolutely the best plan, no childcare fees so that I could afford to stay part-time and, little Stan the man would have his loving Grandad to have fun and cuddles with for the four hour shifts I was planning to do.
However, the universe had other plans for us, as just three weeks before I was due to shine up my shoes and get back onto the hamster wheel of work my wonderful Dad found himself in hospital with a diagnosis of Acute Myeloid Leukaemia. No words, it was just a complete shock and left us reeling.
I can’t honestly remember much about that time, I think I shut out a lot of things I was struggling to deal with, so that I could concentrate on the task that was now very much at hand. My baby boy HAD to come first, I had no choice but to get my bum in gear and sort things out. I made enquiries at nursery’s but a lot were fully booked and ones that had places available couldn’t be flexible on days and I was working to a non fixed rota. I also spent a lot of time on the Internet looking at childminding websites and I went to visit two settings. Neither made me feel comfortable. I was given a list of rules and regulations and neither seemed geared towards my perfect little boy or the situation we were in, even though I’d explained our circumstances. I was feeling completely deflated and asked around my mummy friends for recommendations.
And, that’s how I found her.
The wise men following the star to a stable in Bethlehem had an easier time than me. For ‘she who does not advertise‘ was eventually tracked down via my friend’s, husband. He had a friend, (who he used to work with), who happened to be married to this shining example of childminding loveliness. I found myself armed with a mobile phone number written on a piece of paper. So, I made a polite enquiry, dropping as many names as possible to try and get an in. I got the go ahead and went to visit her setting with Stanley, and the hubby too. The welcome we received was as if we’d known her and her family, for a very long time. Conversation flowed, Stanley was fussed and cooed over, we discussed our needs and we looked over her qualifications etc. They could have been written in Chinese for all the attention I paid to them, for my heart and my gut had worked together, and already decided that she was THE ONE.
And honestly, we’ve never ever looked back since. It was the best decision ever for Stan. Margaret’s home is now as familiar to Stanley as our own, only with much better toys, food, TV and company…or so I’ve been told!
Our situation and circumstances have changed a lot since that first day too. There have been some absolutely devastating lows, but some wonderful highs too. I gave up work in the traditional sense, and started my own business from home, then James crashed into our lives with the force of a tornado and somehow another little boy is now growing in my tummy. Those 3.5 years have flown by!
When I became a SAHM I asked Stanley if he still wanted to go to Margaret albeit only one day a week. The answer was a resounding ‘YES, of course I do because I love her Mummy’ And he does too, and so do I. I have a lot to thank her for, not least for helping Stanley to grow into the confident, cheeky and caring 4 year old that we love the very bones of. She has also gone above and beyond to care for Stanley as if he were her own. Cooked lunches, baking cakes, kisses and cuddles and days out together are the norm.
And, from a personal point of view the support she offered us during the tough times (I’m sure you can put two and two together, I’m not quite ready to write about it yet) was amazing and really helped us to get through it.
I’m also dreading tomorrow, I know it’s going to be upsetting for Stanley (and Margaret too, no doubt) and it really will be the end of an era for us all.
Stanley has picked out a few little gifts to give to Margaret on drop off and written a card. We are as prepped as we can be. I’ve no doubt that we will stay in touch (I’ve promised Stan that we will) and meet for coffee etc if we can arrange it sometime. Stanley has already told me that he wants her to come to his next birthday party too.
As strange as it sounds I’m not sure if I’m ready to lose yet another person who loves my little boy. Yes, I’m pumped full of hormones and overly emotional but it’s been so great to have that back up. I’ll try and explain what I mean. I currently look after my boys 24/7, even if Stanley is at Margaret’s or at preschool then I will still have James and in a few weeks time I’ll have another little man to care for too. Having that back up from another mum who’s been there, and has done that to such a high standard that she’s made a career out of it, has been incredibly comforting. Margaret writes a special ‘journal’ of Stanley’s time with her (complete with photos) and I read it the minute he gets home. Just being told that he’s tried something new, or continued to do something we’ve been working on at home gives me reassurance and an insight to how he behaves independently of me. It makes me feel like I’m on the right track, gives me a boost, and rids me of some of the self doubt that we mums experience. I’m no longer going to have that, and it’s a bit scary. Yes, there will be parents evenings and reports from preschool followed by school but they won’t be based on a close relationship with one to one interaction and observations.
Stanley will be fine, he will miss Margaret terribly no doubt, but he’s four and will adjust like a pro. Kids are so resilient. Margaret has seen lots of her children through to school age, sometimes beyond, and has had plenty of practice at saying goodbye. And I’ll just waddle on doing the best I can to raise my three ( OMG help!) boys.
But first, I’m willing to bet there will be a few leaky eyes tomorrow.
See you on the other side!!
All photos are my own.
Images: ©Winnie the Pooh™ ©Disney™