Why an early start to childcare can ease the return to work

When I meet families who will soon be returning to work and are looking at education and care for their child, I urge them to think about easing the transition by starting their child a few weeks before they go back to work.

That’s because it’s an experience I can closely relate to. Following my own maternity leave, I started back to work in December 2015 when my child was nine-months-old. After an orientation visit two-weeks prior, we launched straight into a new full-time education and care regime on the exact day I re-commenced my career. But we quickly encountered a difficulty. Because my daughter hadn’t been exposed to any of the new germs that children routinely encounter in an environment populated by other children, she got sick in the first week. This presented a real challenge, as I then had to negotiate with my partner about who was going to stay home because it was only my second day back at work. In the six-months I’ve been at SDN Woolloomooloo, I’ve seen this scenario play out time and time again. A child attends for the first week, then is out for the second week with an illness.

This is why I now suggest that families think about introducing their child to the day care environment four-weeks early. It could simply start with a number of 45-minute visits, and then escalate to two-days-a-week in the 14-days leading up to the commencement of their full-time schedule.

playing with water

Of course, as my colleague Luiza writes there are many other benefits to a slow transition but it’s also worth considering giving a child early exposure to not only the school routine and environment, but also to the germs and bugs that they’ll inevitably come into contact with. That way, in the event of an early illness, mum or dad won’t have to take time out during the first few weeks that they’re back at work.

While an earlier start to child care does mean an extra cost for families, the longer-term benefits can more than compensate. We’ve had a lot of families who have found great success in adopting this approach.

Susan Cochran, Service Manager, SDN Woolloomooloo

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