Tell me something. Why is it that life just seems to get harder? No sooner have I (sort of) got used to abandoning Louis with his erstwhile lovely nanny while I go out to work then wham, she hits me with the news that she can’t look after him anymore because it clashes with the English class she wants to take. I couldn’t face the emotional investment necessary to find another nanny, so I had no choice but to become one of those nursery mums. You know, the ones who spend so much time insisting their kids actually love it once they are there that I can’t help but not believe them.
I have to confess Fate played a small part in my decision. Two weeks before Anna dropped her bombshell, a local nursery I’d put Louis’s name down for BEFORE we left for DC (i.e. when he was three months old) had got in touch to say they had space on the two days I needed. Which at the very least was prescient timing. And he is 20 months now. So a lot older than he might have been starting out at nursery. And yet. He’s still so small. So attached to his Mummy and Daddy. And he was so happy with Anna. Sigh.
After jumping through the requisite hoops to nail the place, we’re now busy settling him in. Or, unsettling him in, I should say. I’m being characteristically wimpish about it, staying with him for twice as long as most parents. But last Thursday I actually had to leave him. Not for long. Just an hour or so. But as soon as he clocked what was going on he became frantic. “Louis coat. Louis coat,” he bleated, as he grabbed my hand and marched me to where his coat was indeed hanging up, tears falling all the time. I nearly bottled it yet again, but figured I should probably go through with it. And so I abandoned him, crying, to the embrace of the lady charged with his care while I can’t be bothered. At least that’s what it feels like. And yes, I was crying too.
I’m told he settled quickly – after about five minutes – and that he spent the rest of the time doing “individual play”, which seems to be the nursery gold standard. But it didn’t make me feel any better about leaving him. Especially as I can’t stop the words of a child psychologist we saw on a recent TV programme about childcare echoing round my head. He called nursery, ‘the biggest social experiment ever carried out,’ referring to the fact that we are the first generation to have handed care of our children over to complete strangers. Then there are those studies that show boys aged around two fare the worst in nurseries, becoming either withdrawn and sad or aggressive. It' s because they are under stress; in tests their brains appear marinated in cortisol, the stress hormone. Worse, they are consequently at a higher risk of emotional and social problems in later life.
Each time I express doubts, I’m told that ‘it’s good for him’. And that he needs to snap that cord eventually. But I’m still far from convinced, albeit totally willing to eat my words if need be. That said, I fear doing so will just turn me into one of those mums (see above). And so the cycle of angst begins again.