Hi - I'm also in Canada and just returned to work. This is the beginning of my second week. I did put my daughter in daycare - it is a home-based daycare and the woman running it is also very kind, sensitive, and the other kids in her care (3 others) really love her and enjoy being there. Seeing how much the other children care for her made me feel much better about leaving my daughter in her care. Leaving her at all - before this, I had only been away from her for about 3 hours once - was incredibly difficult. For us, there was no option financially for me to not return to work. We did 2 preliminary visits with her daycare before she started full-time, one for an hour or so and I stayed there, the second one was for a morning. I dropped her off as if I was going to work and picked her up after lunch. I made myself a dentist appointment so that I would be "tied up" somewhere, because that is what I needed.
My daughter nurses to sleep all the time, so I was worried about her napping and was terrified the daycare would just let her cry it out so I talked to the provider about this and she assured me that she would never do that. She is napping incredibly well since she gets very tired from all of the activities they do and all the interaction with the other kids.
I want you to know that since I've been back at work, I feel really good being a part of adult thinking and problem solving again outside of the home. I was surprised at how energized doing what I do for a living can help me be a happier person. Not everyone feels this away about their jobs, but I really love mine and I was surprised at how good it feels to be doing it again. My daughter seems to be adjusting really well at daycare. Last Friday when I picked her up, instead of her crying and crawling over to me as fast as she could she just started pointing at the different kids and the care giver and she seemed really happy.
Know that there will be some adjustment time for both of you and do what feels right. Remember that you can go back to work and if it just isn't working for you then you can always change your mind. There are other ways to get some supplementary income and staying home. I hope this helps - I know it is really hard. I'm just very thankful that we get a full year of maternity leave and don't have to go back to work any sooner.
I hated hated hated the thought of leaving my little one at daycare, but it was the only way we could afford food, so I had to work. I found a home daycare situation that sounds a lot like you are describing. My daughter is 4-months old now and seems to love it! In fact, I get the distinct feeling that she is bored on the weekends when she isn't with all her friends at day care. Those little 3 & 4 year-olds dance and play with her for far longer than I have the energy for. And it is nice to get to be with people during the day. Otherwise I attack my husband for attention as soon as he gets home, and I know he needs some time to chill after work. So leaving them at daycare is hard, but I know my little one is safe and happy while I help provide for the family.
I forgot to mention, the thing that helped THE MOST with me being fine to leave my little one was "The Happiest Baby on the Block." Learning how to soothe her without nursing, so that someone besides me could do it, helped me know she wouldn't be inconsolable without me. Also, it gave me a much better night's sleep. Best video ever!
Thank you everyone for your stories. I feel a bit better realizing that this is difficult for most every Mom and hearing how adaptable babies are.
Skycheattraffic: I am in the process of finding out if I am eligible for any of the programs EI offers (i.e developing a small business, or second career training). Have you looked into this? It might be worth a look.
I'm not from Canada, so I had to go back to work at 3 months (that's the max in the US, you guys are lucky!). Same dilemmas...
Staying home wasn't optional, so I found a place I felt REALLY good about, and started off gradually. The week before I had to report back to work, I took my child to daycare (and stayed with him) for one hour so he could get used to the environment/kids/staff. Then the next day, I dropped him off for two hours alone. The third day, we did a half day (4-hours). Then the fourth day we did a full day. If you aren't working full-time, the adjustment should be even easier on both of you.
What helped me deal with the separation was knowing that the staff was really good and did a wonderful job with the babies (every time I walked in, the kids were happily playing together, babies were being held, rocked, attended to, never left alone crying by themselves). I never saw anything questionable, and my child always seemed happy/content so that inspired a lot of confidence. Did I miss him while I was at work? You bet! I kept pictures around to help.
Don't know if you're breastfeeding or not, but daycare workers are pretty good at soothing children in other ways, so it's not usually a big deal. I would come in and breastfeed my son there, get him settled in, take off for work, and breastfeed him when I came back in the afternoon to pick him up. (Had to pump twice at work which worked okay, but that's something you have to plan for). If you are breastfeeding, you may notice a pattern where you start to do more feedings at night.