Although I really loved my school, the end of the summer holidays was never a happy time of year for me. Nothing beats spending the summer with family and friends at the seaside. I haven’t experienced that feeling in a long time (I stopped counting) but this year it’s all coming back. No, I’m not going back to school, but my Giggles and Cuddles are going to start at a nursery.
They’re two years old now, and they need to get out of the house and interact with other children. They need to learn in a different setting, explore, discover, do music and art, and start building their confidence and their own unique individual characters. They also need to start learning German. I’m sure it will do them a world of good. It will also be great for me to slowly start getting a bit of my life back, and boy do I need it! Even if it will only be for a few hours, two or three times a week, it’s still a good start.
But when you think about it, what does a two-year-old really know about being away from her mummy, in the midst of complete strangers, even if it’s only for a few hours? Who are these people, anyway? I’ve met them and I learned about their experience and qualifications but do I actually know them? They’ve worked with many children of different ages, but they don’t know my children. How will Giggles and Cuddles feel? Are they going to feel abandoned? Am I going to scar them for life? What if all they need is a big mummy hug? How are they going to express their needs when no one understands the language they speak and they don’t understand a word of what they’re hearing around them all the time? What kind of selfish mummy would leave her babies who are totally helpless, just to get a few hours for herself?
That’s the battle that has been raging on inside me for a while now. The voice of reason was dominant at the beginning but as the time approaches, I find myself getting more and more emotional about it. I’ve spoken to a lot of friends, both here and in Egypt, and I’ve read a lot about it. My friends, especially the ones living here who have similar circumstances, have reassured me that what I’m going through is very normal – that it’s very difficult at the beginning but really worth it for my girls. I’ve read that the mother usually feels more of the separation anxiety than the little ones do.
I’ve also done my homework, slowly learning how things work here in Switzerland. I have visited many playgroups (Spielgruppen) and nurseries (Kinderkrippen), asked all kinds of questions, and thoroughly inspected bathrooms and kitchens. We finally settled on one that we all liked and where we felt comfortable. Giggles and Cuddles actually left us inside and went into the garden to play with the other children. That was a good sign, I guess, but then again Mummy and Daddy were only a few meters away.
As with all issues of parenthood, there is no right or wrong. Each family is unique, with its own set of circumstances. There is no one perfect age to start nursery, and no matter when or where, it will always be difficult for everyone involved at the beginning. I’m sure it will be a huge learning experience, not just for Giggles and Cuddles but for us as parents as well. I believe a big part of parenting is learning to strike a balance between holding on and letting go, and that’s just the very first step. So as my Giggles and Cuddles take their first baby steps to go out and start facing the world on their own, I know they will take a piece of my heart with them every morning. But I am truly blessed knowing that they at least have each other to lean on.
By Didi in Zurich
Didi is an Egyptian mother of twin girls living in Zurich. Before having the twins, she worked in the field of economic development. She is currently a stay-at-home mom focused on the growth and development of her daughters.
Illustration by Lara Friedrich
Lara has been a freelance illustrator for Mothering Matters since early 2013. She is a demo singer for the songwriter Kate Northrop and has also written an article for the newspaper March Anzeiger. Lara is bilingual in English and German with a Cambridge Advanced Certificate in English. Currently she is waiting to start her first year at university.