Tag Archives: Nursery

So this is Christmas, and what have you done? Another year over, a new one just begun…

24 Dec
Holiday, Summer, Mediterranean, Sea

The most blue water I’ve ever seen

This third year as a single mum has been the most busy, and the most successful at work for me so far. My daughter has turned into a proper big girl: life with a 3-year-old is so much easier than with a baby or toddler.

This year my daughter has learned

to dress herself

to put her own shoes on

to recognise her own name

to recognise letters and name them according to what they represent in her letter puzzle

to come to my bed when she wakes up in the middle of the night

to go to the toilet on her own and wash her hands

to cut up food

to use scissors, a hole-punch and sellotape

what the post office is for and how exciting it is to send and receive letters

how to complain loudly about the bus being late and then choose her favourite seat when it arrives

several nursery rhymes and Christmas carols

going to ballet school


My year has brought the following accomplishments:

a tiny semblance of a social life

getting onto people’s radars at uni to be considered for jobs and feeling part of the ‘big people’

my first semester teaching literature to undergraduates

being praised by my supervisor for the feedback I gave my students for their essays

an internship at a small-but-influential literary organisation linked to my university (a particular highlight was attending an event and being told “this is x, have you met?” when x was someone who has written and been mentioned in academic texts I have read, and also an MBE and all-round impressive person)

suggesting a book review to a major journal on the spur of the moment, and having it accepted for publication

finishing a chapter of my thesis

presenting my research at a small conference in London

securing funding to attend as well as presenting my research at a major international conference in a Mediterranean country in the middle of the summer, mingling and networking for 3 days in a 5-star hotel, exploring the island and coping fine with the heat


Next year will bring:

hearing back about my abstract submissions for 3 conferences (2 UK, 1 international), 1 competition and 1 publication

submitting a proper article to a proper peer-reviewed-and-everything journal

my 2nd semester teaching literature to undergraduates

running a conference with 3 other students

hopefully the completion of 2 further chapters of my thesis

saying goodbye to our lovely nursery and its community

SCHOOL! and thus the official end of my daughter’s baby years, going to uni together, doing spontaneous fun things on weekdays, knowing she’s only a 5-minute walk away when I’m working, waiting at the uni bus stop with all the students, etc etc…


It’s been a good year. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been majorly hard at times. I still have the feeling that my life has gone down completely the wrong path and there is nothing I can do to change it and direct it towards what I actually want. If you imagine the events that led to my becoming a single mum as an explosion (which is how I still see it), basically I’m still feeling dazed with tinnitus ringing in my ears. But at the same time, I have felt a new level of freedom through finally getting some results from my research, going out occasionally, and generally taking part in life. I feel slightly less ‘needed’ by my daughter. Of course she still needs me and I usually enjoy looking after her, but it’s all so much less intense now that she can do most things on her own, goes to sleep relatively easily, and because she is generally hugely intelligent and lovely (shameless bragging alert). I’m crossing my fingers that at the end of 2013 I’ll be able to report a similar list of achievements, and with my sanity still somewhat intact.


Merry Christmas, if you celebrate, and if you don’t, have a great winter break!


21 Aug

I was thinking this morning how a more traditional division of labour in families means that mothers experience most of the emotional impact of their child growing up.

Some of my daughter’s friends are now 4 years old, which means it’s the season of goodbyes at nursery. Her first best friend was there for her both of the times she progressed to a new group at nursery (there are 3 age groups at her nursery), which I know she liked, and it also greatly reassured me to know she’d definitely have a friendly face to greet her in the mornings and show her the ropes. Her friend even used to take her to the toilet when the grownups were too busy (hmm, that’s a whole other story!).

So I’m getting a real heavy-hearted feeling this week knowing that after tomorrow my daughter will probably never see her friend again after seeing her almost every day for two years.

Next year it’ll be my daughter’s turn to start school. Obviously it’ll be a massive change for her. And in addition I will lose the four-days-a-week routine of seeing the same people and feeling part of the nursery community. I’ve already lost the pushchair phase as my daughter is now finally too big not to walk, the sling phase ended a long time ago, and soon life as we’ve known it for two years will change completely.

So my daughter’s growing up, as well as bringing new friends and skills, entails the loss of all these experiences. What seems unfair is that no one else in her life shares that loss with us. Her dad’s life will stay exactly the same as he has not been involved in nursery life apart from three birthday parties and ca. 5 drop offs/pick ups. This post is not to blame him for this, this is just the way we’ve organised things because the nursery is on the university campus.

I’m just sad about losing this part of my daughter’s life and the people associated with it, and it seems really strange to be the only person in her life who will experience these changes together with her. That’s one of the downsides of having dysfunctional families I suppose.

Settling in at Nursery: Reprise

7 Apr

Today I received an email from my daughter’s nursery asking parents for their views on the settling in process. I wonder if other parents have raised any issues. Needless to say, I will compose a comprehensive response. I will update the blog when I hear anything new.

Settling in at nursery: The way it’s done in Germany

17 Mar

I have just read a very thought-provoking post over at maternalselves, a blog by two academic mothers. I thought about commenting, but I think I have too much to say.

My daughter, too, goes to nursery so I can work on my PhD. She has been going since she turned 18 months, and it seems to be going ok as far as I can tell (and I find it difficult to tell most of the time). Her nursery also reserves only a week for the settling-in period: on the first day, we both went together to meet her key person who asked about food, milk, and sleeping (she has always fed herself, drinks no cows milk as I still breastfeed her, and is unlikely to nap at nursery as she feeds to sleep, which is fine because she only does half days); on the second day I left my daughter for 15 minutes and she cried the entire time, but was cuddled by her key person for all of it. The third day I left her for 30 minutes and she cried for most of that time, but was calm when I picked her up (I wasn’t sure if she’d just run out of tears). The fourth and fifth day I left her for 45 minutes and an hour, and she seemed fragile, but resigned. At the end of the week, the settling-in process was declared successful, and the key person recommended leaving her for two hours the next time instead of leaving her for a whole session, which was an option I gladly took as it seemed cruel to me to leave her for longer after she had been away from nursery for three days.

Since then she has been very positive about nursery, running excitedly to fetch her shoes when I ask her if we should get ready to go. But sometimes she seems more reluctant to jump into the hubbub of her group, and the extremely informative feedback of “She’s been fine. She’s eaten.” whichI usually receive at the end of her session isn’t really enough to allay my worries that she doesn’t really feel safe there, it’s all a bit much for her and cuddles at home would be much better.

I can’t help but compare my daughter’s nursery with what I know about nurseries in Germany as my oldest friend works in one and is always willing to provide her point of view as an educator. Her nursery, along with many nurseries in Germany, follows the Berliner Modell [Berlin model/scheme], a research-based, carefully worked-out approach to nursery education. ¬†Developed by Kuno Beller in the 1980s, the aim of the Berliner Modell is to equip nursery staff with the knowledge and skills to assess a child’s developmental stage and needs, and to offer them activities and challenges based on what they have observed in order to foster the child’s motivation and self-confidence. One of the key ideas is that each child is treated as an individual – there are no pre-determined timeframes and ‘one-size-fits-all’-approaches. A child is frequently offered activities specifically for them, as a sort of ‘intellectual treat’, while the other children do something else.

The scheme is based on extensive scientific observations of nursery children and encompasses all aspects of the nursery experience as well as the interaction between nursery and home. It is a fascinating and extremely child-centric method. However, I would like to give an overview of only one part of it: the settling-in process. Remember my description above of my daughter’s first visits to nursery? If we lived in Germany, it would have gone as follows –

On the first day, we would have met her key person who would have asked a wide variety of questions about our home situation, my daughter’s development and interests as well as any concerns I might have. Then she would have shown us around the room, letting my daughter observe the other children and take in her new surroundings at her own speed, venturing from my lap out into the room when she felt ready. The key person would have gently interacted with my daughter, but only following her lead and taking care not to intimidate her. This would have taken around an hour.

The rest of the week would have passed in a similar fashion, with my daughter and me both getting to know her key person and the other staff and children. This would have enabled my daughter to observe that the other children trusted the staff, and it would have allowed me to feel reassured that she would be well cared for. Through observing how my daughter and I interacted and how I looked after her, i.e. when changing her nappy, the key person would have gained an insight into what made my daughter comfortable and what she was used to in order that my way of looking after her could be replicated. On occasion the key person and I would have performed tasks in parallel, me with my daughter and her with another child so that she could observe my way of doing things and I could learn to trust her.

After becoming more comfortable at nursery, I would have gradually removed myself from my daughter; first by staying out of the way when she was playing, and then by leaving the room for perhaps 5 minutes one day and if everything went well, for longer on the following days.

This process would have taken around four weeks with frequent reviews of our progress and specific tailoring to my daughter’s needs.

I realise that doing things this way ¬†at my daughter’s nursery would require a lot more organisation and present quite a burden for the staff. But my friend’s nursery does not have the same rules regarding children:staff ratios as we have in the UK so that she occasionally has to look after up to 11 children between the ages of a few weeks and five years (no, this is not ideal and she is not happy about it) – and she still manages an individual settling-in schedule for each new child.

In conclusion: I really wish that my daughter’s nursery had been (were) more transparent about their didactic approaches so that I could feel reassured that they are aware of everything that matters to parents. I wish that they were more flexible with the settling-in and devised this phase in cooperation with the child’s parents. Because even though my daughter seems fine most days, I still can’t help thinking that sending her to nursery at such a young age, forcing her through the settling-in process, has broken a little part of her.