In it for the long haul

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Thinking back to my early parenting experiences, one of the hardest parts was the first time I left my children at an early years setting.


Sue Cowley

Although I knew they would be well cared for while I was away, that wasn’t the point. I was strongly attached to my babies; in my heart, I didn’t really want to leave them behind. It reminds me of the sticky plant cleavers, which can get caught on you when you’re weeding the garden – no matter how hard you pull, it is hard to let go.

In our setting we let parents and carers stay to settle their children for as long as they would like. For some parents, the easiest way to deal with the settling in process is to leave as quickly as they can. For others, the separation takes much longer. But this is not just about the child’s needs, it is about the needs of the parent as well.

It is almost eight years since I had my arm twisted into becoming Chair of Committee at my local voluntary run pre-school. At the time, my youngest child attended the setting and (given that my teaching career began in the early years), I felt that it was only right to offer to help out. My tiny toddler is now in her final year of primary school. She is almost as tall as me, and she is more than ready to make the move up to ‘big school’.

My partner keeps dropping hints about how it might be ‘time for me to move on’ from my role at pre-school. But I am far too attached to our setting, our children and our staff to let go quite as easily as that.

In an early years setting, you will often see children physically ‘attached’ to staff. They snuggle up close, grab staff by the legs, or throw their arms around them to give them a big hug. And just as the children get attached to staff, so staff get incredibly attached to the children as well. One of the most wonderful aspects of working with young children is that often you get to see them progress and grow long after they leave your setting, especially if you all live in the same area. And if you stick around long enough, maybe one day they will come back to your setting again, only this time with children of their own.

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