Why are nurseries a scary place for parents?


I have just dropped my 8 month old daughter off at her new nursery. It is not as fancy as the one we had in Amsterdam. 

Truth be told, the one in Amsterdam was exceptional. They had a beautiful lady coming by to play the ukulele every Monday; the place was so detergent-ly sanitized that if any acne-laden teenager were to rub his face on the floor, all his pimples would vanish straightaway; they served organic hot food twice a day, and they had baby yoga. Whatever that meant. But it sounded so nice and exclusive. 

The Amsterdam nursery was structured to intellectually stimulate the babies by exciting all of their senses: visual, hearing, taste, and  proprioception – aka the sense of movement and knowing where your body parts are.

But as we have since moved away from Amsterdam, we had to put her in a nursery closer to home. It is a nice one. It is “fine” … It just illustrates perfectly why most nurseries are a scary place for adults.  

Nurseries are a Scary place for adults

When my partner and I first entered this new nursery, we were welcomed by a few little humans crawling towards us, moaning loudly, their faces pressed flat on the floor and completely hidden as if they were too hideous to be seen. The noises emanating from these living beings were neither cries nor screams, but a mixture of both. We were amongst a welcome committee made up of the living dead. 

Those who had yet to master the brace position of the apocalypse were sitting high up on their thrones, watching us vaguely while slurping on their snot streams – it is a handy and lazy activity, feeding on snot by ejecting it straight from the nose and letting gravity force it down the face to enter the mouth.

And there was one baby who couldn’t take his eyes off of me. Because every time you go to the nursery, there is always that one baby who will watch you unblinkingly…as you move around you will feel eerily incapable of being able to shrug off that uncanny feeling of being observed…and judged. 

As you might be able to tell, I was a bit hesitant about leaving my bebe on the set of this low budget horror movie. Nevertheless, I was too polite to make a scene about it. I smiled and consciously relaxed my fingers, then handed over my angel, my clean and perfect bebe to the ladies, who were completely unaware of the uncharitable horror movie script playing in my mind. Or else I would have been kicked out. 

My partner and I walked out, passing through the exit, and then I collapsed a few meters away. What an awful mother I was to have taken our baby from a luxurious nursery … to this place. All this because it would take me 5 minutes to drop our daughter in the mornings instead of 45 minutes! I regretted my decision instantly.

The nursery is a scary place for parents

It was a Wednesday and so, at lunch time, my partner and I went to pick up our daughter as a united couple.

The nice lady told us that our daughter was still sleeping. 

-“Do you want to see her?” she kindly asked.

We said yes, and she lifted a mini curtain which had been stuck to the door, revealing a little window. 

Ah! I could see her peacefully sleeping in her crib, one that looked like a cage for abandoned dogs.

These were cribs with roofs on top that allowed them to be placed on one another, two or three at a time. These stack-a-Lego mini jails with their thick bar grilles gave a depressing Ceausescu-esque feeling to the room.  

When it was my partner’s turn to take a look, he couldn’t see her. He was confused.

-“Which one is she?” He asked. “I can never recognize her because all babies look alike,” he said, amused at his own comment. I looked at him with a sharp expression on my face, trying to convey the following: “Wrong public. Great joke amongst the dads, not so great with the mother and the child minders”. He ignored my death stare, laughing away at his own brilliant joke.

The lady smiled and explained to us that the sleeping room was equipped with the latest machine to monitor the level of oxygen.

-“Ah, fantastic!” I thought to myself. “Like this they will never run out of oxygen. In my long list of anxieties that was not one of them: to run out of oxygen in the sleeping room. But now it is. Great.”

The sweet lady carried on and told us that she would wake up our daughter. She went in the room, gently caressed my daughter’s cheek, softly waking her up. Her sincere tenderness was endearing.

In that short moment of watching the lady wake up our Bebe, my partner and I were suddenly surrounded by 3 mini zombies ready to share their food with us. Food that I quickly realized they had found on the floor.

We hastily grabbed our baby and rushed out through the door.

I couldn’t brush off the guilt of not giving the best to my Bebe. The best nursery that would cater to my baby’s needs. 

But what does a baby need?

The best nursery for a baby

Professor Bernard Golse, the head of child psychiatry at the very prestigious Parisian Necker hospital, is very clear on what a baby needs. 

And a baby needs to be a baby.

He is quite virulent in the fact that we are forcing babies to be independent too quickly, that too often parents want to accelerate their cognitive development before they have even had the time to acquire the basics. How ridiculous! He insists that it is useless to try to make a baby learn counting faster, that we need to respect the rhythm of the baby, which is: a baby needs to be a baby on his/her terms.

And that is when I realized that this new nursery was great – because it was allowing the baby to be a baby. They were letting the babies crawl around, explore the surroundings, and play with the food on the floor, which is essential. They do not offer extra activities to comfort the parents that they are being good parents. They kept it to the bare essentials: a baby needs to be in a safe and loving environment.

Nurseries are a scary place for parents because it is a place whereupon we project our envies, our motherly guilt, our fears. But babies do not need anything fancy. They do not care. They just need cuddles, a layback attitude towards their rhythm – because a baby is never happier than when it is left to be a baby.

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2 thoughts on “Why are nurseries a scary place for parents?

  1. We had to take our daughter to nursery when she was about eight months old. We seen one of those nurseries with the beds like Lego pieces one on top of the other and it felt scary. I turned down and we went on a lookout for a different nursery. Happy to say we found and settled for the least scary. LO loves it

    1. Ah some nurseries are just horrible ! But the one in which my daughter is in is not as bad I think it is 😉 but we will change her next summer

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