Hard Truths About Daycare

We did it! It took 365 days, but we did it! We survived a year of daycare, meaning I’ve survived being a working mom for an entire year. That astonishes me. How did that happen? Wasn’t it just yesterday that I dropped my tiny (and I use that term loosely since my daughter has always been in the 99.9th percentile) at this foreign place, laid her down on a boppy and cried hysterically the entire ride to work. That first week was rough. And now that I’ve been around the block for a year, I can say this with confidence – Daycare was the BEST decision we could have ever made for our family. For those of you who stay home with your child/children, that is incredible, but for our family, for our needs, it wasn’t in the cards.

And since we are now “experts” (sense the sarcasm because, honestly, we are just making this up as we go – though it’s been working), I wanted to share some of the ugly truths about daycare that I wished I had known beforehand.

The first drop off will hurt

It may hit you in the parking lot. It may not hit you until your at work. It may not even hit until you’re driving home from that first day back at work, rushing to see that baby, but it will hurt. You’ll feel a pain in your gut that you’re a terrible person for handing your tiny beautiful baby over to a basic stranger. How will this stranger know if my child is hungry or just wants to be held? Will this stranger even have time to hold her? Does this stranger know that she likes to hold your hand when she drinks her bottle? Will my child hate me for leaving? So many thoughts will flood your head. My recommendation – on that first day, take a DEEP breath. If you can, go back to work part time to test the waters. If I could go back in time, I probably would have done that. Leaving your child for a full week, for the first time is HARD. But always remember, it will get easier.  Eventually, you’ll get into a routine. Every morning, you’ll prepare for the day ahead, survive drop off (and get in your goodbye hug and kiss), you’ll go to work, and you’ll come home to your baby. The beauty, I’ve found, you start to treasure that limited time between pick up and bedtime. You’ll get less distracted by your phone and soak in every moment you can in that short window before your baby rubs her eyes, ready to head to dreamland.

You will miss firsts

I know this is hard to hear, and believe me, it was one of my biggest fears about daycare, but the truth is, you aren’t around your baby 24/7, which means you will miss things. You wont be there the first time glitter is introduced (though, honestly, I can’t imagine that is a positive experience for someone with animals and very limited time to clean). You won’t be there the day your baby decides one nap is all that is needed. And, if you’re anything like us, you wont be there when your baby girl takes her first steps.

That’s right. The first time Abby walked, the first time she let go of someone’s hands to take a step, neither of us were around. And, it was hard realizing we had missed it. We didn’t get to see the excitement on her face when she first figured it out. We didn’t have a video to proudly display. I honestly felt like a terrible mother because I had missed such an impeccable moment in my child’s life. We only found out because her teacher told me during pick-up. And, because she is stubborn like her mommy, Abby refused to walk in front of us. Not only did we miss the first steps, we missed out on a week (maybe more) of her walking. However, I must say, the day she did walk at home, for us for the first time, she beamed with pride. It was almost as if she were rehearsing for a big show at daycare, and didn’t want mom and dad to see until opening night. And now, she runs! Toddlers seriously have no fear, and no sense of direction – that poor girl has fallen so many times and walked into so many walls. Once again, another trait she got from mommy.

One day, your baby won’t say goodbye

This was and continues to be a hard one to swallow. Shortly after she learned to crawl, Abby refused to sit still. And now that she’s running everywhere, it’s nearly impossible to catch her. And, the day will come, where you’ll put your baby down at daycare and she will not look back at you. There’s a new toy in the corner that needs to be chewed on, or a few books that have not yet been ripped to pieces, or just another child to interact with. And there you are, standing in the doorway, with no goodbye hug nor kiss. And you’ll start to think your baby, the one you have cared for every day, prefers the teachers over you. Every day when I drop Abby off, she runs (no sprints) to her teacher to give her a morning hug, eventually turning to me to say “BYEEEE” with barely a glance in my direction. I wont lie, it stings. I do make it a point to walk over to her for a goodbye hug, despite if she is distracted, because I’m human and I need my goodbye snuggle before I deal with the morning rush hour. But here’s the thing, it’s actually a good thing that your baby runs to the teacher, or immediately decides to play with a child, or grab a toy. It means your baby feels at home at daycare. It means that your precious baby is in good hands. I have been told that eventually, they start to revert and will cry as you leave. I’ve seen this with the older kids. And then, a magical thing happens. The hysterical child will see mom or dad leave, look around, and begin playing. I’m not sure if this will make me feel worse or better once that time comes around.

But here’s the thing, you know what makes up for missing out on that goodbye hug and kiss, or not having a child screaming for you to stick around – the welcome you receive at pickup. No matter how stressful my work day may be, or how frustrated I was by the insane amount of traffic, or how nervous I am about the to-do lists flying around my head – when I walk into that classroom and see that smile on my baby girl, it all melts away. And Abby is not a special case. Every child I have seen during his or her own pick up, lights up immediately when mom or dad enter. Abby now sprints to me, yelling “MOMEEEE”, and often trips on a toy, but jumps right back up and begs for a hug.

So, for any parents worried about surviving daycare, focusing on how hard drop off may be, the fear of missing out, the worry of being replaced, always remember your baby loves you. It will be hard. It will be stressful. But your baby will love you no matter what.

Happy one year anniversary to us!