The day has come. I dropped Charlotte off at daycare this morning and felt like my heart was ripping out. I’m a pretty emotional person and a major crier, so it’s no surprise that my reaction has been extreme. But let’s start at the beginning so I can fully explain how I feel about daycare and how everything went down.
Pat and I both work and we love working. We’re both ambitious people and strive to be successful at whatever we do. Plus, we live pretty nicely so there was no question that I was going to give all of that up by reducing one salary. When we first starting thinking about childcare, we strongly considered a nanny. I grew up with nannies that I adored (Hi Kate, Hi Mary Ellen!) and I loved the idea of Charlotte being at home, in a safe and familiar environment. However, the cost of the nanny was unfeasible (even with government help) and Charlotte is a little social butterfly and loves being around other kids and adults.
In fact, the thing that has had me the most stressed about daycare isn’t how Charlotte will react. When we visited the daycare, she was happy to go play with the other kids, and took a real liking to her daycare educator. What I’ve been most worried about is ME! The thought of someone other than family taking care of Charlotte freaks me out and has my anxiety in full blown panic mode. What if she hurts herself and I’m not there to soothe her? What if she needs a cuddle and the educator is busy with another kid? When you’re used to being available to your child 24/7, it’s hard to imagine them being OK without you. And selfishly, I want her to miss me. I want her to need me the most, because I need her the most.
Don’t get be wrong, it’s important for kids to be independent and learn how to soothe themselves. And to know that Mommy won’t always be there in the tough moments. But, I want Charlotte to love me the most and part of my anxiety stems from the question of whether she’ll like her new educators more than me. Crazy right? I didn’t say it was rational…
So this is how the first day of daycare went down. Last night, Charlotte decided she wanted to be awake and running laps in her crib from 11pm-2am. Perhaps she had picked up on Mommy’s anxiety? And then she woke up at 6:30am this morning. We were already in trouble before the day even began! Hubby was at work by 6am, so I got Charlotte up, dressed and fed and we headed over to the daycare around 9am. I was a bundle of nerves! My hands were shaking…I couldn’t figure out how the code to the daycare door worked. I could feel my anxiety growing and growing and didn’t want it to rub off on Charlotte.
When we got there, they were serving snack and Charlotte immediately was entranced. She literally sat right down at the table, stole another kid’s sippy and started to eat. I was trying not to cry and embarrass myself! I don’t even remember saying goodbye to her because I was so flustered. The rational part of me knows I’m doing what is best for her and our family, but the emotional part has completely taken over and all I can think about is: “Does she understand that I’m coming back?” But because she seemed so happy there, I exited quickly. The daycare educator assured me that she’d call if there was anything.
On the drive home, I was a wreck! But I knew that Charlotte was fine. I was so surprised to get a call from the daycare saying that she had been crying. Mom’s intuition kicked in right away…her crappy night and early morning meant that I had a tired little nugget on my hands. So 2 hours after dropping her off, I was picking her up and let me tell you…she was has never been happier to see me. She was so happy that her smile went immediately to big tears. Oh my heart! As I whisked her away to nap at home, her little arms clung to my neck and I no longer felt like an emotional wreck. I felt strong and capable. Nothing makes you get over yourself faster than when your kid needs you. Period.
We’ll try the same routine tomorrow. Dropoff around 9am and pickup before naptime. Hoping she can do 3 hours, and then 4, and then nap, and then a full day. Tomorrow will get a little easier, and the next day even easier. So glad that we survived day #1 and that you were all there to share it with me. Thank you to everyone who shared their experience with me. It’s so comforting to know that I’m not alone and that this is a milestone all working moms have to conquer.