Panic on the First Day of Daycare
I’m not going to beat around the bush: the first day of daycare is hard. It will probably be filled with tears and guilt and second and third and all-day-long guessing. You’ll worry and count the seconds, minutes and hours. You’ll be convinced that your child will have no idea you’re mom and that you’re the first person to have ever felt this horrible on the first day of day care. No one, you will tell yourself, but you ever felt this horrible about leaving their child with strangers. STRANGERS! Then, the cycle will begin all over again until it’s time for pick up.
I dropped off my infant at eight weeks with a complete stranger. Looking back, I think, eight weeks?! What was I thinking? She was so tiny and new and helpless. If this was a political post I would tell you that I don’t think eight weeks is sufficient for maternity leave and that, to me, it’s laughable and also cruel that new mothers who have eight weeks instead of six are considered “lucky” when most of it is unpaid anyway. But that’s for a different time.
Day care isn’t just for infants though. I also had hard first days over the after-school programs at preschool and elementary school. Those first days put me right back to the doubtful first months: second, third and all-day guessing why she couldn’t leave with the other kids or hop on the bus. I felt awful and my state of being became one of constant rushing. I had to make sure that no matter what, she wasn’t the last child picked up because, in my delusion, that meant she would be doomed for the rest of her life.
I thought, on those first days, this will never get better. The terror of being a “bad mom” – whatever that is – consumed me.
Up until it didn’t.
My daughter made it through infancy and then her first year and even her second knowing that I was her mother and Michelle, her sitter and my daycare provider, was not. I marveled as she rolled over and walked. Most days she didn’t want to leave.
That’s the thing I learned through the years: they never want to leave. Even when you’ll do anything and everything to get to them three seconds faster, it will take you twenty minutes to get out the door.
At preschool after-care she ate lunch and then had all of the toys to herself. She probably, if I asked her, wouldn’t remember those few months.
And after-care at her elementary school? When I began working from home, she begged me to stay after school. She absolutely NEVER wanted to leave after-care. I mean it was way more fun than time spent with mom. They had a basketball court and endless arts and crafts and cuddly teachers that didn’t make you eat green beans.
So all that worry, all that panic all that rushing was to make myself feel better and nothing more. My daughter was absolutely fine. More than fine, she thrived and enjoyed her time at every place and with everyone that kept a watchful eye over her when I couldn’t.
I wish someone would have told me that.
Original image via Flickr/linhngan