I saw her as I was pulling into the parking lot of my children’s daycare. She was ahead of me, walking toward the door with an overflowing bag of baby supplies and an infant car seat slung over the crook of her elbow.
I don’t recognize her, I thought. Must be a new family to the center. Just then, she turned her head, perhaps glancing back at my car pulling up to a stop. That’s when I caught a glimpse of the tear rolling down her cheek, her swollen eyes, and her quivering lip.
Telltale signs of a mom on her child’s first day of daycare.
Instantly my heart broke for her. I was flooded with memories from when I dropped my oldest off on her first day several years ago.
You wake up with a lump in your throat and a pit in your stomach. You try to keep it together, not wanting your little one to sense any negative emotions. But there’s nothing anyone can say or do to comfort you.
You’re sad. Sad to be away from this little baby you’re used to spending all day with. You’re scared. Scared that your child won’t be taken care of in the way that you would care for her. You’re worried. Worried that your little one will be hungry, or afraid, or confused without you. You’re guilt-ridden. Feeling guilty that you have to use childcare because you’re a working mom.
It’s okay, mama. Your feelings are natural.
And here’s what I’ll tell you: It’s going to be okay. It gets easier. And the 15-Minute Goodbye rule can do you an enormous favor.
You did your research and made the best decision for you and your family. Now comes the most difficult part: trust. You must trust that your child is in good hands, that the caregivers are loving, kind, responsible people, who will provide a safe and happy environment for your most beloved possession.
And most times, they are. Yes, there are the horror stories that circulate around the news and through your social media feed. Remember those are few and far between. Be an advocate for your child and always keep your ears and eyes open. But also take comfort in the other parents whose children will be spending the day with yours. We’ve been you before. We know how it feels.
Transitions are hard, but each day will become more routine and less gut-wrenching. Eventually, you’ll be in my shoes, dropping off excited kids who are anxious to play with their friends. You’ll miss them during the day, but explode with happiness at the smiling faces that greet you upon your return.
It gets easier. Trust me.
Still, on the morning of your very first drop-off, I understand it’s impossible to look beyond the sadness you feel as you hand over your child to his or her teacher.
The mama I witnessed this morning briskly walked back out the door as I was hanging up my children's coats in their lockers. Head bowed, she was trying to be brave – but I heard her quiet sobs. The devastation was palpable.
If I see her again amidst the crazy shuffle that surrounds delivering children to daycare in one piece, I hope I can give her a reassuring hug and let her know that she is supported by all the parents who have come before her.
Because what feels like the most heartbreaking experience of your life will soon fade into normalcy – even joy. So hang in there, mama. It’s going to be okay.