The choice to introduce my son to daycare was one that my partner and I took seriously. Ultimately, it's been great for our family and we've been happy with the care our son has received, as well as the learning and development that come with it. Of course, at the beginning, I was hopeful it would turn out this way, but I didn't really know. There was a lot to consider, and I still had countless unanswered questions about how he would adapt, if he'd like it, and simply how it feels to send a child to daycare.
When he started, my son was just shy of 1 1/2 years old. We researched, visited, and took him in for a "dry run" ahead of time. In other words, we were as ready as we could possibly be on his first day. Since I work from home, I stayed behind (after kisses and hugs) while his dad dropped him off. I won't lie, it was really, really strange. The fact that I was home and had signs of my baby everywhere actually helped, I think, because it never felt like he was that far away from me. Still, I felt guilty for appreciating the free time while simultaneously thankful that I was working again, and in a job that I enjoyed.
I'm sure other moms wouldn't be surprised to hear that many of those initial, "first day of preschool" feelings still remain while my son's at school (as we call it), but as it turns out, there's a whole spectrum of emotions that parents experience when a child starts daycare, including the following:
"My son had just turned two and I was terrified, but also weirdly excited for him, just because he hadn't really had a ton of socializing with other kids up to that point and I knew he would dig it."
"The worst! I had literally only been away from my son for a total of three hours before I went back to work. He was just shy of 3-months old. Having to use my purse instead of a diaper bag made me cry. Looking in my rearview mirror at the baby mirror and only seeing an empty car seat base in the reflection made me cry. I pretty much cried off and on for the first five hours, until break. When I went home at lunch to take the dog out and the baby wasn't home, I cried. I curled up in a ball on my bed with one of his blankets until it was time to go back. So in short, it was awful! Thank goodness my husband does drop off every day and I get to do pick ups!"
"I remember asking the most ridiculous questions, like, 'Will you rock him to sleep if he needs it?' and, 'If he cries, do you promise not to yell at him?' It was just so hard both times to let go and trust. I'm really thankful for the care they had though; lasting relationships and so much love."
"I actually did better with my first than my second. I had lots of time to plan ahead and get ready (for both of us) plus I was working part time. My second son, I got a job all of a sudden and he was in daycare the next week. He had been a NICU baby and was still nursing and I cried and cried our first day. You would have thought I'd be seasoned having sent one already, but turns out it's really true what they say. Everyone is different!"
"I sobbed uncontrollably the entire ride from daycare to work the first day. My son was 18-months old at the time. I felt guilty, sad, and scared all at once. He was fine."
"I remember being like, 'OK, let's start from the top. Here's her schedule here are the things to remember about her here is this, that, and the other blah blah blah.' All I got was, 'No problem bye and no problem,' and was shoo'd away. I was so frustrated that they clearly weren't taking this as seriously as I was. I think there was a bit of intuition at play that fed into my frustration because we pulled her out after a month because the daycare team wouldn't follow anything we asked; they didn't follow nap times, they sat her in front of the TV with the older kids (she was a 6-month-old baby) and they lied about a scary dog downstairs. It really made a shitty situation shittier. Now I call for reports and don't let potential caretakers make me feel like I'm being needlessly over protective."
"My first was a preemie and I remember feeling so strange without a baby attached to me. I felt like I was pretending to be a fully functional working adult those first couple weeks back. It was so strange that my life at home had changed beyond words and work was exactly the same, it was like time travel."
"I cried the whole day off and on with both kids. With the first I had all the time to plan, but it was hard doing this new 'going back to work' thing and leaving my child with someone I didn't know. I am a very organized person (I wouldn't say anal) and so needing to know when he slept, ate, pooped, how much he ate, and so on, really helped me. When I didn't get a full report (on both kids) it drove me batty. I've calmed down some, but I still want to know. I hate leaving them at daycare."
"Confusing. You know by working, you are giving them the resources to live and also giving yourself purpose, but by leaving them you are forsaking the thing you are biologically designed to do. It's weird and confusing and sad and stressful. So you know, like every other parenting moment."
"Heart wrenching. It feels like you are leaving the most important and vulnerable pieces of yourself... actually, that's exactly what it is. It does get easier, but those first days and weeks were brutal for both kids. And when I say brutal, it's very one sided on my part, because both had fun and were very well cared for at their daycare."
"So, reading everyone else's responses I feel like I horrible person, but here goes. It felt wonderful to send my daughter to daycare for the first time. She was a home for me for quite a while (I work from home so was able to work around her schedule) and when she finally got into daycare I was so overjoyed for both of us. I was happy that she was going to start getting socialized and make friends and have more exploring to do. And I was thrilled for myself that I would be able to get more than three hours of sleep a night because I could work during normal hours. I remember feeling a little guilty that I didn't feel sad or upset, but I just didn't."