My eighteen-month-old just started daycare. I was home with her for the first fifteen months of her life, then her granny took care of her for three months, and now it's time for her to start daycare and for me to return to work. In to the real toddler world she goes. I've already been through daycare drop-off emotional hell with my now six-year-old daughter, but for some reason didn't remember how emotionally draining it could be. I must have blocked it all out.
Day one, we were there for two hours. She basically just watched everyone around her while holding my hand, a little tighter than usual. Day two, I left her on her own for two hours. Well, she wasn't really alone—I sat in the parking lot and watched her play in the outdoor play yard for one hour, and then tried to peak through the doors the second hour, all the while hiding from the teachers. I'm sure they saw me and thought I was weird. Oh well, I'm sure I'm not the first parent to act this way. Her teacher was honest and said, "Yeah, she cried most of the time, but I'm sure she'll be fine." Hmm. Day three, she stayed until lunch. This time I only spent twenty minutes in the parking lot. "Yeah, she cried most of the day." Hmm. Day four, she was there all day long. She cried "some of the day." Hmm. Day five, "She was much better, and only cried a little." She didn't eat much, though, and only slept for twenty minutes.
We, as parents, feel guilty, and the idea of your baby thinking, "Oh my, why did my mommy leave me here? What did I do? Will she come and get me?" makes it so much worse. They don't know that you will be back at the end of the day. They don't know that you have to work to provide for them. They don't know how many times you sat at your desk crying, pretending to have something in your eye whenever someone walked by. They don't know how much you love them and would give up everything to just be with them when they needed you. One day, they will know.
The next week: Day one, Daddy dropped her off at daycare. And, yeah, he cried most of the day.
Good luck, mommies (and daddies)!