I dreaded the first day of daycare since the day I brought my little man home from the hospital. Oh, I knew it was happening, but I made a deliberate decision to pretend like it wasn’t. We had toured the centers when I was 6-months pregnant, made our lists of pros and cons for each, and came to a very methodical decision on our first choice. I treated it like a task that was completed and then stopped thinking about it all together. While on maternity leave, any time someone brought up the topic of returning to work or who was going to care for my son, I would immediately change the subject. The five stages of grief are no joke my friends, and I was in the first stage of grieving the absence of my child, denial.
My mommy friends came out of the woodwork the night before my first day back at work. I was flooded with texts and Facebook messages. “You got this mama,” and “I promise it gets easier.” I appreciated every thought, but I couldn’t believe them. I was now in the second stage of grief, anger. I was too mad about losing precious time with my son that I couldn’t comprehend any of it. Had I actually been able to listen to someone who’d been down the daycare road, here are the 8 things I wish I could have known about what will happen that first day.
1. You will be leaving your baby with a complete stranger.
Sure, we met the owners and directors of the daycare during our tour. But we were introduced to the infant teachers for the very first time that morning. These were the people that would spend the next 10 hours with my little newborn. “Hi, nice to meet you, here’s my 13-week-old baby. See ya!” When my mother-in-law or my sister babysits, I spend an hour telling them where the diapers are, how to make his bottles, and how to use the remote to turn on “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” in case he has a meltdown. But now, I spent 5 minutes with a girl I’ve never met, handed her my baby, and walked out the door. Who does that? Don’t they lock up mothers for that?
2. You will cry all the way to work and then some.
I’m not a crier. I never have been. I don’t cry at weddings, or stressful work days or even when I’m really sad. But let me tell you, the second you walk out that door and you are 20 pounds lighter sans the infant car seat that you are suddenly no longer lugging around, the waterworks will hit you and hit you hard. I’m talking “My Girl”–style, when Macaulay Cuklin gets stung by those damn bees and you didn’t see it coming. It will be messy, snotty and gross. Be prepared.
3. You will need a treat
You’ve just been through hell and back. Your heart was ripped out of your chest. You’re a mess and about to make your big re-appearance to folks you haven’t seen in a very long time. Take a breather, stop and get yourself a Starbucks coffee, fancy tea, or whatever your vice of choice happens to be. It certainly won’t cure you, but think about it this way, when is the last time you actually enjoyed an entire cup of coffee by yourself while it was still hot? Plus, you need to psych yourself up for what’s about to happen when you actually get to work.
4. You will be a celebrity in the office.
Planning to sneak back in, make your way to your desk, and wallow in your sadness all day by yourself? Think again. You thought it was bad at the end of your pregnancy when every trip to the ladies room inevitably ended with someone running into you and pointing out that you were still here and “oh my gosh, still pregnant?” Oh no, this is worse. You will be bombarded with people welcoming you back, inquiring about who is watching the baby, and—wait for it—asking if it was “rough” dropping him off at daycare for the first time. Have your story ready and put it on repeat all day long.
5. Someone will ask you if you are back.
“Oh, hey! Are you back at work?” No, I’m not. I’m still on maternity leave but I thought it would be cool to just come and hang out here for the day. Oh by the way, you still work here?
6. You will need an iPhone charger for your desk.
There are many reasons for this. You will check your phone obsessively every 10 minutes to see if daycare has called. You’ll also be looking at the 3,500 pictures of him on your phone every chance you get. (Yes, my son is 3-months-old and I have 3,500 pictures of him on my phone, so what? Blame Apple for making their iPhone camera so damn amazing).That phone will not leave your hands for any extended period of time. Multiply this phone-checking time by two if your daycare has a Facebook page. Didn’t sign the daycare’s social media consent form because you are “conservative” when it comes to someone else posting pics of your little love? You’ll rethink that in a second when you are blowing up a picture to see if that is definitely the back of your little baby’s head in the corner of that shot. Aw, I think that’s his ear. Does his ear look happy? I can’t tell! All of this activity drains your battery fast. You’ll have 28 percent by noon.
Side note: I conserved some battery juice as well as some sanity by proactively requesting that people, mainly my mother and mother-in-law, not text me that day and ask me details about how drop-off went.
7. You will lose your shit on your husband.
My husband is incredibly supportive. And he was a gem that day. He reassured me that I was strong enough to make it through the day, accompanied me to the drop-off, and periodically checked in with me throughout the work day without being overbearing. Unfortunately for him, what he did not do was pick up a pair of shoes that he happened to leave on the kitchen floor that morning. That’s all it took. I lost it and blew up on him “Mommy Dearest”–style. All of that pent up emotion about the day needs to come out somewhere, and when it does, good luck to anyone in a 2-mile radius. If you’re a mom who is approaching day care drop-off day one, you may want to forewarn your significant other.
8. Your entire day will be turned around the second you see that little face.
I left an hour early the first day, rushed to the daycare and ran into his classroom. My little boy looked up at me with the biggest smile and my heart melted along with the stress from the entire day. Nothing compares to that. As you drive home and think about doing it all again the next day, you will think to yourself “You got this, mama.”