The First Day of Daycare: It Never Gets Easier

Today my son goes to daycare for the first time.

It’s the last full week of my maternity leave, and I am easing him into daycare this week.

As a second-time mom, I am less worried about leaving him with someone else than I was with my first, but it’s still hard on my mama’s heart. My precious, sweet, cranky 11 week old is about to be away from momma for longer than he has ever been, and thinking about that brings tears to my eyes.

Yesterday was a rough day. He was excessively fussy, and he and his older sister spent the previous night tag-teaming on the middle-of-the-night wakings. My husband and I were exhausted and short on patience. It was just a hard day, as life with 2 under 2 can be. 

The First Day at Daycare

As I calmed him for what felt like the 100th time at 10:00 am yesterday, I thought about what would happen to him today when he’s at daycare.

When he starts to lose it completely, how will daycare choose to comfort him?

How can they possibly get the just-right combination of bouncing, white noise, and pacifier sucking that I’ve spent the last 11 weeks learning?

How will they figure out the magical combination that still barely works on this colicky little boy? I’ve told them how we comfort him at home, but how can they possibly replicate that with a 4:1 child-to-staff ratio? 

It makes me sick to my stomach to think of my little guy wailing for mommy, knowing I won’t be around to comfort him. I worry he will fight the bottle at daycare, as he often does at home. This little guy is so picky about everything, and daycare can’t be as accommodating. No matter how amazing our center is, it’s still not home.

Sending him to daycare breaks my heart a little bit. And yet…

I know it’s the right decision for my family. I have a job I love and find fulfilling, and even if I choose to stay home someday, I know now isn’t the right time. Returning to work after having a baby is incredibly difficult, but it’s the right path for us now.

And I have some hopes in sending him to daycare. 

Since he was born at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, he has only met a handful of people. The two people in this world who are able to comfort him, my husband and I, are also two very tired people after 11 weeks of little sleep, lots of fussing, and a plethora of toddler tantrums from our daughter. 

I hope that sending him to daycare teaches him to self-soothe a little better. I expect that he’ll adjust to how other people calm him, rather than just our bouncing-shushing-sucking regimen. I hope he learns to accept the bottle more easily. I hope he enjoys snuggling and playing with staff. We love our daycare and know the staff members there are amazing, and we are excited he will get to know them.

Being a stay-at-home mom is hard. Being a working mom is hard. Just being a mom is hard.

And today is one of those hard working-mom days. And yet, I am glad he is able to go today. Daycare has been a wonderful experience for my family, and we’ve watched our daughter thrive at her center.

So while today is a hard day, and I’m already looking forward to picking my littles up, I am glad my children can have the experience of daycare while my husband and I work.

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Jen is a mom to two kids, Penelope (19 months) and Jethro (2 months). A graduate of Central College, Jen moved to South Africa with the Peace Corps after college, where she developed school and community gardens. Upon returning to the states, Jen moved back to her hometown of Ottumwa, Iowa, where she met her husband Darin. In 2019, their young family moved to Cedar Rapids, where she began work with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach as a Healthy Food Access Specialist. Despite working full time and wrangling two young kiddos, Jen still finds times for her favorite hobbies-cooking, gardening, reading, and napping.