The Daycare Drop-off: When Goodbye Tears Turn Into Goodbye Waves

For several weeks morning daycare drop off became the most difficult part of my day. Sure, work was tough but it couldn’t compare to the feeling I felt when my little one clenched on to me as I prepared to leave her classroom. Her body language screaming mommy don’t go. I knew she would be ok later; every time I called to check on her she was fine. But it didn’t change the way I felt in that moment. It didn’t stop tears from filling my lap as I drove to work each morning.

Inside I felt awful. It’s a dilemma so many of us mamas face. We want to be there by our baby’s side and yet we want to ensure that our family’s needs are met. Yes, the decision to return to working outside the home was one made with a lot of thought, prayer and discussion. Yes I knew it was going to be one of the hardest things I had ever done. But no, I didn’t realize it would hurt so much. I didn’t know that my morning commute would be filled with tears, that I would see other peoples’ babies and long to be beside my own, that I would struggle with feelings of guilt and start to question my decision. All I knew is that above all I wanted my baby to be better than ok. I didn’t want tears to be the last thing I saw. I didn’t want to close the door behind me saying goodbye while she was still reaching. How I desperately wanted to reach back.

And then one day we walked into the classroom, together we put away her things and into her teacher’s arms she went. And when it was time to say goodbye she looked at me and waved.


No tears. Not one.

She’s over me! I thought to myself. Daycare sort of felt like a bad breakup — I was trying to heal still in a puddle of tears. And she had moved on.

Yet overpowering that twinge of sadness I felt over the fact that I wasn’t missed all that much was the comfort I took in knowing that she’s not just ok. They – the smiles – had come just in time, just when I was convinced that my heart could take no more, I saw it, as clear as day:

She’s better than ok. She’s happy.

For the past couple weeks I’ve watched her reach for or run to her teachers. I’ve watch her confidently wave bye bye from their arms or the seat of a high chair. I’ve watched my little one flourish, make friends and navigate a classroom that is no longer an unfamiliar place. My little flower has blossomed.

It’s been almost two months since I returned to work outside the home. My heart is still tender. I miss my sweet baby so much. But I’m grateful that when we are apart there are smiles. Because her smiles help me garner just enough strength to get through the day. And in my moments of sadness to remember that she’s better than ok. She’s happy.

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