Can we talk about daycare for a minute?

Lila graduates from her current room at daycare this week, her first room, and it’s been an unexpectedly difficult transition.

For ME, not for her. I mean, sleeping on cots? WHAT?

It’s something to celebrate: hitting milestones and preparing for new adventures, but I am going to freak out for a little bit about the fact that A: my child is growing up, and B: she won’t spend every day with the loving teachers who have cared for her for almost a year. Waaaa.

If we travel back to Before Land — that far-off place before marriage, pregnancy, motherhood and such — there were lots of things I didn’t understand. At the center of this ignorance cloud was child care, and what that might look like for our family one day.

It’s funny because I don’t actually know what I thought was going to happen — that one day we’d magically have a baby, and then childcare options would fall from the sky? Perhaps Mary Poppins would show up in our recovery room at the hospital, bag in hand and ready to assist? I’m flabbergasted at how little I considered this, given what a tremendous decision it came to be.

Ultimately, daycare was the right option for our family.

I don’t feel like moms are conditioned to love daycare. I just don’t. Despite every bit of progress and equality in life and the workplace, we’re still often made to feel that we should want nothing more than to be home with our babies, and that any deviation from that ideal is a failure somehow, in ourselves or our situations.

While I knew it was the right option for us, and we loved the center we chose, I was still incredibly apprehensive. I felt guilty. I was waiting to hate it, constantly seeking out things that might be going awry.

But as each week went by, I was able to exhale a little further. I started to accept and appreciate this as our situation.

What I’ve learned the past year is that daycare — what I once feared would be a default option, and an agonizing place to leave my baby — has instead been one of our greatest blessings.

Our daycare is a remarkable place where Lila has been nurtured and loved, day in and day out.

When she was a teeny babe, her teachers wore her throughout the day to comfort her and make sure she got to know them. When she was colicky and refused to nap, the entire staff got a workout, taking turns bouncing her on an exercise ball. And everyone wore the badge of honor of her reflux.

The baby rooms at any daycare are a sweet space. This is where parents leaves babies, often for the first time, and entrust their most precious gift to others. Exhausted, confused new mommas get gentle guidance from baby teachers on everything from paci brands to napping strategies. An initially awkward balance is formed, wavering between wanting to give all the instructions, and not wanting to be that mom. Moms in suits and heels pass moms in yoga pants and messy buns making kind but fleeting eye contact while juggling bags and bottles. Dads proceed gingerly, equal parts confident and confused, often the minority in the drop off cycle. Everyone is fighting the good fight.

No one in a baby room judges you for having spit up on your shirt or bags under your eyes.

No one holds it against you if you freak out a little about work, or forget your sippy cup, or call or email to check in three times a day.

Baby rooms are a sacred place. Teachers may see your baby take a first step, or say a first word, but they won’t tell you until you ask, knowing you need to see it as the first time yourself. They may have a really, really rough day with your baby, but will still greet you with a smile.

Our life and routines aren’t perfect or exactly what I wish they were, in terms of work/family balance. But I’m so thankful for the innumerable ways daycare has helped and supported our whole family.