12/16/2013 03:33 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Agony of Daycare Drop-off

Sarah Gilbert

For better or for worse -- usually for worse -- I am the person who drops our kids off at daycare before work. And I would like to be able to prove this as a scientific fact, but daycare drop-offs, especially with 4-year-olds, can cause you to quit your job. Forget about the long hours, the bad commutes or the less-than-equal pay. It all comes down to the toddlers clinging to our legs at 7:30 a.m.

And this, for me, has been going on for months now. It started on her birthday this summer.

I thought it would be a very happy occasion, because it was her birthday and we got her a "big girl bike." The bike was pink with training wheels and a small purple bell that sounds like you were ringing for room service from a fairy. To surprise her, we left the bike in the living room on the morning of her birthday, where Santa Claus usually leaves stuff.

She found the bike, looked delighted for a split second, petted the seat a few times and then started to cry. And she didn't stop all morning! Why? I don't know! I'm a parent, not a mind reader.

But I think it was intimidating. Having a big girl bike meant that she now had all the trappings of a grown-up girl -- underpants, a regular cup and a bike with just two wheels. The signs were all there.

She tried to get on the bike and it wobbled. It was hard to balance on that little seat and reach the handlebars. So she tried a few times, crying the whole time, and then gave up and told us that we should take the bike back to the store. But I didn't take it back. Partly because I'm really stubborn, but mostly because I think she'll warm up to it, and then like riding it. Change is hard, people. And you might as well learn that when you're 4.

Then we piled in the car and went off to daycare for the day. We walked into the enormous classroom that is actually a gymnasium transformed into a play space using various bookshelves, carpet and temporary plastic moveable walls and she started crying, again. So instead of joining the other kids, I carried her to one of the seats along that wall.

"Let's have a good thought together," I said to her, in hopes that it would make saying goodbye easier.

Technically, this is not really my idea. It comes from a great kid's book called Incredible You: 10 Ways to Let Your Greatness Shine Through by Dr. Wayne Dyer. The last of the 10 ways to let your greatness shine through is this: Good thoughts give you energy and bad thoughts zap your energy. Today we needed a good thought. And energy. So we took turns whispering a good thought in each other's ears.

"Honey, I'm really proud of you for trying your new bike. It's hard to try new things, but you did it. (pause) Let's have a good thought. Do you have one?" I said.

"Loving you," she said.

Now that is a really good thought. So good that I start crying. Really hard. Why? I don't know! Probably because I didn't think my life could be this awesome, so I cry about that sometimes. A lot, actually. And now my daughter is crying and frightened, because she knows that she made me cry. So we cried and hugged more. And then said goodbye.

Change is hard for me, too. I used to love going to work before I had kids. And now I don't always love it. But then the drop-offs changed. And they got easier. And then harder, again. And now we draw pictures together, for each other, before I leave for work. And most days, like today, we have a good thoughts, like it's great to have a job, a daughter that's four and a new bike. What's yours?