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Separation Anxiety

This blog post has been contributed by Tina George.

Separation Anxiety while leaving children at Day Care Centre

Myrah at daycare

(Dated: Ten days into Myrah’s time in daycare) It hit me with no preamble or preparation. And I was caught unawares. It was tough and taxing, probably the most traumatic week of the first year of motherhood. Baby centre describes separation anxiety as “a psychological term that means your toddler can’t bear to be without you” and goes on to say “the crisis age for most babies is between 12 to 18 months”.

My daughter is 12 months and I started leaving her in daycare. A lethal combination. The first week of full time daycare was so unlike what she has been in the first year of her life. I have never seen her cry so much or be so upset about anything. Our trial visits to the day care centre went well. She happily played with the toys in the centre and even stayed with the day care staff for a couple of hours alone. Even then, when she started full time, I knew she would be upset and was mentally prepared for it. But I was not prepared for what happened.

She cried when I left her there, which was anticipated. But when I picked her up at the end of the half day (first couple of days I sent her only for half days), her eyes told me how much pain she was in. My heart broke when she burst into tears the minute she saw me. Not a happy and relieved smile on seeing me, but more tears to say why did you do this to me. I knew there would be some crying with strangers, but not that it would continue even at home. She came home and clung on to me as if I was going to leave her the next minute. For two days, she would get upset at changing diapers, getting dressed, sitting in the car seat or even giving her a bath. This, I was not expecting.

For a few days after that, every now and then she would go into what seemed like an anxiety attack when all that could console her was me holding her tight and calming her down. Nobody told me about this part. Those days were tough and overwhelming. For her and for me. Thankfully after a couple of days she was normal after coming home.

During the day, at the day care centre, the staff told me, she got increasingly better, but still had tears every now and then. As the routine continued for the next few days, she knew when I was getting her ready for daycare, she recognized the place when I took her out of the car, the faces of other kids and the staff became familiar and she clung on to me when she spotted them in the room. I felt helpless those first few days. I felt her pain and imagined how terrified she must be in an all-new environment all by herself. And I couldn’t do anything to help her. I had to toughen up and leave her there to figure it out for herself. My one year old baby – I felt like I was throwing her into a den of lions, for all I cared!

So I came home with tears and a paining heart. And cried my heart out. All day I wondered what and how she was doing. Here I was, thinking I have a few days to myself before I got back to work. I planned things I didn’t have time for in the one year – do some window shopping, visit friends, read a book in a café, watch movies. But I was in no frame of mind to do anything, let alone go out and have a good time. It has been about ten days and she is settling down. Hiding outside her class room, I realized the initial tears settled down a few minutes after I disappeared from sight. Although she looks at me with very sympathetic and teary eyes when she sees me in the evening, I increasingly find her playing around when I go to pick her up. So things are getting better.

But in that first week, it felt like a hurricane hit me, and there was nothing I could do to make it go away. New parents, prepare yourself. It is going to be hard. For you and them. Each baby is different and I hope your experience is not a difficult one. Nobody can prepare you enough, but just know that it is a tough time of transition. There will be much crying and wailing and emotions and pain. New and strange feelings will come hurling at you. Stay calm and strong through it. It is a tough but very important and essential part of growing up and parenting.

Note : This post first appeared on Tina’s personal blog. It has been republished with the author’s permission.

Also Read : Battling for Day Cares 


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ParentEdge is a bi-monthly magazine for discerning Indian parents who would like to actively contribute to their children’s education, intellectual enrichment and stimulation. The magazine’s premise is that learning is a continuous process, and needs to happen both in and outside of school; thus parents have an important role to play in shaping their children’s interests and intellect.

3 thoughts on “Separation Anxiety

  1. ramyas

    I went through this for 3 months with my son (that was 4 years back) and have just embarked on a similar journey with my 2 year old daughter , who is crying at her play school ( live reporting from my mil ) as I type this comment. I am waiting for the Yoda to come and tell me “May the force be with you”!!!

  2. Kritika

    Someone should write about the separation anxiety that mothers go through! I really missed my daughter the first time she went away to playschool – of course she was a mangeable two years old then! Now I wait for her school to re-open!

  3. smitha

    After a 14 month sabbatical with my daughter i have to return to work next week and since the last 2 days i have dropped my daughter off at daycare. Going through pretty much what you have listed above .Its heartbreaking but such is life :(


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