I cry every day I drop my son off at daycare. The daycare door slowly shuts, and I see the last glimpse of my son in our caretaker’s arms. I try to turn away as fast as I can. I feel the emotional wave almost taking over as I scurry down the steps toward my vehicle. It never fails that as soon as I climb back into my car and close the door, the first of many tears will begin to roll down my cheeks. I keep my trusty box of Kleenex in the passenger seat. I look in my rearview mirror to see the backseat, baby mirror reflecting an empty car seat. I feel the emptiness in my heart, too. I normally call my husband, my mom, or a friend, but the only person I want to talk to just got dropped off for the day.

It’s been months since I dropped off my son for the first time. He was 6-months-old then and ready to take on the world. He was prepared for this new, exciting chapter and adjusted within a week. He loves our caretaker and the other children at daycare. He plays hard all day and is thriving.

I, on the other hand, am struggling.

I normally cry off-and-on while on my commute to work. I sit in the parking lot reapplying makeup and listening to my favorite, motivational songs. I pray and I pray. I tell myself to get it together and suck it up, buttercup. I ask the Lord to give me what I need to make it through the day. I watch a few videos of my son. I take a deep breath. I put on my smile for the day.

I force myself to get out of the car and walk into work. There, I try to not think too much, or else the uncontrollable tears may start again and have a mind of their own. I find any excuse I can to talk about my son. I count down the hours and the minutes until it’s time to pick him up.

I love what I am doing but there’s still something in the back of my mind that makes me feel guilty if I get too wrapped up in a project and go hours without thinking about my son. I’ve wondered if something was wrong with me for being this way. Why can’t I simply be OK with him being at daycare? He’s happy and healthy and I am able to pursue a career that I love. Shouldn’t I be OK with this?

I was fortunate to be able to stay home with him for the first six months of his life. They were beautiful times and I cherish all the memories we made in those months. Those days were filled with such joy, but as I look back I realize how it was hard for me to focus on anything but him. My husband, my faith, my health, my family, my friends, my goals, my career, my dog, my house, and everything else were all put on the backburner. At the time, I didn’t realize that this was the case. I loved every minute of being a mom and did not even consider how unhealthy that mindset was. My identity was solely in him. So when I was by myself or not around him, I had no idea who I was. I didn’t know how to function and I struggled socially. My son was the main part of me and, yes, I was a heck of a mom to my little boy. But I wasn’t being a good person to myself or anyone around me.

Each day it gets better. I feel a growth in my heart. It’s a painful process but I know this is what is best for my child, my family, and me right now.

These are the hard days, but I still have to find the good in them. I know when I pick him up, it will be the highlight of my day. I will soak in every cuddle and giggle. I will appreciate every moment with him more. I truly realize how beautiful being a mom is and slowly, I will learn to adjust to this new stage. Until then, I will most likely continue to cry in my car and do what I need to do to live my life. I will learn how to thrive again, even if my heart hurts sometimes. I’ll get there, day by day. Just because these days are different, doesn’t mean they can’t be full of beautiful and joyful moments.

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Mary Beth Becker

Mary Beth Becker is an army wife and a mom to a sweet boy and a golden retriever. She was raised on a farm in the Midwest, but is now living the southern life in Tennessee working on her master's in education. She enjoys DIY projects, baking, fun facts, cheesiness, and homemade ice cream. Her hands are full, but so is her heart.