My two little boys, now aged three and four, have been going to daycare four days a week since they were about nine-months-old.
When I look at photos of them now as babies, my heart hurts when I think of how tiny they were. Oh, the guilt. But I had to get back to work, and with my husband also working full-time and no option of family to help look after them, daycare it was.
Fortunately, my little rascals were accepted into a wonderful not-for-profit centre with long-standing staff who genuinely care about their job and the kids under their charge. I was entrusting them with a piece of my heart every day.
Even though there were often tears at drop-off (mostly mine), especially in those early days, knowing my little guys were not only safe, but also loved and adored was everything. And I loved and adored their beautiful teachers right back.
While I am at work, these amazing and dedicated early childhood educators feed my boys, play with them, nurture them and wipe away their tears. These women are so pivotal in my childrens' lives. And I am so grateful.
Photo: Heidi Krause and her two boys at daycare. Supplied
So when I came across a Reddit thread titled 'Childcare worker said "I love you" to my kid, my interest was piqued.
"So i picked up my child today from daycare and as we were leaving my child wanted their dummy (trying to ween off them)," the concerned mother writes. "The daycare worker (50ish Female) spoke to my child then cuddled them and said "I love you".
"I get that they spend a lot of time with these children but is this normal?"
The post sparked an interesting conversation, with parents and daycare workers weighing in on the topic. Almost everyone agreed it was normal and in fact, a positive thing.
"My daughter's daycare teachers tell her they love her sometimes and it makes me so happy to know that she's being taken care of people who really care about her," said one.
"As someone who has worked in childcare for years, this is normal. I love all of my kids and tell them frequently."
"Yes it's completely normal. I tell my Nanny child that I love her. We were taught in seminars when I was a daycare teacher to tell children (especially ones who feel unsafe) that they are safe, loved and wanted. I pride myself on loving and caring for the children in my care as if they were my own."
Some agreed, but said it was important to ensure boundaries weren't being crossed.
"Totally normal. As long as we're not talking about crossing inappropriate boundaries, the more loving adults in a little one's life, the better!"
"I don't mind people telling my child(ren) they love them, as long as there are absolutely no physical boundaries crossed," wrote another user. "Lap sitting is okay. Cuddling is okay. Do not ever kiss someone else's child."
"My first child just entered day care this week, and at first blush, I think this scenario would make me feel uneasy as well. When I really think about it, I do want my kid's teachers to love him. It just feels weird to allow the openness and vulnerability that it requires!"
Ultimately, while it might be difficult for parents to overcome feelings of jealously and guilt initially, there is no doubt that children need love and affection to thrive - and to form secure attachments to the adults who take care of them.
This perspective resonated with plenty of users: "It is SO important that young kids feel connected to their care givers. Being told that their caregiver loves them is a wonderful thing."
"Early childhood education is all about relationships; love between a child and provider is one of the best indicators of quality in an early childhood environment."
"You are lucky. It has been proven that the affection that children receive in there early childhood is the most important factor that determines the child later development. It is a really great thing that your child is been loved in the daycare."
As a mum with two kids in daycare, I wholeheartedly agree. It really does take a village to raise a child.
The more 'I love you's' and cuddles, the better.