Tales from the Trenches: Day Care - I love you so!

When you're pregnant, people feel like it's their job to ask you inappropriate questions. When I had the joy of fielding them while carrying my first, I riddled off the answers on autopilot by week 3 of my second trimester.
"June 7th," I'd smile and say. 
"My husband IS excited it's a girl, thank you for your concern" I would mumble, rolling my eyes internally. 
"Yes I'm sure it's not twins," I'd growl while visualizing unleashing the full extent of my pregnant lady wrath.
Occasionally, someone would run out of inappropriate prenatal questions to ask and would move on to questioning our postnatal plans. Suddenly, everyone was interested in what we were going to do for childcare.

We had always intended to send our progeny to day care.  I don't remember why we had assumed this, but a nanny never seriously entered the discussion.  As such, we dutifully and proactively toured a couple well regarded centers in our area and got our names on the waiting lists for ones we liked. Well, it turns out that sending your kids to day care is perceived in some circles as being just shy of leaving them in the crib all day with a water bottle and an open bag of Cheetos. Day care, it seems, has a bad rap.

Three years and two kids later, not only do I have no regrets about group child care, I could not be more pleased. I know there are many fantastic nannies out there, and it's a great choice for some two-working-parent households, but I am here to speak up for day care and write it the love letter that it so thoroughly deserves. So without, further ado...

Reasons why I   day care

I don't want to have employees

Adding children to a family is already logistically difficult and comes with tons of paperwork.  Not having to add payroll into the mix is a huge win.  I know lots of people pay their nannies in cash, but that's not something I could really see myself doing.  If I was going to hire someone, I would want to give them benefits and pay taxes and do all sorts of other formal things I don't know how to do. I know Care.com has recently started advertising that they'll help you set all that up, and that's great but it still seems daunting.

Not only that, but having interviewed and hired people in my professional life, I know that not every employee turns out awesome.  Some have trouble showing up on time, some seem like they are going to be far more competent than they turn out to be, and some end up being jerks. Given that I needed childcare from the time both of my children were 3 months old and thus couldn't speak up for themselves, the idea of leaving them with an unsupervised stranger sent my first time mom fears into hyperdrive.

Day Care teachers are professionals

It turns out that people who dedicate their professional lives to taking care of children are on the whole amazing souls. They definitely don't do it for the money (as shockingly expensive as day care is, the teachers are grossly underpaid in my opinion). Sure, the skill and dedication is true for many professional nannies as well. This point, however, is largely directed at the lady who once said to me that "obviously all working moms feel really guilty about not staying home." Well, I would like to tell her, with as few choice words as possible, that I sure as heck don't. I love and miss my kids, but I like to work and I know my children are in excellent hands.

Not only have all the teachers we've encountered been kind, friendly, and amazingly loving towards our children, but they also know what they're doing.  They were able to get my daughter to nap in a stationary object, they taught her how to dress herself and drink from a cup, and they've had tons of suggestions for us as parents for things to try at home.  It's almost as if they have a degree in this stuff and do it for a living or something... crazy I know!

I send my kids to school so my house can remain intact (somewhat) 

I am not the kind of mom who can craft and get messy with her kids. If you can stay sane while your kid redecorates your house with paint, chalk, or glitter I say "Respect!" I just can't do it. My toddler and I cook together, both my kids spend tons of time playing outside with me, my husband takes them to music class, we have a great time.... but we don't do art projects.

The great thing about sending my kids to "school" is that they are equipped to let the little monsters be "creative".  The lovely teachers are willing to set up for, and clean up from, 7 toddlers using finger paint and play dough - bless their hearts.  They also have lots of great big toys like a water sensory table and a huge play kitchen.  Those are fantastic things for kids to play with, but I live in a condo that feels filled to the brim even without those behemoths.  As a result, I get the best of all worlds: children who have a wide variety of play experiences, a house that one can walk through while only tripping on a couple toys, and I don't have to scrape paint off the ceiling... win, Win, WIN!

They get all those diseases out of the way

Kids being sick all the time is a common concern voiced by "helpful" strangers (ok... and also my mom) about group child care.  And yes, their first year in day care was constantly full of runny noses and mystery rashes. But, keep them home until preschool, smugly proclaiming how healthy your kids are... And it turns out science says, they'll just get all those same diseases their first year of school. There's just no way out of the cesspool of disease that is early childhood. I figure since no one expects anything out of you when you're a new parent just back to work, you may as well cash in on those low expectations and stay home with your constantly sick baby then.

All the kids have working parents

Finally, all the children my children interact with live in households with two working parents. From before they could remember, Mom and Dad took them to school and then went to work.  There is no confusion as to why Mom and Dad can't stay and play with them.  They don't go to playgroups with a nanny where other children came with Mom or Dad. I'm sure at some point when they're older they'll ask why we have to go to work, but given how normalized it is in their world I'm guessing it's going to be a lot later. Frankly, my almost 3 year old has "why" and "what" on repeat already, so if we can cross one off the list - score!

I have a nanny/am a SAHM/have magical children who sit quietly while I work... Are you judging me?

Nope!

If you found a child care situation that works for you and your family I salute you because this stuff is HARD no matter how you slice it. I know that when we're being honest with each other, we've all had the experiences so universal, they are cliches. Like... wanting to run away from our children and join the circus when the toddler has spilled her third full cup of milk in one meal despite repeated warnings to be careful, or when you've bounced the baby for 2 hours to finally have him blissfully drift off to sleep only to start howling because someone rang the door bell and woke him up. Conversely, I know you've stood in your child's room watching her sleep at night, shedding a tear at the thought of how fast she's growing.

So no, if you love and care for your children I have no grounds to judge you no matter how you do it. Just know that day care is not an "only if you must option" for child care.  It is, in fact, a great option for many families.  As for my family, it will forever have a special place in my heart as the place that loved and cared for my children for those hours of the day that I could not.
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