Why Daycare is Good for your Child and for You
I am the proud mom of two boys who began their time in daycare when they were infants. This was mostly a choice, in that I chose to go back to work because I love what I do and also because I couldn’t imagine a life where I didn't work.
On a personal level, I wanted to have a structured socialization situation for my boys. A place where they would ideally be with the same groups of children day in and day out and be able to negotiate differences in personalities and preferences in a supervised way that also helped them feel loved and safe.
But over the past three years, I’ve come to appreciate having my boys in daycare for so many more reasons.
Here are are a few of them:
Daycare is a Giant Petri Dish Of Germs! Yay!
Yes, it sucks at first but everything in parenthood sucks in some way at first until you adjust to the newness of it and grow to appreciate and love it. And once you’re on the other side of the suckage, you can feel like a goddess mother who can tackle anything.
That’s how germs are for me. I hate being in the middle of it. I question everything I’ve ever thought about my choices to send my babies to the petri dish that is daycare until they’re not sick anymore.
And even more importantly, until half the kids in their class – more often the kids that started daycare later in the game - come down with some new ailment and my boys sail through it unscathed. “WOW,” I think. “IT’S TRUE,” I observe. "They ARE building immunities, and it IS helping them! I’m a genius!"
Statistically speaking, I’m not wrong. Studies show that delaying children to begin school until kindergarten or even pre-school, can increase the odds that the same “sickness curve” will occur, just later in your child's early life. And depending on the sickness, it may even be a bit more intense than if they were to have it when they were babies.
Personally, I’d rather my boys miss all their schooling when they don't need to learn anything worth really needing to remember.
The Daycare Routine, Y'all!
It’s no secret that toddlers and babies crave routine.
I didn’t fully appreciate the awesomeness of a routine until #2 was born. Being able to keep J in the routine he had become accustomed, I believe, helped him adjust to the significant life transformation that was being a big brother.
It was expensive and no doubt many families just CANNOT do this due to the financial burden alone, but we were lucky. I gleefully sent J to school, while I adjusted to life with his newborn brother.
I also got the added perk of having several uninterupted hours a day when I could pretend that this newborn baby was my only one. I got to bond with him in a way that I may not have if I had the nagging attention seeking toddler circling me and his new competition all day long.
I may never know if his easy adjustment to being a big brother was because of who he is as a person, or if it’s because we kept him in the routine that he was familiar with. I’d like to think it was some magical combination of the two, and I’m grateful that we were able to do it this way.
Socialization and Problem Solving is on Point
Exactly as I predicted, my boys have learned exponentially about dealing with the “bully,” the “biter,” the “best friend,” the loud one,” the “one who doesn’t listen,” the “pusher,” the “scratcher,” and so on.
Okay sure, maybe that sounds like a particular bit of torture to my sweet innocent babies, but guess what. My boys tend to not be any of the above, and if they are, we are presented with teachable opportunities to deal with conflict.
My boys are learning how to deal with uncomfortable situations and yes, even uncomfortable people, which is a life lesson I wouldn't be able to teach them any other way. They know how to claim their space. They frequently say to each other at home even, “No thank you!” and stand their ground and push away the would-be assailant. They also have no problem telling a teacher or me if someone is mean or rude, pushes, bites, whatever. They have an earned self-confidence and a sense of what is right and wrong, I believe, as a result of all of these experiences.
They also have a keen awareness of being able to avoid confusing people or situations.
I once had a teacher tell me that they had written several reports a day for a week regarding a biter and a scratcher in their class. Almost every single parent was sent home with a report detailing these incidents...except for my baby boy. They told me he would avoid these two children who were biting and scratching. Circle around them. If they came near, he'd move. If they wanted whatever he was playing with, he'd walk away.
Okay, do I want to put my child in a classroom with a biter and a scratcher. Do I want to have him in a stressful environment where he has to constantly dodge attack? Never. Nope. Don’t like it. Never will.
But I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to work with people who are rude, selfish, and just plain obnoxious. I know how to deal with these people because of all the experiences I've had. And I hope that my boys are far better prepared for larger classrooms, with less supervision, than their non-day-care cohorts might be.
At least I hope so.
Checks and Balances
If shit goes down at daycare people get fired.
How do I know? Because shit went down at the boy's daycare when a sleeping baby was left in a room with no supervising adults. His parent discovered him at the end of the day when the remaining children had already transitioned into another class. And the two attending teachers were fired. Their licenses were revoked and they will never be able to work with children again.
Not only that but the director of our school was required, by law, to inform us of the incident and have us sign a paper acknowledging that we’d been told all of this information.
You may think this is pretty harsh and even a bit extreme. I did at the time, and I felt awful considering it’s a simple mistake and really? A one strike policy? That’s brutal!
But I respected the protocol. And if anything it made me feel safer leaving my boys in a place where they took things this seriously. There are severe checks and balances in place at most licensed daycare facilities. And it’s worth asking in detail when you tour each facility what their policy is.
Also, be sure to ask if they have cameras on the premises, if they record, for how long, and how often the data is cycled over. It's worth considering in case there is a questionable situation that needs further review.
Many in-home daycares do not have to adhere to the same stringent policies (especially if they are owner operated) but this is also why we chose this particular style of school-like-daycare. Because they aren’t owner managed. Because there is a system of checks and balances, a chain of command and lots of eyes and ears in every single hallway and classroom.
When it’s time for you to look for a place for your child to be loved and cared for while you return to work, consider putting them in a licensed daycare facility. Personally, I love the Montessori model of schools and would recommend that above most others.
But, you have to tour many to get a sense of precisely what kind of school best suits your child and your family (and your budget!)