I am the proud mom of two boys who began their time in daycare when they were infants. This was a 50/50 choice for me. I chose to go back to work, and I’m privileged that this was mostly a choice and not a situation where if I didn’t return to work we would be completely screwed financially. But I never had a fear about sending my boys to daycare, and, in fact, I’m grateful for what they’ve learned, how they’ve grown and become socialized, and many other benefits that have come into our lives as a result of our primary childcare being a daycare.
If you allow yourself to Google “daycare,” you’ll be met with the horror stories that paint pictures of children being left alone in closets, and neglect, and abusive teachers, and worse. I’d love to say that we live in a world where leaving your child with anyone means that they will always be safe. We don’t. We may never.
And unfortunately, this country continues to put less of a value on teachers and childcare professionals across the board as compared to many other developed countries when it comes to appropriate funding and education.
There are risks of course in deciding to put your child in the care of a daycare center. Personally, I prefer a school type setting that has cameras, a system of checks and balances for staff and teachers, a requirement for background checks on anyone who works within the school (even maintenance people) and ample communication both with parents and with students about their expectations.
These are my non-negotiables when it comes to where I chose to leave my kids and also have to pay for it.
I’m sure there are some really great home daycares out there, but my experience in touring several, was that there was more of a chance for things to go wrong and for me to never know about it.
On a personal more, nice-to-have-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 Routine of Daycare Helps Children Learn and Regulate Emotions
It’s no secret that toddlers and babies crave routine.
I didn’t fully appreciate the awesomeness of a routine until Sam was born. Being able to keep Jack in the routine he had become accustomed, I believe, helped him adjust to the significant life transformation that was being a big brother.
Additionally, having a routine each day helps to soothe children in a way that opens them up to be able to learn and absorb more information.
And being able to have my child experience the learning curve of learning to regulate their emotions with and without me is invaluable. In fact, learning how to regulate emotions at a young age has been proved to be beneficial to children in a number of ways. This blog post outlines more about what emotional regulation is and why it’s important and it’s worth taking a look at while you navigate the great debate.
For me, if my kid can regulate his emotions (or at least try to), then it makes our life SO MUCH FUCKING BETTER. Granted not all daycares can support all kinds of behavior issues, and it’s certainly not a set it and forget it deal as in you can’t just drop your kid off an expect him to be “better” right from the jump.
Parenting is hard and it is a team effort with your caretakers to help them grow up to not be assholes. But boy having additional help, REALLY FUCKING HELPS.
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.
Toddler Socialization and Problem Solving is Learned Early and Practiced Often
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. They’ve also, at times, been some version of all of these. (Except the biter. We got lucky there.)
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. Now, they know how to claim their space.
They frequently say to each other at home even, “No thank you!” and “my body my choice” and stand their ground and push away a 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.
And when they head to kindergarten they will be so much better prepared for larger classes and smaller teacher ratios.
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 and practice 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.
My Kids Learn Things I Don’t Know How to Teach
Sure I could belly up to Pinterest and try to schedule out a day of activities and make crafts. But I’ve never been that crafty. I can sew, barely. I can glue shit together, kind of. I personally don’t have the personality or disposition to learn how to teach young children how to recognize letters and colors, do basic math, write their name, and a myriad of a million other things.
I’m grateful for the teachers and educators my kids have had that are not only interested in doing this kind of thing, but love it and also do it so well. My four year old can recognize and write nearly every letter in the alphabet, not because he’s some super genius, but because he was in a loving environment where he was encouraged to learn this on his own time and with his own applications.
My two year old can count to 20, recognizes all his colors, can name a bajillion animals and their coordinating sounds, as well as several shapes beyond the usual rectangle and square.
This makes the daycare experience so worth it to me.
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, please 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!).
If you found this post helpful, I’d love it if you could share this post with other mommas debating on sending their kids to daycare. Feel free to pin it on Pinterest (you can use the pin below!) or share with any of the below share buttons on any social media channels.