controversial issue: child care

When I began maternity leave in 2010 with our first child I felt like I was beginning the greatest job ever. And now, two years later, with two children in my care, I still feel this way. I love the privilege of staying home with my children in their youth. Being a stay at home mom was never my career plan or aspiration growing up (and that's a post for another day), but it's a gig that really suits me and for the most part, we're all thriving with this set up. But Lily is getting older. More active, more curious, more demanding (for engagement and activity, mainly). And I often consider how beneficial a couple of hours per week some sort of daycare would be.

Which is where the controversy begins.

Online, at the park, in my circles of friends, and in our families, I've heard a lot of opinions on the topic of childcare. Most people agree that it's beneficial to a child's development (being with peers, a new environment, etc), but the agreement tends to end there. I've encountered (and shared, in some cases) opinions that run the gamut -

Daycare is great, but I feel so badly for the kids who are there EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.

I feel so badly for the kids who are stuck in a crowded daycare!

I can't believe some kids miss out on the benefits of daycare and stay at home, alone, with a single adult ALL.DAY.

Kids who aren't in daycare won't be well-socialized.

Kids who are in daycare will learn terrible habits from "bad kids".

Childcare is fine IF YOU HAVE TO WORK, but what gets me is when stay-at-home moms also use childcare! They shouldn't be placing their children there.

Kids need maximum time with their parents and shouldn't be raised by a nanny/teacher/daycare worker.

Kids won't be able to trust their parents or others if they're never away from their parents, even at a young age.

I feel so guilty for putting my child in daycare.

I feel so guilty for not putting my child in daycare.

Have you heard some of these? Or thought them? I have and I have. As an idealistic young mom, I couldn't imagine being away from Lily and the thought of daycare was terrifying and depressing to me. I grieved for moms who had to use daycare, which I now see as a way that I was looking down on other women who were doing differently (not wrongly, just differently). And now I'm considering it, even though I'm a stay-at-home mom.

For us, the consideration isn't for me to have a break, though that will be lovely.
And it's not even so I can have more one-on-one time with Oli, though I can't wait for that.
It's for Lily.

Since our church life is now in the evening and many moms from my moms group have gone back to work, she is seriously lacking in the playmate department. I have many friends with children her age, but coordinating with them isn't the easiest and we're all busy families. And just this week, the public parks had the audacity to take down the swings for winter. how.dare.they!?

So socially, I think it will be terrific for her. And I think she's at the age where she is longing to do more than I can give her 24/7 at home. With nap schedules and a little brother (and hopefully another sibling on the way, soon!), and our limited access to parks in the winter, it's hard to provide a stimulating environment for her at home. Has anyone else experienced this with a 2-2.5 year old?

And for us, there are fewer factors that would eliminate the option. While daycares in many other cities are $50-$100 a day, our city boasts quality options for $35 a day or less. We'd also qualify for added deductions (most families pay 25% less of the actual cost), so the cost really wouldn't be a factor. On top of cost, there's location. We have a Garderie (daycare) on the ground level of the building NEXT DOOR to us, and I believe they have an opening. So what's stopping me?

To be honest, it's that nagging guilt that because I'm a stay-at-home mom, daycare isn't for me. Brad and I have talked it over and we both think it would be terrific for Lily to take a couple mornings a week (we're not talking about full time enrollment here, though I also have no problem with that), and we're on the same page, but I do worry about the reaction we may get. In truth, I've thought this in the past. That stay-at-home moms who used daycare were lazy or didn't want to be with their kids or didn't care for parenting. How awful! I'm ashamed to admit it, and here I am afraid of being that very controversial mom who isn't working, but also using daycare.

We don't know for sure that we'll enter Lily into a part time daycare, but just thinking about it gets me excited for her and also for Oli and me to have more time together - something I had with Lily as a baby but never with Oli. And it also gets me thinking about how oddly controversial it is in the world of moms...

So what do you think? ///
What's been your experience with daycare?
What prohibits you from using it?
Does your child love it/hate it?
What do you love about it?
Why did you choose it?


  1. Hey Emily, you need to do what works for YOU. Don't worry what others think.

    My husband's mom was a SAHM (and still is, and her youngest is 18 - go HER!) She put Daniel, a VERY hyper little boy, into montessori school when he was 3. At the time she had another child, and she needed a break. When she had her third, both the boys went to daycare a few days a week.

    On the flipside. I GREW UP in daycare, from about nine months. I barely saw my mom because she worked late, and was out weekends for week sometimes too. I hated day care, was very lonely, and had a really had time. I am NOT a social person still, and don't think day care helped me much. However, I was an extreme, put into day care at a very young age and had little time with my mom. I'm also just naturally shy, perhaps having a sibling at home would have helped in that dept. who knows.

    That's all! Do what you feel is right and don't feel guilty! I think once you've prayed over your motives and figured it's worth a shot, you should give it a try. I might hate it, you might love it. :) you're doing a great job as a mom Em!

    1. another thing. My plan is once Pen is off breast milk to have a grandmother take care of her one day a week, to give ME a break! You don't have that luxury. If people are critical of you, they need to remember you are far from family who can watch your kids for free, so you do what you have to do!

    2. also, meant to type "you might hate it, you might love it"...not "I might hate it". phew sorry.

  2. We've put Bailey in preschool 2 mornings a week since September and I'm at home too. She has THRIVED in this environment! She loves being with the other kids, is learning different things that I just can't give her because I don't think of it (not my personality, giftings, etc). And it's a beautiful break too - of course I'll admit it! I find that even just that break makes the times I'm with her, more focused and intentional and stimulating for her. Find a great place and do it! If a kid's personality would benefit, who cares what others think!

  3. Second the do what works for you.

    And I think any mother of a toddler will tell you it is difficult to stay at home with them all day long if activities aren't planned. Toddlers need stimulation and most of the time it's hard to achieve if you're at home day after day. I might be wrong here but I think most SAHMs will either plan activities for their child at home or take them to activities/playgroups on a regular basis. I know when the kids are with me in the summer, I plan at least 3 weekday morning activities and the remaining 2 days I use for house stuff. During the school year, I send them to daycare (in my case to keep my space in case I go back to work) but I am amazed at how much they learn there. If I had them at home during the school year, I would've signed them up for preschool a couple days a week anyways. If it makes it easier just tell people Lily is going to preschool a couple days a week...

    And a plus for you is daycare/preschool/a structured learning space will probably help Lily's speech delay.

  4. Sarena20.11.12

    Hey Emily, Great reconnecting with you and I'm enjoying reading your blog!

    As a new mom who is struggling with having to go back to work in February I have felt or heard all of these comments for and against daycare. Like nursing, it seems to be something that everyone has an opinion on. When Mark and I first discussed it I felt sick. I had been convinced I would be a stay at home mom and the guilt I had with putting Noah in daycare was too much for me. After much prayer, debate and searching (including a healthy dose of understanding that guilt is not from the Lord) I've really come to realize that there is no right or wrong answer. Every family is so different and the choices for or against day care are just as unique.

    Once I opened myself up to at least discussing daycare and going to visit a few I was blown away by the programs they have for developmental learning and the joy the workers take in being there. We were so happy to find a Christian daycare that blew us away and it's eased my heart just a little knowing that Noah will be growing and thriving in that environment come February. It's also given me great perspective on enjoying each and every moment I have with him now!

    I don't think daycare is the right answer for everyone, nor do I think being a SAHM is the right answer for everyone- in fact I think that BOTH of these could be the right answer at different points in our lives. But I do heartily believe you need to decide what is right for your own family; and rest in the Lord's care for you all.

    Looking forward to hearing how Lily does if you do decide to go that route. :)

  5. Hey Em! I spent every day after school in daycare from grades 1-6, and it had no effect on my relationship with my parents, I am very close with them! I often hear negative comments about daycare and it hurts to hear that people think that people think that my parents were in some way neglecting when they TOTALLY were not. All in all daycare was a place where I made friends and played with toys that I couldn't play with at home, so I say go for it!

  6. Hi Emily
    Have you considered a nursery school or preschool? Getting the benefit of the socialization of daycare, but also know you are providing additional learning to your child. I have a 2.5 year old son and a six month old son. My husband is a dairy farmer (in Ontario) and with living in the country and trying to nurse and nap the baby my older son wasn't getting any socialization. I was working part-time between mat leaves, and John got to go to daycare two mornings a week. After Will was born we found a Christian nursery school in the nearest town. He goes 2 mornings a week and loves it! He gets to play and learn in a Christian environment. We pay $19 per morning. I too found it to be a hard decision, so we started off sending John only one morning a week...we quickly bumped it up to two. He has learned so much since September, and I am so glad my husband supported me in the decision. Bonus...sometimes it gives me a quick break...just put the baby down and actually had time to read this post and comment...no off to shower while I actually can!

  7. Well, since you asked... I do have an opinion!

    Lilian is only 7 months old and is already craving interaction with other kids. Nearly every day we go to some kind of mom's group or the library, and watching her gawk at the other kids and learn from them is incredible. If I can continue bringing her to socially interactive events through the week, I'd love to - but if and when I notice that she is starting to lose interest or need more / longer interaction, I'd have no qualms about entering her into a daycare 1 or 2 mornings or afternoons a week.

    I think the issue here is a parent's motivations. If a mom is doing daycare a couple of hours or days a week as a way to get some time to grocery shop in peace or do a full home deep-clean, or get a manicure even, with the intention of being a better mom, then by all means she should do it. If a mom is doing daycare to increase social interaction for her child, then she should do it. If a mom is doing daycare simply because that's what she thinks she's "supposed" to do, or because she feels pressured to "make her child better / smarter", she shouldn't do it.

    Like with anything we'll enter our kids in, we'll select our daycares carefully. If we as moms think it's crowded in a bad way, or insufficient in care quality, there's a good chance we won't do it.

    If you see it as beneficial to your family's wellbeing and if you can afford it, do it!

    Both of my parents worked (I think my mom went back to work when I was only 3 months old) because that's what they had to do to afford it. I turned out an extremely social, interactive problem-solver as a child and as a result I think daycare is great for a lot of kids. One of my brothers, who is naturally more shy, found that daycare was overwhelming and it wasn't the right fit for him. Like anything, weigh it out against your family and children!

  8. Hey Em!
    First of all, let's just say that anyone who questions your parenting for deciding to give Lilygirl some additional socialization and learning opportunities would be crazy! So let's not even go there ;D
    Although I'm not a mother, as someone who does work with kindergarteners I would absolutely encourage some sort of socialization for Lily! Like the others have mentioned, it'll be a great way for her to socialize with other kids in a new environment, have additional learning opportunities than the ones she has at home, and it helps her to develop a sense of independence. It also gets her into the routine of going somewhere for a short period of time, alone - which will be helpful when it's time for her to transition to school! Plus...hello, it's fun!

  9. We are in exactly the same situation! I stay home with my littles (2.5 & 10 months). I would love my son to have good interactions with other kids, but it is difficult to always coordinate getting together with friends. I often think it would be great to have him go somewhere a day or so a week.
    I hope you feel freedom from any judgement & are confident that you are making the right choices for your littles!

  10. I think if I were in your situation (which I might just be in a couple of years down the road)... I would be excited to enroll Greyson for the same reasons you want to enroll Lilly, but also feel apprehensive for all the same reasons you do. I never realized how much pressure there is in the world of moms... until I became a mom.

    Even though we're not in the preschool age season yet, I do use childcare at the YMCA while I work out. It's.AMMMMAZING. For $1.50/hr Greyson can be in child care for up to 2hrs on any given morning. It's for babies as young as 6 weeks right up to 7years old. For me it means I get an hour to work out and an hour to shower and take my time getting ready in the morning (and sometimes I can even fit in an uninterrupted quiet time!!!) The YMCA that I go to was recently renovated so it is super nice facilities and it even has a Starbucks too! I started using it when Greyson was 8 weeks. I've been able to time it with his naps so he pretty much sleeps the whole time... and I haven't looked back since.

    Maybe look into a YMCA by your house if you want something with the bennefits of pre-school without making the commitment...? Perhaps you could do baby and mommy swimming lessons while Lilly is socializing it up in their child care...?


  11. There is no one-size-fits-all answer! It depends on your child. Would your child benefit and grow from this experience? Or is it more detrimental to her development? A friend's 3 year old daughter attends a preschool two afternoons a week. The girl *LOVES* going to school and cries on non-school days! Sounds like your daughter might be cut from the same cloth. On the other hand, I'm a kindergarten teacher and I've had students who are "old enough" to be in school but are just. not. ready. for the school experience. Always consider your child and your family situation - not what's common in "mommy culture." Speaking of which....

    I also found an interesting/related article today on an online magazine (Moomah) entitled "You are mom enough!" It's not a long read. http://moomah.com/themagazine/you-are-mom-enough/

  12. Such a great topic Emily! I think we have found the perfect balance for us. With me going back to work part-time (between 3-9 days a month) Raeca gets the opportunity to go to my parents place about 50%-75% of the days I am working and the rest of the days I work she is in "daycare". I was very fortunate to find a lady in my neighborhood (just a few blocks away) with two girls (one is just a few months old and one is just 6 days older than Raeca). Rae is the only kid she takes on and Raeca and her 2 year old daughter getting along really well. I love that she is getting out and socializing, plus giving us some time away from each other (I find our personalities are very similar and we both need a little time away from each other every now and then), but it isn't very often so I don't have to feel guilty about it. I think daycare will work differently for different people, and I'm fortunate we were able to find something that works so well for us.

  13. Do whatever you think is best for your child/ You should never felt guilt in putting your child at day cares. For me, I prefer sending out my child to preschool center and getting a baby-sitter or home based-education. The learning progress of a child is more effective if the child could mingle on her peers. Also, getting out of comfort zone will do more learning than being stuck at home. My tips in picking preschool might be helpful to you.