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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Stay-at-home-moms: Would you send your kid to daycare?

Before we even get started on this one, I'm going to say one thing: If someone says "Don't judge," just remember: we all judge. At one point in time you have judged someone, and if you say you haven't, you're probably not telling the truth. I'm sure we've all judged moms who circumcise their sons, who formula-feed their babies, who fully (or don't) vaccinate, women with large families, those who have epidurals;  the hot-button issues run the gamut and everyone has an opinion. Just keep that in mind.

I couldn't help but notice the new trend among some mothers I know - sending the kids to daycare. That in an of itself isn't revolutionary; one of them is a working mom who just had her second baby. She's a teacher, gets summers and breaks off, and sends her 2 1/2 year old to day care. So what?

The other mom does, too. But she's a stay-at-home-mom. In fact, her three-year-old has been in daycare a few days a week since her youngest was born almost a year ago.

So yeah, I guess I'm judging.

Wouldn't it be nice to drop so and so off so I could actually do something for a change? Yeah. That would be nice.

Then I think back - I put my oldest two in preschool 2 1/2 hours a day, three days a week, but is that the same?

I do think in some ways that preschool and daycare are different: most preschools are only a few hours a week, whereas daycare time tends to be several hours every day or at least several days a week. I felt that sure, all those great things like socialization, blah blah blah were important, and my kids were enrolled in a great program with fantastic teachers. I wanted them to experiences a "rules" setting much like the classroom with similar expectations that they would have in school, and admittedly, it was also good for me, too. So yeah, I can admit that I partly did it because I wanted a break.

But what I found was that much of the time, I admittedly didn't do shit during that break. Sometimes grocery shopping, but certainly not every day. Working out? Yeah, whatever. I don't know about other people; I'm sure some are super-diligent about their time, but I bet more often than not that others fritter away their time much like I did. Now that I have two full time in school, I'm home alone with my youngest, who just turned three. And you know what? I don't want to send him to preschool next year, because we're rather enjoying ourselves at home, doing our thing. And I realized, I can teach him just about as much, maybe more, as he could be learning in preschool.

I don't begrudge any mom who does need to send her kids to daycare because she's single, struggling financially, can't afford not to - but then there are those moms who agree that whatever money spent on daycare sucks up all their income and they have to ask themselves, is it really worth it? Don't get me wrong: I think there are some situations where sending the kids to daycare when you stay at home might be good for a mom's mental health. Someone mentioned taking care of a child with long-term illness, which is probably above and beyond what most of us go through in a typical day. Dealing with depression is another, which might give someone a much-needed break.

But does it become a crutch?

The moms I'm talking about are people I know, and rather intimately. One stays at home during the day and works occasionally in the evenings while her husband watches the kids. She's well-adjusted, watches a lot of Ellen, and sheepishly admits to sending her daughter a few days a week - presumably so she can run errands and make her life easier with the youngest (and watch more Ellen). The other has expressed her interest in keeping up her tenure and seniority at her teaching job, and I think therefore feels that she "must" work. Neither are depressed, and we're all living pretty much within the same economic sphere. (Although with two incomes I know they can well afford the house and two cars they bought this past year.) Judge much? Hell yeah.

Because I know that even as a stay-at-home mom, there were times I spent more time focusing on things that were way less important than my children. And they were even at home with me. And suddenly it hits me like a smack in the face: I can't get that time back. And neither can they. That time that they sent their kids off to daycare so they could keep their fantastic (and totally unnecessary) job, run errands or have coffee with the girls and errands, is totally gone and can never be reclaimed.

I judge because I see her tooling around with her husband while neither of them are working, knowing their kid is in daycare. If I were a working parent, I'd absolutely take a hit on the daycare bill to be with my child, even if I'd already paid up. And since I know they pay by the month, it means there are literally weeks at a time - like Christmas and spring break - where they know they'll be off work. And guess what? She's still often in daycare.

I judge because I see how freaking sick that kid is, every time I see her. She hacks and coughs endlessly and always sounds like she's miserable, to the point where others have noticed and expressed concern. And she's already been hospitalized at least once.

Both used daycare as an option when they had their second children, which must be nice - and yet makes me wonder: how are you ever going to get used to the full workload of two kids when they're not together all the time? How unrealistic. I'd love to send them off to my mom's so I can go into town for 20 freaking minutes, go on a date with my husband, or just whatever. But my mom lives six hours away, all my friends have kids of their own to deal with, and my two most reliable babysitters are moving half a dozen states away this summer. So I guess I'll just have to find another way. Because I signed up for this when I decided to have children. Isn't that what motherhood is ultimately all about?

Years ago, moms stayed home and dads worked full time, often detached from their children and the child-rearing responsibilities. Heavy-handed discipline was often the norm, leaving physical bruises and emotional scars. Now with generations of kids practically raised by someone else in a daycare setting, is it any different? No physical scars, but perhaps an emotional void that should, if possible, be filled by a parent? (Stay-at-home dads are the shiznit!) In cases like this, is it mothers who are now detaching themselves, if not only partially?

I know it's not always possible. And I'm sure I'll come off as a hating, judgmental fill in the blank. That's not really my intent to hurt someone, but ... well, there's not really anywhere else to go with that. If you are probably going to be home anyway, then what is the point? Are we really letting ourselves be told - or telling ourselves, maybe - that motherhood is too much, or that we can't do it? Then why did we assume this role?

All those doddering old people that come up to us in stores and smile at our sweet children, telling us "Enjoy it - it'll go so fast!" have a point. They're freaking right.


Laure said...

I am a stay at home mom to four under five. Every one, EVERYONE mentions sending the older ones off to daycare to lighten my day. Why would I? I chose to have these children, I stay at home for a reason: to care for them. Honestly my fourth child has had chronic health issues, monthly hospital admissions for one thing or another. All the health care team involved in our lives also push for daycare for my older kids to give me a "break." no thanks. I dont have family nearby to 'help' (which is all lip service anyway) and a sitter who will no longer be available. I'll figure things out. But I won't be sending them to daycare. Nice entry, well said!

Christine said...

It's true what you say, that generations of children are being raised by someone besides their parents. There are situations where both parents do HAVE to work, but in many cases, it's simply not true, if people were just honest with themselves. Shouldn't people want to care for their own children?

I'm a stay-at-home mom, and sometimes a little break would be really nice. But being a mother to my children is my responsibility. Anyways, my husband's at the office all day doing stuff he dislikes at someone else's whim - at least I have the freedom to have some control over the home environment and the schedule for the day.

No daycare, no matter what fancy programs and gimmicks it offers, can ever do a better job at loving or instructing your kids.

The Deranged Housewife said...

Laure, I would think a daycare situation might make your child's health worse, if they bring home illnesses.

Humble said...

I actually would if I had the money and if it wasn't a health issue, but just one day a week. I have 5 kids and 3 are in school, it would be nice to have a good cleaning the house day or a day to run errands so that when I do have the kids with me, I can focus on them, instead of the bazillion things I have to get done whether or not they are with me.

Tom and Juli said...

I saw someone mention on your fb status that being a sahm is a privilege and I hope she doesn't get mad at me if she reads this, but I have never looked at it that way before. It was something I knew I wanted to do, and so it became a sacrifice. We had to figure out how to do it on my husband's income. We eat beans and rice a lot, we share a car, we budget and we make it work. There have been many weeks where I only had $20 or less to spend on groceries. I don't say this to make anyone feel sorry for me, but to point out that many sahms aren't "lucky" we are blessed to be able to sacrifice in other areas to make it work.

I have 3 kids 3 and under and sure I could use a break, but my breaks are "stolen" when my husband comes home and I run upstairs to take a bath, or I meet some girls for frozen yogurt while my husband feeds the kids dinner that night. As my children get older I will have more opportunities for more breaks. But I totally agree with you that you can never get this time back, there is no reverse.


The Deranged Housewife said...

I'm so happy to see a lot of positive, introspective comments here - I do not mean to bash people and know it can be a touchy subject, but I sometimes think priorities of people can get really screwed up. Sometimes it's insane, yes, but I often wonder how taxed those daycare workers are when they see kids come in day after day? With runny noses, poopy diapers, teething, the works - times 20 - we'd probably say, "That's your job," right? Sometimes I think the same applies.

A young mom once told me, "My house is now so clean that you can't even tell I have kids!" That kind of saddened me, because I don't think I'd like a house that clean - everywhere are reminders of my kids in some way. Without those, I'd probably be lost.

I do know one mom - love talking to her - but can't wrap my head around why she works full time (and has since he was a baby) when her one son is afflicted with muscular dystrophy. It means he'll soon spend his days wheelchair-bound and will likely die before he's 20. I just do not get that. Maybe it's the insurance benefits, but honestly I think that might only be a small piece of the puzzle.

Tom and Juli said...

I do have to say that I honestly feel bad for moms who feel the need to get away from their kids for large amounts of time like that. (i have a sister in law like this, her oldest spends a lot of time in daycare) It hurts my heart that they struggle so much. I'm not perfect, and I will be the first to admit that my kids drive me crazy on a regular basis, but when I am gone longer than an hour or two I miss them so much I couldn't imagine being away from them for large amounts of time on a regular basis.

Oh and the socialization thing... My kids have siblings, cousins, neighbors, kids at the park, etc. there are plenty of ways to socialize your children without using daycare.


Raquel~Marie said...

Lady, dont even get me started with the germs that infest the daycares which then are spread to the schools which then are joyfully brought home to me and my family!!!!

li'l Muppet-lhead said...

My hubby is a stay at home dad and I work, and although we don't use an "Actual" daycare, we do have our 2 y/o stay in a daycare-like setting at our health club for 1.5-2 hrs almost everyday while me or/and my husband work out. our oldest is in special-ed during the day. If we didn't have that "time-out" for ourselves we prolly wouldn't make it w/ all the stresses of special-needs child vs terrible 2's interactions going on at home. everyone has a different level of "normal" and the ability to handle the load of those norms. I have a hard time judging someone who feels they need day-care to stay sane so that when they ARE with their kids they can be as good as they can be to them. I would much rather see someone send their kids to daycare than see someone become overloaded and revert to abuse, addiction, depression, negligence, etc because of lack of stress management/relief. that said, it is better for kids to BE with their parents as much as possible in an ideal situation, but life is not utopia.

Trbobitch said...

I'm pregnant with my third and I work from home pretty much full time. I send my Kindergartner to daycare 1 day a week so I can go into the office (sometimes I don't go in, but I have to pay for it anyway so I let him go). On the days I let him go in, I will admit that it is a nice break for me, but any and all daycares I have ever walked into give me a sinking feeling. I just feel like they all reek of neglect, herding children and illness. I'm sure the workers and facilities are very "nice", but they can't love my children like I or another family member would. If my son were younger, I'd be totally full time work from home, as I will be when the baby is born. I would never put a small child in daycare if I didn't absolutely have to (they stayed with my mom previously, until we moved an hour away from her). I can't understand why people are perfectly comfortable leaving their kids with strangers (and really, do you know who these people really are??) just so they can get a pedicure or scrub the shower. Clean on the weekends and have your hubby entertain the little one.

The Deranged Housewife said...

I admire people for some of the situations they work out - I know one mom and dad who work opposite shifts just so one parent can be with their son. I know another SAHD of four boys and he is totally awesome. And others who work part time while a grandparent or aunt watches the children. I do agree - close family are one thing and have a vested interest in your child, but the stranger thing does make me sad, too. Yesterday i took my son for a bike ride and we passed a big group of toddlers - they had like two attendants with them, both of whom looked struggling, exhausted and totally not enthused. I also realize the conundrum some are in - especially professional women who've sunk time and money into an advanced degree or job like an attorney, doctor, etc. It must be very difficult.

Enjoy Birth said...

I had my 2 year old in day care while I was pregnant with my 2nd child for a few months because I was on modified bedrest. It really ended up not being a good thing as I think it made my adjustment to having 2 much harder. I had gotten lazy and life was easy with him in day care, then I suddenly had 2 at home full time.

I think that each family needs to decide what is best for them. But for me I want my boys home with me. If I needed a break, I would rather hire a mother's helper or neighbor girl to come and watch the boys in the afternoon so I could run errands alone or get other things done.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Maybe its time for a different perspective. I stay at home and have 3 kids- one who is school age, and two toddlers. Do I send the toddlers to day care three days a week? HELL YES. I love my kids no less than any of you and am such a better mother because of it. I am a part time attorney as well as an officer in the army reserves and do have a legitimate reason for the three days- on frequent occasion I have work to do on those three days but not always. However, even if not working I take advantage of the free time - I go to the gym, I cultivate friendships, I clean and heck, even go for a swim before I pick them up. I don't feel one bit of guilt about it. My kids are bright, beautiful and daycare (a very quality, loving one) has made them smart and engaging children like I hope them to become. Nothing worse than a clingy child which truth be told, I find a lot of stay at home children are. Sending them makes me a better more patient mom when I am home with them. I also have outside interests that are mine and preserve my identity and make me proud. Most of the comments here seem to be from women who think of it as their "sacrifice" and "responsibility" to give themselves 100% to their kids. Okay, enough with the martyrdom. Then you start complaining how fat you are getting, how your husbands aren't interested in you and how fun it was when you and little Katie played candyland for the 50th time that day. Keep deluding yourself. And if you don't feel like you need a break then I tend to think you didn't have much of a life before kids. I agree nothing more important than the kids development but ladies, really, life doesn't demand that you give yourself up completely to raise kids and don't malign those of us who balance kids with other ambitions or interests. Sorry, but there was no comment representative of this point of view.

Unknown said...

Yes, you are too judgemental. This post is too harsh. You simply must accept that people are different. People have different sets of skills and talents. Some women need a break. That doesn't make them bad parents, and indeed--children truly can benefit from daycare. It is not a horrible place. A mental health break for some parents truly makes them better parents. Honestly, it doesn't matter. You can think as it pleases you. You may not struggle as much as some women do with staying home, and perhaps that gives you a feeling of superiority. But just wait until life throws something at you some day and knocks you on your ass, clutching your gut, and wishing for air. Should you seek to survive, and employ compensatory means to do so, I hope others don't judge you as harshly as you have judged them in their trials. I am one such stay-at-home mother who employs the use of a great private babysitter twice a week for my sweet babies to help me stand strong at a time when I otherwise could not. In my case, I would be a selfish mother to put my pride above my mental health, and thereby inflict unnecessary suffering upon my children. But rather, since I have allowed motherhood to humble me to my bones, and have accepted help from other great women in the rearing of my children, I can healthily and happily care for them without mental health concerns--and I have peace that my children are exquisitely happy to be loved and adored and care for by a mom who obviously cherishes each moment of her life with them.

Natalie Reddy said...

I know this post is older but I felt like I needed to comment. Most societies around the world have help raising their kids. My husband is Indian and his family was shocked when we didn't have family moving in with us at the birth of our daughter. North American culture has made it so that women feel like they have to do it on their own. God forbid they admit they need some help! Our families live over an hour away from us so dropping our daughter off isn't always easy especially since they all work. I deal with seasonal depression so yes my daughter is in daycare one day a week so I can have a mental health day. I know I chose to have my daughter but being on call 24 hours a day 7 days a week is a lot and sometimes we need a rest. I am a better mom for taking a day a week to myself. Taking 1 day a week for me means that those other 6 days I am at my best. And just because there are women who can admit they need help doesn't give anyone the right to judge them. If they are at all like me the likely struggle a lot with judging themselves they don't need your help in making them feel like crap.