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.