Day care, day 1. Love.

Four years ago when I was dating my husband, he casually remarked that his mom was a SAHM and he thought that was the best way to raise kids. Thus  began a long series of discussions about the kind of person I am and how most adult people don’t tend to change dramatically and therefore it was unlikely I’d ever want to be, or thrive as, a SAHM.

Clearly we worked it out since we then moved in together, got married, had a kid… but I’ve felt a little bit defensive ever since. Add to that a bad decision to listen to Dr. Laura’s radio show every day for a while, and I was half-convinced of the following:

Good moms want to stay at home with their kids. Even if they can’t, or don’t, they want to.

Day care is an alternative to SAHM’s, but a clear second place option.

At the same time, my husband and I noticed the difference in adaptability between the kids we knew who went to daycare and those who didn’t. So we started to think, huh, there are clear benefits to the situation too.

{Note that this was all academic, since I am not leaving my family-breadwinner job anytime soon and my Mr. wasn’t volunteering to be a SAHD.}

Today I dropped my son off for a couple of hours for the first time at the day care we chose a few months ago (the one that smelled faintly of grape Smarties in the most glorious way) and it was wonderful! Wonderful! Awesome! Wonderful!

This is the story you don’t hear (er, read) very often so I’m telling it: I had the best day today, the first day I left my son with strangers at a day care center. I drove away wondering if I should feel bad, or sad, or like my heart had been ripped out of my chest, but you know? I felt light and happy. Relieved. Comfortable. Like the rest of our lives as a family with a kid had finally begun.

I met my husband for lunch (where we talked about the kid, of course), bought a new bra (oh, blessed underwires, I have missed you) and then zoomed back to rescue my poor child from the clutches of the sinister day care workers.

Ha. They’re wonderful ladies, ladies who LOVE babies. How else can you explain working in the infant room for more than ten years? He was crying when I walked in but they assured me he’d only just woken up from a nap so it made sense he’d be a bit bewildered. In the three hours he was there he ate, napped twice, laughed, and told a few stories. (Oh, have I told you he tells hilarious stories? The kid is a master weaver of tales, let me tell you.) We snuggled while I fed him a bottle, then he dozed the whole way home.

AND THEN <pause for great effect> he put himself to sleep for a nap, in his crib, unswaddled, without crying. He’s tossing and turning so it’s not the best nap ever, but hey, whatever, I’ll take it. Prior to his stint at day care, I could barely get him to sleep at all during the day, even while rocking him and swaddling him and swinging him and begging him.

~~~

Every family needs to make their own decision about child care because each family has a different set of circumstances and personalities, I remain convinced. But lest you feel like day care is a poor substitute for the “ideal mama stays home” situation, I disagree. The best solution is the one that works for you, as mamas and daddies and babies, and ours is day care.

God bless day care.

16 thoughts on “Day care, day 1. Love.

  1. Hooray for finding a great situation for your family!! As a half-time SAHM, half-time go to work and leave kid with nanny mom, I agree that the all-the-time SAHM thing would not be the best thing for my family either. If I am going to be truly PRESENT spending time with my son, I need a break every now and then.

    PS That video is so stinkin cute, love it.

  2. I’ll be in your shoes soon and I hope to have the same attitude. I actually get annoyed when people suggest that I am going to quit work and become a SAHM or only want to work part time. Unfort, we just can’t afford that and honestly, I don’t know if I would want that either. Hope we find an awesome day care too!!

  3. I do wish I could be a SAHM, but it’s not in the [financial] cards for us…. and knowing that made it so much easier to drop my daughter off on her first day of daycare. Kind of like a “there’s no other option, so let’s make the best of it” type thing. And you know what? I also drove away feeing like I should be depressed or sad… but it was truly a feeling of contentment. I knew that she’d be well cared for, and I knew that we were doing what was best for our family. I also find that, like E@OhApostrophe, I am truly more present when I’m home because of work. So glad you found a daycare you love!

  4. I’m so happy to hear that taking him to daycare was a big hit for everyone – I wish that more people told stories like this so that people wouldn’t be so fearful of daycare, or give it such a bad wrap. I might be home with our son, but I have two nieces who grew up in daycare and they learned SO SO much!

  5. I love this post, and I love that all three of you had such a great day! My mom was a SAHM while we were growing up, and has been back to work since we graduated high school and she tells me all the time how she wishes she had gone back to work earlier. She loved her time with us, but I’m pretty sure she would have loved it more had she not had to do it day in and day out, all the time. I have no idea what I want to do when we have kids (maybe home for a bit? Maybe part time? Maybe back to work pretty quickly? No idea yet), but I do know I’d like the choice to figure it out. And will definitely change as necessary. As you say – the best solution is the one that works for you.

  6. I cried the first day I left my daughter but was fine after that. I don’t think I could do the full-time SAHM thing but I wouldn’t mind part-time. Eh, maybe one day. And when I was checking out day cares, the owner told me she didn’t understand how parents would get off of work early some days and run errands before picking up their kids. Uh, because it takes half the time as doing it with your kid? I’m totally that parent now. Glad you all did great on the first day!

  7. Coming from someone who as been around Elementary Education for years, day cares provide great skills that most babies/children cant/don’t get at home.
    For example:
    children who attend daycare learn to share, and have better social skills as opposed to being at home (this is proven.
    They learn their language skills earlier and also develop motor skills quicker. This is all due to the caregivers constantly giving them direction, attention and structure.

    I firmly believe that every family has to do whats best for them. <3

  8. THANK YOU for writing this! Oh I love this post. I look at my mom and sister and it’s hard not to think that they’re doing the very best thing for kids, which is staying home with them. But I know that’s not me and I have always felt “lesser” for all the plans we’re making – the budgeting we’re doing now to get out of debt so we can pay for the best daycare later, the consideration of leaving my desperately wanted future baby with strangers. And oh this post. Made me so happy for you, that you are happy and that you have found such a great solution. And it made me happy for me, too.

    • @beka, I thought of you after I published, I’ll admit. Lines from blog posts live in my head and pop up when I struggle (“Emily blah blah blah” or “Sara blah blah blah”) and I realized none of the mama bloggers I read work out of the home full-time, so I didn’t have any words in my head about this kind of stuff. WAIT, I lied. Kimberly Michelle does, and her posts about driving with her cute kid are a great inspiration. Anyway, we have to share all the perspectives about all of the ways people parent, I think.

      And they’re not strangers for long, they just don’t happen to be related to me, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care about my son, much like my not being related to my staff doesn’t mean I don’t care about them.

  9. Thank you for writing this post! We don’t have kids yet, but my BFF emailed me awhile back about how lucky she is to be at SAHM and for her family of four to survive on her husband’s income. For her, it’s great that she knows how to soothe her children when they’re cranky, etc. However, because you need money for daycare or in-home care, her pitch to me was to save all our money so I can be a SAHM. And as an additional bonus, I or my spouse won’t become flustered when we don’t know how to soothe baby, because s/he hasn’t been in someone else’s care. Um, yeah. We’ll be flustered regardless because this is our first round at parenting. I’ll use FMLA first, plus any PTO/vacation, and see how things go from there. I feel like my mom in that I need/have to work in order to have some sort of semblance outside of the home. It’s really hard to predict the future with how we’ll feel in regards to staying at home vs. childcare, and of course how much money we’ll have saved before the kid enters our lives.

    • @Cara, I’ve only been the parent of a baby for ten weeks, but I know how to soothe my kid best, no question, and I don’t anticipate that changing because he spends a handful of hours a day in daycare. I’m the one who bathes him and dresses him, puts him to sleep and gives him the best snuggles. The day care ladies are sweet and caring, but I’m the mama! He’ll know that.

      This is goofy, but I was feeling really weird about being the mama when I stopped breastfeeding, like I’d just stopped doing the one thing only I could do, so how would he care about me as much as I’d want him to? How would he know I was his mama? (It’s hard to explain what a weird train of thought it was.) Then I remembered – Harry Potter loved his mama and he didn’t even know her. There’s a special bond that just IS because he’s my kid, and daycare isn’t going to affect that.

      Bonus: I learned a few tricks from them on how to deal with some things I was struggling with. They’re experts!

  10. I love this post! I agree there are not enough people expressing this side of things in the parent blogging world, and I’m so happy you are feeling so good about it. I think daycare is so unfairly demonized when it’s actually a pretty great part of a lot of kids lives and not second-best at all. Not speaking as a mom (yet) (although I expect my kids will be in daycare for some portion of their time) but as someone who went to daycare and had two parents who worked full-time out of the home.

  11. Thank you so much for this post. We don’t often see the working mom perspective in the blogging world and it’s sorely needed. We’re thinking about kidlets soon and I worry how I’ll make it all work, but I need to work for the money and my sanity,

  12. This is an awesome post. As one of my lifelong best friends is a kid I met in day care when we were both 2 (seriously!), I think a good day care can be a great option for the small tykes. My niece is in an awesome day care, and you’re right – those folks don’t stay strangers for long. The couple who runs the day care were at my niece’s first birthday party, and she just lit up when they walked in the house. They’re not a parent-replacement, they’re just part of the big team of people who love and care for the kid. (And help the parents stay sane!)

  13. I am late on this, but I am so happy for you! You are aboslutely correct. No one would work in a day care for years and years unless they love babies. You are leaving him in good hands. I love that he is napping better, my boy does that too. I think it is the extra stimulation that a home of 3 people just can’t provide.

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