Rethinking daycare

As a vocal proponent of daycare as a fantastic childcare option (rather than the last-resort option as it is often depicted), I struggled with my doubts about our choice… and whether to blog about them. I’ve tried not to limit my blogging to the certainties in my life, though, preferring a more balanced picture of my experience, so here goes.

I’m rethinking daycare.

Calling it a knee-jerk reaction – or over-reaction – is fair. I think it might be. But in learning how to be The Mama, I think we all experience moments of decision doubt and sometimes a deep need to react. So much is out of our control that when the opportunity to do something arises, it’s hard to push it away.

Here’s the background:

My son has been home from daycare since Tuesday with hand, foot and mouth disease (“HFM” from here forward).

{Side note: disease, really? Like parents need any help freaking out over something that sounds so gross. In reality, coxsackie virus is this generation’s chicken pox, a temporary ickiness that just has to run its course, and is (very, very) often spread around kids. Based on my research and frantic polling of coworkers, if your kid doesn’t get it in daycare – or even if they’re not in daycare – they’ll get it at some later point.}

In the past two weeks, not including my kid, there have been a couple of confirmed cases of RSV and a couple more of HFM. I was most concerned about the RSV. The girl who had it was in his class, spent the whole damned day miserable in her crib while waiting for her parents to pick her up, and is the same one who passed him the cooties that time he ended up in the hospital. I may or may not use her name, “Lilly,” as a cuss word.

Saturday he spiked a high fever and we spent a very long day and night fighting off sweats and chills. <fast forward to prevent myself from going into boring detail… suffice it to say, dude was sick on Saturday and better on Sunday> I sent him to daycare on Monday because he’d been fever-free (without meds!) for more than twenty four hours.

Tuesday I got a call that what I thought was a mosquito bite suddenly looked a lot more like a blister. <crap> Two hours later, the pediatrician confirmed our suspicions (HFM) and my work week went to hell.

So that’s the background, a not-unusual sickness experience whether your infant is in daycare or not.


My husband spent three days in a Theraflu-induced haze, fighting fevers and night sweats. He just emerged to the land of the living yesterday. One of us has been sick since Thanksgiving.

Since Tuesday, I’ve been reassessing my child care options. As the primary earner and, well, me, staying home with Javi isn’t an option. I’m okay with this. A bigger village in which to raise him is my preference, even if many of the villagers are monetarily compensated for their time.

More posts to come as I think through my position on in-home daycares, the “SAHM wants to watch a playmate for her kids” option, and nannies. First, though, I’m looking for some commiseration: have you rethought your childcare choice as a knee-jerk reaction to something? Was it the right reaction or no?


14 thoughts on “Rethinking daycare

  1. Ugh, we go through this too as daycare parents- though sick days are always on me because my husband is in medical school and they aren’t given leave. My daughter has been sick about every 3 weeks since December, including a bout of HFM. But… I have to ask, I’m not sure what your daycare’s policies are, but we were able to take her back to daycare as soon as her fever was gone for 24 hours (with a doctor’s note), even though the blisters stayed around for a week. My pediatrician said they are no longer very contagious after the fever is gone, and she was acting normal. Though if both of you are sick as well- that’s very frustrating. We managed to avoid contracting it ourselves.

    I figure, this is just something she has to go through and eventually her immune system will rock. I know plenty of SAHM whose kids have also gotten HFM- it’s not a guarantee they won’t get sick. I do know how frustrating it is- I’m constantly trying to figure out how I will have enough sick leave every month.

  2. So, we have a nanny, and we LOVE it. There are times when I reconsider because I want to be the one home with Liv, but thats it. Shes only been sick once, and that one time was when she played in a playroom on a rainy day with a snotty kid who should have been quarantined. Thing is-her immune system still rocks. DH and I have gotten sick and shes made it through unscathed. For me that wouldnt be enough reason to keep him in a daycare setting. From my conversations with coworkers, they all switched to nannys or their wives stayed home because their kids were ALWAYS SICK and the sick time was taking a toll.

    As for me, Im considering being a SAHM still. But I dont regret our nanny one bit

  3. So, we do the in home daycare option and I really love it. I do think you have to find the right person and situation for you (we interviewed a bunch of people and hated all but the one we chose!). Ours is involved in an overall organization who sets rules, guidelines (like holidays, rules on sick kids, etc), and invoices for the hours. The great thing about how it worked for us is that the organization screens everyone involved and sets a limit on the number of kids that is lower than state guidelines. They also do monthly drop in visits to all the providers.

    Since my daughter had health issues in the beginning which would have made her getting sick a much bigger issue (even a cold), this is what the doctor also recommended for us as less than 20 kids poses less of a risk for spreading sickness. Ours has 4 kids including my daughter (It also includes her 3 yr old daughter.). That said, my daughter just got over a cold that spread to her and the other baby (10 month old), but it wasn’t a big deal. I like how it’s worked for us because we interviewed nannies and this is almost like having a nanny, but the child still gets interaction with other kids and it’s MUCH cheaper!

    I’m happy to answer any questions you have on this option!!

  4. I probably should not say this because it will bite me in the ass but Roo started daycare at 7 mos and has been there since (20 mos now). Aside from the first week sniffles/cough he hasn’t brought home anything to either of us. He had a slight cold over Christmas with a temp but I still think that could have been teeth. Now he does come home with quite a few BITE marks 🙂 But I think he deserves most of those!

    That being said – I still don’t love that he’s in daycare for other reasons. My first choice would be SAHM – but that’s not in the cards for us. My second choice would be nanny – mostly because HE would set his schedule and he’d get lots of one on one attention – again financially not in the cards. He’s in daycare (which I NEVER thought he would be) and sometimes I’m so busy at work I can’t pick him up until 5:55 (they close at 6) and again I NEVER THOUGHT that would be me! Those days break my heart!

    The good things – He does love it there. He runs into class and some days barely gives me a wave bye. He has lots of friends to play with everyday – lots of activities – I know it’s an ok environment for him.

    So fast forward to expecting #2 this summer. With 2 I do feel like we could make a nanny work. I REALLY ADAMANTLY DO NOT WANT to put a 3 mo old in daycare. I’m kinda a schedule NAZI and I want my baby to be able to set his/her own ‘cycle’. I want him/her to be able to be fed within 10 minutes of getting up for their nap. I DO NOT want him her to spend most the day in a bouncer seat or swing. Maybe it’s because I was able to offer all this to my son for his first 7 months. As for the ‘baby stage’ I’m 100% sure a nanny would be my first choice.

    BUT – pulling a 2 yr old who’s active and used to playing with friends and doing crafts all day home to hang out by himself with a nanny and his brand new sister/brother. Is that the best thing for him? I just don’t know! Yes we could always try to figure out a ‘pre-school’ option to go with having a nanny so he has that interaction.

    We also have another kinda expensive ‘lab school’ option in town at the local university that gets RAVE reviews and has lower teacher-student ratios that starts at 18 mos. I’d love to have Roo go there – IF he can get in – but again the cost.

    AHHH – basically I’m looking forward to reading your thought process because I’m currently running all these ideas through my head as well 🙂

  5. My son is 1 year old and has been in daycare with an in-home provider since he was 5 months old. (My maternity leave lined up perfectly with my husband’s summer break from teaching.) I had reservations initially, but overall it has been a good choice. It’s not in the cards for my husband or I to be able to stay home, and I’m not sure I’d be a better mom if I stayed home with my son full time.

    My son has been sick on and off since the late fall, usually just colds that he picks up from the other kids. Unfortunately his colds turn into ear infections (he just got over #6) so once he spikes that fever, he’s usually out of daycare for 2-4 days. His ear infection doesn’t show up until at least the 2nd day of the fever, so we have no choice but to switch off staying at home with him. As soon as he is on antibiotics though, he goes back.

    He LOVES the kids at daycare and gets so excited when we walk in the door. He often cries when we leave too! They are fairly flexible, which is great for my schedule, but not great for my son’s. He is so happy to be there with other kids that he doesn’t take a nap until they all do (he’s the only one under 2 there, and the only one who should be taking 2 naps a day, which he does at home).

    My husband might get cut from his school, in which case he would stay home with my son. Other than that, I have been thinking about changing his daycare. I really love the montessori approach, and there are several options in my area, but they are really expensive for his age and most don’t take kids until 2 or 3 years. But I have been thinking that I would like to find a place with a bit more structured activities and structured play. Right now it seems like they have a huge toy box, arts and crafts activities, and outside playtime, but it seems like most of the day is free play. My son is getting to the age where I think he could benefit from continuing in a mixed-age daycare setting, but with a bit more structure.

  6. I know exactly how you feel. We had our son in daycare starting November 1st, and he was so sick – and WE were so sick too – that we pulled him out as of February 20th because we just couldn’t take it anymore. He’s developmentally delayed in many ways, even now, because he was always so sick that he wasn’t progressing. It was hard on all of us.
    He now has a babysitter who is a stay at home mom who wanted to make a little money. We love her, but she’s only interested in this gig until June 8th, at which point we need to have another option lined up. That’s one of the biggest challenges of babysitters/nannies as opposed to a daycare center. The day care center is definitely more reliable for long-term care if that’s what you’re looking for. But with the babysitter we know that he’s getting great one-on-one attention, some socialization with other kids (albeit much older kids) and he hasn’t been sick for a single day for two full months. When he was in day care he could barely go more than 2 days without getting a new illness. Back in February his pediatrician was recommending him to get tubes in his ears because of all of the ear infections and we even scheduled the surgery. But we cancelled it after he wasn’t sick for a single day during his first month with the babysitter.

    I’m sad that he’s not getting socialization with kids his own age, and the structure and challenge that can come from a day care center, but pulling him out of daycare and getting him in with a babysitter was hands down the best thing we could have done for him, without a doubt. Good luck with your decision – it’s a tough one.

  7. Wow I don’t have any advice but it sounds like a tough go 😦 I hope you all get to feeling better, and that you figure it all out. Hang in there, mama!

  8. I had hand foot and mouth when I was 24 and it was terrible. I was quarantined for almost two weeks. Did they give him magic mouth wash?

  9. We’re going the SAHM route in the fall… the couple we’re best friends with have a daughter who will be 10 mons older than our daughter, and she’ll watch both girls when I go back to work. I’m not thrilled about going back, as much as I love my job, because she’ll be 6 weeks old and I NEVER thought I’d have to leave a baby that young… but such is life. But, if I have to leave her, I’m leaving her with the best person possible – someone I know and trust who has the same parenting style as me.

    Yeah, what you mention about daycare is what stresses me out… I commute 1-1.5 hours each way, and my husband is looking at a new job with a 1.5 hour commute each way. I also teach, so I can’t just leave in the middle of the day, and our sub days are limited. I have no idea what we’d do if we were looking at daycare as our only option. :/

  10. I am a SAHM, which is by far the best option for us. My daughter still got HFM, and spent all this week under house arrest (I live in Singapore, where the government is very strict about HFM for public health reasons. Your daycare would probably have been closed for 2 weeks by government order, for instance.) I am glad Javi is doing a little better!

    I do think if one of you has a big career, then you need air-tight childcare arrangements (which is not daycare, sadly). Otherwise your career is just not possible, logistically (due to the commitment/hours required), and because everyone else you are competing/working with DOES have such arrangements. That’s the main reason women tend not to do as well in the workplace: most men with big careers have wives who take care of all that for them. I don’t know exactly how intense your job is though: daycare can work great if regular sick time is a feasible option, and your hours are very predictable (and under 8 or 9/day).

    Honestly the problem is that most high-profile jobs are based on the idea that you have a SAHM at home. If you don’t (because you’re female), then the best option is to hire one. I know several women who use a full-time at-home carer, and that makes their career possible. Otherwise either your career or your kid will have to take a hit.

  11. By the way HFM is highly contagious and can be deadly for some children. I beg you to keep him home for as long as possible. As long as he has sores he can spread it whether they are open or not. HFM can incubate anywhere from 30 to 3 days.

  12. Germs happen.

    I have one coworker whose 15 month old is still nursing, babysat by Grandma, and he got HFM.

    I have another coworker whose 19 month old, still nursing, in daycare, had RSV.

    My 21 month old daughter, formula fed, in daycare since 3 months old, has not had either yet. Knock on wood. But she has had 3 ear infections, two that led to pink eye, and one bout of diarrhea. She had a stomach bug over the winter where she stopped eating solids for about 5 days, but I, on the other hand, was on the brink of dehydration, along with the other parents. The parents always seem to get it worst!

    What is your daycare’s policy on hand washing? Mine’s, for example, babies’ and care givers’ hands are washed every time you enter the classroom, every time a diaper is changed, and before meals. They wear disposable gloves for preparing food, diaper changes, and for applying lotion. Toys are washed and disinfected each night, via hand washing, dishwasher or washing machine.

    Her formula had probiotics in them, so I have continued the practice by dissolving a capsule in her milk once a day.

    I really think it has helped her immune system.

    She is crazy advanced verbally, and I attribute it to daycare. Speaking in two-three words sentences. Knows her colors. Counts to 10. Speaks some Spanish.

    She was physically delayed at five months, late to roll over, and daycare spotted it. Got early intervention, and she is doing beautifully now.

    I would probably have the same knee-jerk reaction, but don’t be too hard on yourself!

  13. A nanny will not protect your son from all illness, of course. And there are all kinds of interpersonal issues to deal with–since no one is perfect! You have to decide if you are the kind of person who will do well having someone in your house, in your business, and whether you’ll be able to negotiate the sometimes-tricky boundaries between her role as employee and her role as family member.

    That said, we have a nanny and it works really well for us. The best part for us is not having to worry about getting the kid out the door in the morning. If the baby slept late and is still having breakfast in his jammies when she gets to our house, it’s no problem. And if I’m 20 minutes late coming home it’s no problem (as long as I call ahead and know she doesn’t have to rush out, and I do pay her extra if I’m late more than a few minutes). The best part for the kid is the range of activities available. Our nanny sets up playdates, so there is social interaction with other kids, and also does tons of outings–to the farm, children’s museum, different playgrounds, etc. They can sled in winter, go to the pool in summer. And they really bond with the nanny, so I feel super comfortable leaving them with her. We sent our older kid to morning-only preschool starting at 3, so she is well socialized and ready for kindergarten when it starts.

    In our major northeast metro area, live-out nannies generally make $13-15 for one kid, $15-18 for 2 kids (of course the pay goes up for “career nannies” who really make it a profession). Live-in nannies make less because housing is free. The cost may be different in your area.

    Good luck with the decision! We have friends who have loved daycare and friends who have loved their nanny; I think the first step is imagining how you would like having someone in your house. And of course whether you can afford it.

  14. I work in the mornings and my boyfriend/father of my child works afternoons and nights while we finish school (college, not high school). Both of us had always thought we didn’t want daycare, strangers watching to many kids at once. We’re pretty sure we can’t afford a high level daycare we would be comfortable taking him.

    But we’re rethinking that because we’re afraid our son (6 1/2 months) doesn’t get enough social interaction. He only knows us and his aunt.

    Plus side of no daycare- he’s never been sick by a contagious disease. He’s a little ahead developmentally. I only have to work part time.

    Dark side of no daycare-he’s never been sick by a contagious disease (no immune system). He’s afraid of strangers. I can only work part time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s