Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Working Mom Wednesday: In Praise of Day Care

Working Mom WednesdaySeveral moms I know (and by “know,” I mean I read their blogs) have just recently started their kids in day care or mother’s day out, and have expressed concern about it.
I definitely understand that concern. During my pregnancy, I actually started crying in my boss’ office while talking about the possibility of working from home because I did NOT want to put my baby in day care. That anxiety lasted well into my maternity leave, and I stressed out about it a lot as the time to return to work loomed closer.

A year and a half later, I have to say I'm actually a big fan of day care. More than just a fact of life, I actually see it as a big positive for Kate, and I hope that maybe my reasons for that will offer a little comfort or hope to moms who aren't so thrilled about dropping their kids off in the morning.

1. Independence. Sad as it may sound, it's actually very important for your child to learn how to be without you. It's inevitable that, at some point, you will have to be away from your child for a time, and if that one hour a week that your child is in the church nursery is the only time she is away from you, it will be harder for everyone involved. Learning to adjust to new people and trust that Mommy will come back is important for a child's development.
2. Social skills. In that same vein, being with other children and adults besides your immediate family helps children learn valuable social skills like sharing, waiting, following directions, and making friends. I'm an only child and was not around many other children until I started school, and I have always had trouble making friends and socializing in groups. A lot of that is probably nature--Kate seems much more outgoing than me anyway--but I still feel like it is really good for her to be around other children three days a week.

3. Organized activities. A lot of day cares now bill themselves as "child development centers," meaning that they are aiming to provide not just babysitting but educational enrichment. Kids learn through play, so it's not that I expect or want teachers to drill toddlers on the alphabet and such, but I think the intentionality and organization of the day encourages learning in ways I probably couldn't if I kept Kate at home myself. The structure and group setting of activities like circle time to sing songs and read books as a group, practicing sign language, and eating family-style at a table are good experiences for her social and cognitive development, I think.

4. Both parents can work. This is the obvious one, since a two-salaried household is the main reason parents put their kids in day care to begin with, but it seems that sometimes we view it as a necessary evil. That's how I saw it when Kate was first born. I loved my job and didn't want to quit, so clearly we had to find some outside child care, but I saw it as a concession or somehow choosing my own happiness over Kate's. Now, I almost feel like I would want Kate in some sort of childcare program several hours a week even if I didn't work outside the home. That's how valuable I think it is for her!

I know that if Mommy feels like she has to work and spends each day wishing she could stay home, or if a child is so shy that she really has trouble in day care, these reasons won't be much of a consolation. But if you're on the fence, I hope these benefits will help you feel better about your decision to put your child in day care.

What has been your experience with day care or Mother's Day Out?


SpeasHill said...

As a former child care professional and a current stay-at-home mom, I whole-heartedly agree with #3 on your list. ( that the one about organized activities? That's the one I'm talking about.) We're in a kind of unique situation in which I can't go back to work, but at this point in Becca's development (she's 2, if others are reading), I feel like daycare is the best place for her. She goes to an inclusive pre-school 2 hours a week and we are trying to get her in for another day because she is making so much progress there - probably even more than in her individual therapy sessions. She and I have a lot of fun together at home and on adventures and I love my time with her, but, frankly, at school her days would be more focused around her needs (and the other kids' needs, of course) and not around my to-do list. I think 3 days a week (9-3 or something) would be perfect! Alas, though, without the second salary we can't pay for it! Kate's got a great set-up!

Katie Bug said...

I have been extremely pleased with how well Katelyn has done at the in-home daycare she attends.
I was never concerned about the level of care she would receive there...but I certainly was worried about how she would adjust to being seperated from me.
After seeing how well she has done, I do believe my going back to work has been good for her.
It's just been not so good for me. God has really given me grace, strength, and even joy in my new roll as a working mom...but I am still one of those moms who spends part of each day wishing she could be at home. I am very thankful to be gainfully employed, and I really love my job while I am on the clock. It's only in the off-the-clock hours that I really miss being with K all day.
That being said, if our financial situation were to suddenly change and I were able to stay home again next year, I would be looking into a MDO for Katelyn. Ideally, I'd take substitute teaching jobs on her MDO days. That gives me a nice amount of adult interaction while also allowing me to engage in the profession I really do love.

Anonymous said...

I am a stay at home mom of my almost 3 year old. She is fine socially (we have TONS of other SAHM friends), and she gets to explore the world outside of the four walls of a daycare everyday! Why would you even have children if you were going to drop them at daycare everyday?? I just don't get it--they will have PLENTY of years in school for all that. My daughter isn't three and is counting, reading some and does everything and more a daycare kept kid would. We have structure at home and a very strict routine which she has thrived on. Yes, some SAHMs are lazy and don't do anything with their kids, but that's not how it should work. We get to go to the zoo, museums, travel, and just explore the world together. This is my job and I love it--I am a working mom just like you, but instead of a paycheck to buy stuff with, I get hugs and kisses and the opportunity to see the world through my child's eyes every singe day. Why in the world would choose any other job over that??

Jessica Miller Kelley said...

That's awesome, Anonymous. You are so right about getting to explore lots of different places (that unfortunately we have to cram into the weekends!) and you are so fortunate to have lots of SAHM friends. My family is quite isolated due to my husband's job, and we have very few friends--almost none within 60 miles. It sounds wonderful to get together with friends so often.

I used to agree with you on the "why would you even have kids?" thing, but we certainly don't do day care because I don't want to hang out with my daughter or because we want extra spending money.

Matt Kelley said...

Hey "Anonymous", have some guts and put your name up if you're going to criticize Jessica. She's an awesome mom and a great role model for Kate, showing her that she can do whatever she wants with her life. People aren't of less worth just because they've made different choices than you.

Adelle said...

Just found your blog through a RT on Twitter - love!

I've been a working mom for all of the seven years since I've had children. I LOVE our preschool/daycare. My kids learn Biblical values, scripture, and the basics like colors and shapes and writing - all before the age of five. It's a wonderful supplement for what we do at home.

Most importantly, our childcare workers truly LOVE my children. You can't fake that - even when my boys make their teachers crazy (as they do me) I know that they are LOVEd and that they are prayed for, daily.

How could we ask for more?

Adelle said...

I just went back and re-read the other comments. And the Mommy Wars re-emerge - why is it necessary to criticize another's choices in defense of your own?

I work. I work because I LIKE it. I work because I need adult interactions, conversation, and validation (so sue me). I also work because I live in one of the most expensive areas of the nation, and I have to in order to own a home. I could have waited to have kids even longer than I did (five years) so that I could stay home with them. Had I done so, however, I'd still be waiting.

Our children richly bless our lives. I feel like I am still the number one influencer on their character and development - by no means have I been supplanted by a teacher or caregiver in that role.

End rant.


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