A Second Thought
Growing up, I must have heard some awful stories about daycare. I don’t remember any particular instance or story, but I can’t otherwise explain my lifelong loathing of them and my strict determination to never place my children in one.
Mine was a stay-at-home mom, and never once did my sisters or I even see the inside of a daycare. I know when we were really little we had occasional babysitters, and we never had any complaints. They were girls from church who we already knew and loved, and who took excellent care of us (in my opinion, anyway). As we got older, my parents left me, the eldest, in charge of my sisters. Now that I’m a parent myself I can only imagine the terror my mother must have felt leaving her 12-year-old daughter in charge of her little sisters at home alone all day. The last babysitter I remember having was our neighbour who came over to take care of us when my mom had a gallbladder attack and was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. And really, I only remember that because I thought it was so cool that there was a fire truck and an ambulance parked in front of our house. While my mom sat crying in pain at the top of the stairs, I knelt on the couch in front of the living room window, staring at the emergency vehicles outside. I think I was about nine.
As a new mother, I feel as though my mom was extremely fortunate to be able to stay home with us as long as she did. I don’t think she went back to work until I was about ten or eleven, and my youngest sister was five or six. Things have not worked out so well for Husband and me; we didn’t plan well and ended up having to continue working full-time in order to pay the bills. That means Little Miss, as I’ve mentioned previously, must spend her days with someone else.
When this reality hit me full-force, I was disappointed, but not worried; I determined to find a mom who wanted to stay at home and was willing to watch my daughter as one of her own while I was at work. Although I very much dislike calling little girls “princesses,” I suppose Little Miss’ daddy and I do rather treat her like one. She’s our sole child for the time being and we think she’s incredibly special. We have no one else on whom to lavish our attention, so Little Miss gets all of it and I’m okay with that. My point here is that I eventually realized that I expected her daytime care provider to continue to treat her as the special Little Miss I felt she was, and that meant being picky about who that caregiver was.
I’ve written before about our first experience, so if you’ve read those posts you know it was a very negative one. One thing that really sticks in my mind as something that should have been a major red flag was when the regular babysitter told me she didn’t “love on” Little Miss all day. “She’s not my kid, ya know?” she said. At the time it didn’t mean anything to me; it made sense that she wouldn’t bond with my daughter as much as I did. But now I look back and wonder why that didn’t bother me as much as it does now that everything about that situation is behind us. Little Miss should be loved wherever she is, and treated like a very special person, just like every child deserves.
This morning as I climbed the front steps to my office, I was contemplating how comfortable I am with our new situation. For the entire time we were with Babysitter I drove there every day at noon to feed Little Miss (I was still breastfeeding) and then spent some time playing with her. That phase of child rearing is over for now, so Little Miss is at her caregiver’s house all day. I drop her off before work and don’t see her again until after I’m done in the office. Surprisingly, that doesn’t bother me. This is in spite of the fact that where she is…is a daycare.
The woman who runs the daycare loves Little Miss. She blows her kisses and waves every day when we pick Little Miss up, she calls her “Little Miss” and is excited to see her every morning, even when she starts crying because Mommy and Daddy are leaving her. Again. And every evening when we pick our daughter up, she’s sitting on the couch with the daycare owner, talking, smiling and looking at books.
When we interviewed with the daycare providers, they told us that most of the children they have come to them when Mom goes back to work after 3 months of maternity leave, and stay until they go to school. “They’re part of our family!” the woman said. There are nine-year-olds who get up every morning and tell their parents they want to go visit “Aunt and Uncle” at the daycare. They miss going!
This is why I’m 100 percent comfortable leaving my daughter there every day. The fact that it’s a daycare means it’s easy: We gave her a box of diapers, a container of wipes, two bottles and a container of formula and all we do in the morning is drop Little Miss off. Her snacks, toys, blankets and bedding is provided, and when she’s eating all solids, her entire lunch will be provided, as well. The fact that the woman is amazing at what she does and was given a gift from God to love children so much and handle them so well means it’s a wonderful place for Little Miss to be.
Before I had a child of my own, whenever someone said “daycare” I imagined a dozen to 20 kids all in one large room, half of them crying with dirt smeared across their faces and bruises on their knees and the other half running around the room screaming and hitting the other kids with hard plastic toys. When I had Little Miss and someone said “daycare” I imagined my daughter sitting alone in a 30-year-old plastic-coated, germ-covered playpen in the corner, tears streaking her beautiful face, while the too-few staff members tried to make some sense of the havoc going on in the rest of the room.
That is NOT what daycare should be, and while I’m sure there are some places like that, a lot of daycare providers do what they do because they love kids as much as the parents do. They want the parents to have a safe, comfortable, loving place to have their children play, sleep, eat, socialize and learn while they earn money to give their kids the best life possible. This is the type of place we have found for our daughter, and I thank God daily for such a blessing…and for showing me that “daycare” doesn’t just mean taking care of dirty diapers and feedings; it also means really caring about the children…every minute of every day.