“Daycare is a sad, lonely place for washed up, old toys who have no owners.” – Woody, “Toy Story 3”
Every once in a while, I have a conversation with an acquaintance that goes a little something like this.
Acquaintance: “Where are your children when you’re working?”
Me: “Elliot is in first grade, so he’s at school, and Cecilia goes to daycare.”
A: “Oh. How long has she gone to daycare?”
Me: “Since she was eight weeks old.”
A: “Oh, wow. That’s little,” trailing off.
I also recently had the following exchange with a fellow employee who has an infant.
Me: “Congratulations on the baby! How old is he now?”
Employee: “Seven weeks.”
Me: “Does he go to daycare when you’re at work?”
E: “Oh gosh, no. I would never send him to daycare!”
Me: “My daughter goes to daycare, and so did my son.”
E: “Oh well, I have family who babysit.”
I’m starting to think most people agree with Woody from “Toy Story 3.” Is daycare a sad, lonely place for children, just like Woody says it is for toys?
Our experience with daycare has been anything but sad and lonely. Here are some examples:
Our daycare is a place where the director knows every child’s name as well as each parent’s name, and the name of anyone else who may drop off or pick up that youngster.
Our daycare is a place where the staff patiently spent an hour feeding my breastfed infant daughter a bottle of expressed milk, rubbing her head and coercing her to drink, even though it’s not what she was used to.
Our daycare is a place where the employees notice my child’s quirks – how she loves to take off her shoes and socks; how she holds her spoon with her left hand, never using it, while shoveling in the goods with her right hand; how she dances even when there’s no music playing.
Our daycare is a place where my 18-month-old finger paints and draws with chalk and creates adorable footprint artwork.
Our daycare is a place where my baby girl is making little friends, hugging them upon arrival and happily waving “Bye!” to me because she is excited to play with them.
Our daycare is a place that has a gym where my Cecilia loves to run and pick up balls and throw balls and pick up balls and throw balls and…
Our daycare is a place where my Elliot enjoyed the summer program, during which he made bracelets and crafts and learned to be a darn good swimmer.
Our daycare is a place where Elliot still looks forward to going when it’s a snow day or another day when school is closed because he reunites with the friends he made in the toddler and preschool classrooms there.
Naysayers may be thinking, “But, April, wouldn’t it have been better if you could’ve just nursed her at home, rather than forcing her to take a bottle at daycare? Wouldn’t you rather finger paint with Cecilia at home? Wouldn’t you rather take Elliot to the pool during the summer and swim with him? Wouldn’t you rather play in the snow with your children when school’s closed?”
The answers to all these questions are complicated. A simple yes or no won’t do. It’s not my intention to take on the work-inside-the-home vs. work-outside-the-home debate. I’ve done that before, and it could seriously go on forever.
And the endings of the conversations I mentioned at the top of this post? It’s as if those people are thinking, “Can’t someone in your family watch your children? Don’t you have a friend who can babysit? Why don’t you hire a nanny to come to your house?”
Would having a family member or trusted friend as a babysitter be ideal, compared to using daycare? Yes, probably. But that is not an option for us.
With all the fears, worries, doubts, insecurities, decisions, second guesses, analyses, overanalyses and obsessions going on in a mother’s head every millisecond of every single day, the last thing we need is someone implying that we daycare families are doing it wrong. To paraphrase one of my dad’s bits of advice, we are doing the best we can with what we have to work with, just like most parents are.
Daycare may be a sad, lonely place for toys, but it has been and continues to be a happy, friendly place for my children.
Originally published on ovparent.com.