I've been thinking about writing about daycare for a long time but needed the inspiration. I found it this morning. It's timely. First, because my sister's just recently decided (after being back to work for a month and barely working a full week due to sick kids) to get a nanny and pull the girls out of daycare. Secondly, because this decision, led to questions from my daycare-friend-moms about whether I ever considered doing the same.
Short answer. HELL NO.
Do I understand the benefits of nannies? HECK YES. We had a live-in nanny growing up (because we were loaded rich - LIE - my mom was a nurse and my dad worked for the city), and she was AWESOME and I turned out freakin' amazingly. :p Do I judge you for keeping your kids at home? NOPE. Do I worship you for having the balls, patience, energy to be a stay at home mom? UNDOUBTEDLY. I couldn't do it. Working makes ME a better Mom - the time I get with Jane is SO precious, so valued, that I am always present - I mean not just in the room! (ok, not always, we'll say 95% of the time - I'm pregnant for crying out loud, I'm only 60% present in this world at any point because the other 40% of the time I'm in la-la-land).
Jane's been in daycare since she was 12 months old. I remember our first visit to the daycare when Jane was maybe a week old for our tour. No idea why we went on the tour this early but we did. MISTAKE. You know what you're like a week after your first child is born... um, can we say bubble wrap? Walking through a daycare, envisioning your one week old there, is a little challenging... I hated it. I think I cried because I couldn't imagine every dropping my BABY off to this crazy, dirty (not really but it's daycare! There's crap everywhere!), insane place. Little did I know that 12 months later, this is what my house would look like. :p Twelve months later, I was happy to drop her off. She was a walking, talking, silly monkey and I couldn't keep up with the mommy guilt that I faced daily because I worried I wasn't doing enough to help her develop, that I wasn't doing enough to keep her busy, that I was just passing each day away, waiting for the day to be over instead of enjoying every moment.
Since then, she has blossomed. She is learning SO MUCH. She has close friends that she loves, and I love, that have been with her since the very beginning. It's consistency. It's routine. It's peace of mind for me.
I remember last Spring, driving in the car with her. I was trying to teach her how to count to 3.. So, I'm repeating over and over "1... 2....3.... can you count to three Jane?". She counts to ten behind me and I near go off the road. So. Here's a confession. I didn't teach my daughter to count, daycare did. I also didn't teach her her ABCs, daycare did. I reinforce these things at home and, by God, Dan and I have taught her a lot, but THIS is why I love daycare. The teachers are educated child experts - they know what your child is capable of before you do. Good teachers reinforce the lessons you are teaching at home - manners, discipline, potty training, everything.
But here's the key. You have to build a relationship with the teachers. If you don't talk to them, if you don't tell them your concerns, your priorities, everything, then how the heck do you expect them to get the best out of your child? Every morning I drop Jane off, I talk to her teachers. I tell them if she had a good breakfast. I tell them if she slept well. I tell them what kind of mood she's in. I tell them if she's been doing well with using the potty. Anything I can tell them that will help them better understand my child, I do.
What I also love, that I know others hate, is that every 12 months or so, the kids are moved to a new room and, thus, get new teachers. Is it an adjustment, yes. But, do I feel like it's beneficial? HECK YES. Fact is, Jane is spending as much time at daycare as she is at home. So, the people who are teaching her and in the "teacher/mommy/guardian" role are having a huge impact on who she is, who she will become, what she learns, etc. Do I want one person impacting who my child becomes or a variety of people? Personally, I like a variety. Jane learns something new from every one of the new personalities and styles of teachers that she has to adjust to. I love that she will be influenced by many different people over the course of her four years in daycare. If she spent the day with someone just like me, then she would turn out just like me, and as perfect as I am, I don't know if I (or Dan) could handle another person just like me! :p tee hee hee. I also feel that this structured change is a great preparation for school which, scarily, is just right around the corner. Not technically. But, time flies! Once this baby in my belly is in daycare, Jane will only have ONE YEAR left of daycare before she starts SCHOOL! OMG, OMG, OMG. Don't even get me started on how I'm not going to handle that.
So those are the main reasons I love MY daycare. I've heard horror stories. I know it doesn't work for everyone and for every child. Are there things I don't like about daycare, yes. There are things I don't like about chocolate - the calories mostly - too. But I still prefer it. :)
I wish I could see what Jane was doing all day. Once. Do I think the daycares with webcams are smart? Nope. Sorry. I bet the parents think it's great when they sign up. To me, checking in on a snapshot of your child's day is inaccurate and just plain crazy. Imagine the guilt if you check in an see your child crumpled on the floor, screeching? HOW DARE THEY! WHAT DID THEY DO TO MY CHILD! What you missed was your child whacking another child across the face with a toy. A snapshot is not accurate or fair, in my opinion, although I understand the draw of feeling a part of your child's day. There are sometimes I wish I could see how Jane was interacting and what types of things she likes to do during the day. But, often, when I pick her up, I'll watcht her as long as I can before she sees me and I get a glimpse of this. Sometimes it's good - when she's singing or reading stories to her friends. Sometimes it's bad - like when she's crying in the corner BECAUSE she's just been disciplined for flooding the bathroom by leaving the sinks on and spraying the water everywhere (tee hee hee).
K, cutting myself off. I'm pretty sure I've been writing for an hour which means this post is super, extra, way-too long. Face it, you don't tune into my blog for a short, concise blurb....
PS - Coming tomorrow - a guest post from a real, live, daycare teacher - I'd say one of the world's best, in my opinion - with tips for surviving daycare and getting the most out of it for you child!