Daycare: Personal, Family, and Financial Responsibilities in Balance

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One of the most controversial subjects that I often touch upon is that of daycare. Some people are adamantly opposed to even suggesting the topic, stating unequivocally that taking your child to a daycare is a detriment to them. Others speak very positively about it, looking at it as a way to balance a child’s experience, enable more family income, and allowing parents to be refreshed and focused on their children.

Is daycare really necessary in modern life? If both parents intend to work professionally outside the home, particularly when the child is under school age, daycare often becomes a necessity. But is the financial freedom gained by both spouses working balance out with the benefits and drawbacks of daycare? It’s a good question that’s bound to open up a big can of worms.

What Constitutes Appropriate Care for Children?
I think there are four things that really need to be addressed for care of a preschool-aged child:

Love, or a deeply caring provider A small child deserves someone taking care of them that loves them, or at the very least has a deep sense of caring about their happiness and well-being. A caring individual will give the child attention, console them well, and develop a bond that’s vital for emotional growth.

Basic personal needs A child needs food, diaper changes, a clean place to be, medical care, and so on – the nuts and bolts of sustaining health and life.

Socialization A child needs to interact with a diversity of people in order to learn to interact with others of all shapes, colors, and sizes. Establishing a comfort level, both with peers and with older and younger people, not only brings deep fulfillment to children but builds in them basic social skills and self-confidence, both of which are needed in the real world.

Education and experiences A child needs someone to learn things from, from the basic stuff of how to brush your teeth to a trip to the fire station to see how the fire truck works. The world is full of richness and vibrant life that a well-rounded child needs to be exposed to.

Obviously, the biggest asset a stay-at-home parent brings to the table is love. There is no stronger advocate for a child’s all-around well being than a concerned parent – no paid provider can really compare to that. Also, a stay at home parent can provide basic personal needs at a high level, likely equal to or better than a daycare can.

A daycare provides that basic care element quite well, and by their very nature provides a rich environment for peer-to-peer socialization. Good daycares go beyond that, providing fulfilling experiences for a child that, in some cases, can’t be matched at home. However, a baseline daycare does not provide for a child as well as a stay-at-home parent can.

Parental Needs
Statements like that are often enough to fully convince people to become stay at home parents, but they’re not the full story. The parents themselves have issues of their own to manage:

Money needs Many households simply can’t make it if both parents aren’t working. That’s the economic reality today. To state that a “poor” family shouldn’t have children – an argument I’ve heard before – is patently ridiculous, as a loving family that wants to have a child should have all the opportunity in the world to have one.

Emotional needs Being a parent is emotionally and personally demanding. Many people need a diversity of experiences in their lives in order to be able to survive. Many parents are able to devote a few hours a day of uninterrupted love and attention to their children, but after that period, they’re emotionally spent, and further time leads to conflict. This is human nature – no matter how much you love a person, no one has infinite patience.

Fulfillment needs For many people, working outside the home gives them a deep sense of personal fulfillment, one that when balanced with caring for a child makes them a very complete and fulfilled person. That complete and fulfilled person is a person who will be a stellar parent for a child.

Finding the Right Balance
Balancing all of this stuff isn’t easy. Parents everywhere have to make some difficult decisions, and different parents are going to come to different conclusions. Stay at home parenting is the right answer for some situations. For many others, daycare is the right situation.

Maximizing daycare My wife and I concluded that the best solution for us was to find the best possible daycare in our area, one with providers who were adequately compensated and genuinely cared about the children, provided substantial amounts of fulfilling activity for all age levels, and had a full open door policy for parents to visit as they wished. Quite frankly, our standards were very high – we visited eight daycares and said no to all of them. The only daycare we found that really matched the level of care and experience we wanted for our child was an expensive one – it was also challenging to get a slot, as they are pretty rigorous about maximizing the space for each child and keeping the ratio of adults to children at a very impressive rate.

This was worth it to us. Our children get a great deal of education, interaction, and fulfillment at daycare – they are exposed to a lot of different concepts, often using a level of creativity that impresses me. Meanwhile, my wife and I both have the time to not only earn a good wage, but also to get the kind of well-rounded personal fulfillment in all aspects of life that we need to be the best parents we can be.

Maximizing staying at home On the flip side is a parent that chooses to stay at home. There’s a different set of demands here. The commitment of spending a full day every day with the child, the need to seek out socialization opportunities and have learning and enrichment opportunities as well, and the need to find personal space as well (which, when lacking, degrades your parental abilities).

It takes a special person to be up to those challenges, and it should be a goal that you set for yourself not just over the long haul, but every single day. If you can commit to that, then being a stay at home parent is probably the best thing that could happen to your child – but it’s not a commitment that most people are psychologically able to make.

In A Nutshell…
Children need a lot of care. They need to have their basic needs met, and they deserve much more: love and caring relationships, socialization, and additional enrichment and experiences. The answer to providing those things isn’t so easy, and it depends a lot on your set of skills and talents as an adult.

You owe it to your child to figure out what the best balance of these areas are for your situation. Never let a sense of guilt or disdain imposed by others because of your choice cause you to second-guess what you’re doing. There is no formula for the right answer, but if you look at the options available to you, look at your child’s needs, and look at what you need to be the best parent you can be, an answer will emerge that’s right for you. Don’t just settle for the quick, easy, or cheap answer though – be patient, listen to your own heart, and find what’s right for your situation. Make the choice that will give your child the best chance to develop into the kind of young person that every parent can be proud of, a well-balanced child with all the tools he or she needs to chase their dreams and perhaps change the world.

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98 thoughts on “Daycare: Personal, Family, and Financial Responsibilities in Balance

  1. “To state that a “poor” family shouldn’t have children – an argument I’ve heard before – is patently ridiculous, as a loving family that wants to have a child should have all the opportunity in the world to have one.”

    Not quite sure why suggesting that a “poor” family should not have children is ridiculous. Your right, they should have the opportunity to, but if they can’t afford it then they can’t afford it. It’s sad, but that’s reality. The cost of care for their children shouldn’t subsidized by the rest of the population (http://www.barackobama.com/issues/education/). It’s not your right to have kids if you cannot care and provide for them. I actually wish more people would think more about the cost of having a child before actually going through with it.

  2. with my first child on the way, my wife and I are alreasy concerned about daycare.
    This post is right on topic for me as we try to balance the cost vs. value of each option.
    we are especially interested in the educational value of each option (my wife is a teacher).
    It’s funny that this is an issue already, but the vast majority of the excellent facilities in our local area have 1-year long waiting lists or more.
    P.S. – If you’re interested in opening a daycare, I have a “can’t miss” market for you!

  3. Well, for one, I was raised in a family that most readers of this site would consider very poor. To follow that advice would mean I would have never been born.

  4. My Wife and I very early on decided that whatever ittakes one of us should be the primary care person throughout the day for our children. In a nut shell NO DAYCARE. A few years ago we made the choice to place our younger son into a program which was a more scholastically based “Daycare”(we needed the money my wife could earn)creating for us the chance to see first hand the negative result poor child care can inflict. Our son went from a polite,social little boy to to lashing out including hitting and biting when presented with the least conflict.I fel bad for the other parents I spoke with who had the same concerns andd could not “afford” to make the choice we ultimately did.
    We removed our son my Wife quit her job and not so much as another minute of anything even remotely resembling daycare.We have made alot of sacrifcies to accomplish this we gave it a shot for three lousy months of a mininmum wage paycheck for my Wife. My son is almost seven now and is far from a little gentleman but he is also very far from the monster that was created when “we weren’t watching”. My advice to any and all not matter what it takes if it ‘aint grammas house don’t send your child there. There is no amount of money you can generate that would be worth sacrificing your child for.

  5. I adamantly disagree that it’s ‘ridiculous’ to suggest that a family who can’t afford children rethink their decison, or at the very least take some time to try and get in a better financial position first. Some of these families are doing a disservice to their children as well as to other taxpayers. While the arrangement of our welfare system isn’t their fault, neither should it be utilized lightly. If these families are relying on family and friends to bridge the gap, more power to them. Unfortunately when it’s my money on the line, I reserve the right to call such expectations ridiculous. I have put off things I want and ‘deserve’ (such as education), because financially I just wasn’t there yet. Why does your desire to procreate supercede that?

  6. “If you can commit to that, then being a stay at home parent is probably the best thing that could happen to your child – but it’s not a commitment that most people are psychologically able to make.”

    I don’t know about this statement. I think “some” would be a better word than “most”. Millions of women for thousands of years have been “psychologically able” to stay home with their kids all day. Thoughts, anyone???

  7. Thanks for writing this Trent. My husband and I both work full time and our 3 year old attends a great daycare. I read a comment on one of your other posts (I think about your daily schedule) where the commenter compared daycare to “a daytime orphanage”. I’ve been carrying that comment with me ever since and wondering if we’re really doing the right thing for our son. So thank you for reminding me that every family and daycare situation is different, and that we are doing what is best for our situation.

  8. I don’t think how much money you have is the problem, as much as making due with what you have, and what you earn.

    I also think schools should have mandatory classes throughout a child’s education, describing the responsibilities and cost of having a child. There are so many unaware dreamers out there that think having a baby will make everything easier for them. Where did they get that notion!?!?!
    Lisa

  9. My daughter’s 10 now and she’s been in daycare since she was 5. She loves it. She asks to be picked up as late as possible because she has so much fun with her friends. Of course, our situation is probably different from a lot of peoples’. We live on a farm and there are no children close enough for her to play with at home. The nearest girl to her age is over a mile away. So her time at daycare is her social time.

  10. You are telling people only the most expensive daycare, which is hard to get into, is better than staying at home, and then saying most people are incapable of good stay-at-home parenting and should put their children in daycare. You are saying that being around their children less makes people better parents. You say parents and children will find “fulfillment” apart from each other, but you don’t say that parents and children might find fulfilled when they are together. You equate daycare and double-income life with well-roundedness but never mention the variety available at home with family, friends and neighbors. In the past you’ve spoken highly of “true hourly wage” for small things like lawn mowing, but here, where daycare can reduce a second income to a few dollars an hour, it’s not mentioned. This wasn’t an even treatment of the subject at all.

  11. Michael: if that’s true, then why did I say that, and I quote, “being a stay at home parent is probably the best thing that could happen to your child”?

  12. As a child of two working parents who frequently attended day cares and preschools, I can honestly say that I think I would be a terrible person had my mother or father stayed home and taken care of me 24/7. I would be demanding of people for one, and as I already love my alone time, without any proper socialization I might never leave the house. To the commenter who regrets placing their child in daycare, did it occur to you that your child’s behavior problems may stem from the shock of abandonment. Unless you found some really terrible people, perhaps your son living three years without other children and then being left with a bunch of kids all day caused him to act out for that all too precious coddling. Or maybe he was a child, you know, dealing with life and environmental changes by acting out to test how far his new freedom had expanded. This is what kids do; it is how they learn that society has rules. It is the duty of a responsible parent to ease children into the world with play dates, part time day care, half day preschool, and other interactions so that they can be healthy adults. Even stay at home parents can arrange play dates with friends and neighbors, and it is possible to do no matter how much money you have. Keeping your children hidden away from the evlis of the world is irresponsible, damaging, and reckless. Trust me, your son or daughter will thank you someday, just like I do with my mom and dad.

  13. Choosing daycare for your child/children is a very personal choice. I believe that it is almost impossible to point out pros and cons in an effective manner on this issue, at least not in the brief amount of space that you allowed. There are just too many variables to make a judgment either way.

    I agree with Michael that this wasn’t an adequate treatment of this issue. Really, one needs to look at a family’s earning potential vs. all of the costs included in daycare. The child’s personality should be a factor. The parents’ personalities should be considered. What about the types of daycares one can afford? You really do get what you pay for in most instances. Sometimes daycare is a necessity. Sometimes it is a choice.

    Who says that daycare is an adequate environment for “socialization” anyway? Are we trying to raise children who behave like children, or are we trying to teach children the skills they need to be a well-adjusted, contributing member of society as an adult?

    But if you are attempting to approach this issue from a purely financial standpoint, then you need only to look at earning potential vs. cost. However, there needs to be a very realistic understanding of the costs associated with working outside the home as well as the entire costs of a daycare. It’s more than just tuition.

    I would like to see a real break-down of this issue in terms of finances only. Leave the non-monetary issues by the way-side; those can be discussed later.

  14. Maybe each commenter should state whether or not he or she went to daycare as a child and how it affected him or her. Talking to adults about their childhood experiences seems like a better way of determining the impact that day care v. SAH parenting has on a child.

    For me, I went to daycare and I had a normal childhood and think I turned out just fine as an adult. I think it was invaluable having a working mother as a role model.

  15. Gotta agree with Becky on this one.

    Most people ARE probably psychologically able to be a stay-at-home parent. I’ve had to make lots and lots of psychological self-adjustments in being home with my kids. Many times I think it would sure be easier on me to stick them in daycare, or call Grandma. But I see my primary job as being a parent WITH them, not only TO them, so I’m here.

    Bottom line — we humans usually figure out a way to do what we want to do.

  16. Quote: Trent “Well, for one, I was raised in a family that most readers of this site would consider very poor. To follow that advice would mean I would have never been born.”

    Trent, this is one of the weirdest things I have ever read from you. I know you’re not a narcissist, but by the logic of your argument anything that led to your birth was good and correct, while anything that might have tended not to contribute to you being born into the world would have been bad and incorrect. While I’m sure the fact of your birth is highly relevant to you, it’s hardly the ultimate litmus test for all arguments.

    Children are expensive. The responsibilities and the costs of raising them should be borne by the parents. If a married couple is poor, and/or unable to marshal the financial discipline to meet those needs, why shouldn’t they refrain from having kids? At least until they improve their finances enough not to place the financial burden elsewhere or raise a child in poverty.

    An example of one child who grew up poor but is happy to be alive is far from a compelling argument against deliberately planned parenthood, with financial considerations being an important part of that planning. Coming from an advocate for financial responsibility, your statement seems incongruent and oddly reactionary.

  17. Trent, what you said was “It takes a special person to be up to those challenges, and it should be a goal that you set for yourself not just over the long haul, but every single day. If you can commit to that, then being a stay at home parent is probably the best thing that could happen to your child – but it’s not a commitment that most people are psychologically able to make.” In context of the whole article, you are saying that only elite parents can raise children well at home and everyone else should choose daycare. If you are not saying that, you should use more concrete language.

  18. Trent, if you can afford it, one of you should stay home with the kids. Money is not everything and there is certainly a trade off for having a lot of nice material things. In the 60′s most people had a family where the mother stayed home. There needs to be an anchor in the family so that kids don’t get into trouble and become delinquents. There is documented studies that latch key kids become truant kids and truant kids become delinquents who for some become adult criminals. Having both parents work, come home late, and not spend any quality time with their kids is really not good for their well being. Daycare should be a last resort. Stay home parent is ideal if you can afford it. Have your wife stay home and forget the expensive sports car or the giant house.

  19. “Millions of women for thousands of years have been “psychologically able” to stay home with their kids all day. ”
    For most of human history, women who “stayed at home” were working. They weren’t actually in the house a lot- they were out gathering food and catching small game. They took their children with them, but they were also doing other things. After people invented agriculture, most women were still working- tending crops, making and washing clothing, making food solely from scratch, and often making goods for a small home business on the side. These tasks are backbreaking, difficult, and tedious without modern conveniences. Yes, these women were watching their children also, but their primary focus was usually not the kid. This image of the stay-at-home mom whose primary responsibility is to raise the child is a pretty modern idea.

  20. Like Trent said, all kids need love and protection and the basic necessities. Assume this Trent, since you think the argument that poor people shouldn’t have kids is stupid, that the day you held your child in your arms and worried about your financial situation and embarked on your journey towards being fiscally prudent, never happened. Say you were still the way you were 2 years back, as you have described your spending habits to us in some detail – should you still have had children and more importantly, would it be in the best interests of your child to grow up in an environment where his parents could not afford raising him the way he should be raised? Should the child be subjected to that kind of an environment?

    Poor people should not have kids, period. Of course by poor I mean really poor – there are lots of kids raised in environments where their parents don’t have a ton of money, but do have enough money to give their children a decent, healthy standard of life. Just like if you can’t afford to buy a condo in New York City, you don’t buy it; if you can’t afford to raise a child (and we all know how expensive children are), you don’t have the child.

  21. I grew up in a poor family. I wouldn’t wish that kind of stress on anyone. I think it takes a very resourceful set of parents to not let the stress “infect” the children. Most of my siblings are not doing well, financially or otherwise.

  22. Also, I went to daycare from around age 2 until I entered school. Then, my mom stayed home, primarily because my brother had special needs. She was extremely unhappy staying home and found it very isolating. Although that round-the-clock intervention was very useful for my brother, and I appreciated the fact that she could drive me around to my activities, that unhappiness really rubbed off on everyone around her. She starting taking part-time work when I was in middle school, and now I’m an adult and she’s working about 4 or 5 part-time jobs. She’s always tired now, but she is definitely happier.

  23. Hi Trent,

    I think you’re missing a couple of options in your list.
    - extended family. I know it’s not always an option, but many of my friends have parents, or aunts and uncles who are willing to look after the kids during the day. Maybe not every day, but two or three times a week. Sometimes paid, sometimes not, but you get that level of trusted care.
    - nannies/au pairs. I worked as a nanny for a family for twelve months. Perhaps not an option that everyone would consider, but there were many families I met then, where they chose ‘in-home’ care. in particular, one nanny cared for three families in the same apartment complex. I don’t know how she did it (6 kids under 8, including a 6 month old) but the kids, and the parents loved her.
    i know in australia that if you have a lot of very young children, this option can be cheaper than daycare. and you have much more control over the level of care.

  24. I think that “poor” people should be able to have one kid but not multiple if they cannot afford it. You don’t need to provide your kids with all the expensive things in the world to make you a good parent.

  25. It does no good for a parent to stay at home full time if they do not enjoy it. My mom was bored silly most of the time as a SAHM and we could sense it every day. I think people should do what they want- you know they will anyway.

    That goes for having kids, too. Guess what? You can’t tell other people when or if to have kids. It’s pretty arrogant to think that you’re the best judge of whose genes are allowed to be passed on.
    There will always be kids born to people who are the poorest in society, no matter how much the standard of living rises over time for everybody. That’s okay- it takes all types. Have some tolerance and compassion.

  26. I’m glad my mom didn’t go “I have to balance my career and my children,” but rather said “I want to give my all for my children.” I don’t want to rant on ppl who don’t make that choice, but what I do want to do is to praise all the women who decide to put their career on hold, be selfless, and choose to raise their children. No need really to bash the career choosers, but I think we do need to lift on a pedestal women who do sacrifice for their families. You guys are amazing!

  27. Interesting post but I also object to the idea that “most” people are unsuited to caring for their children at home, unless they are prepared to reach some stupendous standard of interaction and education. That’s just SILLY. I left my first baby in daycare 3 days a week because I had to (husband in grad school). I felt a physical pain when I left him. To me that pain is like any other– it was telling me something. Our finances improved and the other two stayed at home with me until ready for preschool. I did not show them flash cards or enroll them in Suzuki violin. They did spend a lot of time with and around me, doing dishes, planting flowers, making dinner. We made a point of visiting lots with other kids and parents– we had a great time, and they are securely attached.

    Seems like this issue is almost impossible to discuss without defensiveness. Trent’s position seems to be that daycare has been better for his children than staying at home with a parent– not just financially, but emotionally and socially. In my own case, I am quite convinced that those first few years are generally better spent at home with Mom or Dad, transitioning into good group care of some kind at 2 1/2 or 3. I am willing to grant that others feel differently, but I am NOT willing to allow that you have to be some kind of educational goddess to take the place of daycare. On the contrary, I think too much conscious “instruction” of very young children is counterproductive.

    My youngest is now 6, the older two are 16 and 12. Honestly I think it’s just as important for the 16 year old to be greeted by a loving face when he gets home from school as it is for the six year old.

  28. In early adulthood, I had always considered stay-home parenting the ideal, and something I would aspire to myself. However, as I meet more people with different backgrounds, I realized my attitude was incredibly exclusionary. The same situation simply does not, and will NEVER, work for every family. That realization has allowed me to have a lot more respect for people in general, and rather than being overly critical, I have been able to learn a lot from my friends’ differing view points.

  29. The idea that poor people shouldn’t have children bothers me from a civil liberties perspective, not from a personal one. I am adamantly opposed to a financial litmus test for people having children – that is something that is personally abhorrent to me.

    My parents loved me very much and, even though we were poor, gave me a very high level of emotional and intellectual support as I grew and still do today. It doesn’t require money to love your child and raise him or her, it takes passion and a commitment to your child – something no such litmus test can screen for.

    The implication in saying that poor people shouldn’t have children is that poor people cannot adequately raise children. If that were true, then that is an implication that anyone who was born to poor parents was not adequately raised, and that’s a pretty bitter insult to a lot of successful people (myself included) whose parents made sacrifices because they were passionate about their family.

  30. Great article. Presented both sides in a reasonable fashion.

    This is just one of those issues that there are so many people that cannot see both sides of the issue and there is no right answer.

    I think we generally have less influence on who our children will eventually become than we think we do.

  31. I was raised by my “stay at home mother”, and my wife and I agreed that the best thing for our kids was for her to be a “stay at home mother”. Given that, I’ll throw a couple of comments into the fray…

    Two Incomes – It is my (general) belief that among adults with average earning capability, as a society we are trading our sons’ and daughters’ childhoods for MORE and BETTER STUFF. Average homes today are mansions compared to just 30 or 40 years ago. Vehicle debt has become virtually unavoidable and, in many cases, consumes the 2nd income after childcare expenses. “Trip of a lifetime” vacations are virtually commonplace anymore.

    Latchkey kids – Even AFTER the formative pre-school years, children need a constant source of love, nurturing, and guidance. It’s much harder for your kids to experiment with drugs and sex in their bedrooms, if a parent is in the house. Our children are just approaching the start of these years, so I don’t consider myself an expert, just echoing common sense I’ve heard bantered around.

    Family Unit – I’ve never seen a study that concluded any children are better off when deprived of the everyday availability of loving parents. Granted, none of us are perfect parents, but the time we spend with and devote to our children builds up their self-esteem, decreasing the likelihood they will try to compensate for a lack thereof through other means.

    In short, and not addressing true poverty, I believe we are selling our kids’ childhoods for our own selfish desires. Harsh, but I believe it, and believe we will continue to see the effects of it upon our society.

  32. I think that it is so ironic that people these days love to sing the praises of daycare and the seeking of individual enrichment over family life as a mark of progress in society. Have you looked at the state of our schools, the moral decay of our teens and young adults, the divorce rates and the general tidal wave of indecency in our society? Does everyone really not see a connection between the two? How can a family be strong if they are never together? You can’t hire out a family no matter how good the facility. We are creating a Lord of the Flies society and it’s really scary how few people are connecting the disconnect in our parenting with societal decay.

  33. As Todd notes, the 2-income families I know (white collar professionals) are more interested in raising their standard of living than raising their kids.

    But as long as they acknowledge daycare for them is a choice, not a necessity, then I feel they’ve made their bed.

    The reality is that their kids will get far less adult supervision than those with a SAHP, especially once they age out of daycare into latchkey-hood.

    Our parents and grandparents were willing and able to live with far fewer creature comforts – sub 1000 sqft 3 bed/1 bath homes, no central anything, and 1 car.

    In those respects, I hope I can emulate previous generations, rather than my peers.

  34. Trent, I think this was a remarkably balanced look at what is, for many families, a very difficult choice. For my part, I knew that it would be very important to me to stay home with my children, so my husband and I made certain financial choices to ensure that I would be able to do so (and, yes, I know that not everyone has the ability to make similar choices). It is incredibly demanding, both mentally and financially, and yet I have loved every minute of it! The best thing parents can do is what makes for the most happiness and stability for their individual family.

    PS If you want to see your comments really explode, go ahead and do a cost analysis on breastfeeding vs. formula! I tell you, people seem to find it absolutely impossible to have a civil discussion on that topic.

  35. @Trent: Has anyone here said that poor people should be forced not to have children? If not, then I don’t see where civil liberties come into it. I’ve seen people argue that it’s unwise or irresponsible to have children whose upbringing you cannot afford to pay for, and I’ve seen people express resentment that their tax dollars are used to subsidize the upbringing of children whose parents otherwise could not afford it.

  36. I’ll admit it, I am not good at being a stay at home parent. Before I had kids, I thought that I would want to stay home and forgo the income. We arranged our life so that we could do that – buying a house that we could afford with one income, no credit card debt, saving lots of money in an emergency fund. I stayed home for 5 months with my first one. I enjoyed doing it, but I couldn’t imagine doing it for years. I was ready to go back to work.

    Instead of day care at 5 months, we did what we thought was the next best thing, an in home nanny. Both my husband and I work at home, so it’s a very different situation than many people. It took us 3 to find a good one – but she is still with us. When my son was old enough for Montessori day care – just shy of 2, we enrolled him. We waited until he was old enough to tell us if something happened to him. Now we have a 6 month old who is also being watched in our house during the day. We get to see her throughout the day.

    This is the situation that worked for us. It doesn’t work for everyone.

    My niece and nephew, who went to day care from close to 2 months are 2 of the most well behaved kids I have ever seen. Their dad keeps them in line. I think one of the problems with putting your kids in day care is the feeling at the end of the day that you want to play with your kids and have fun. You don’t want to get into fights about eating dinner, sharing, taking a bath and all of the other things that happen each night. Because you only see your kids for a few hours at night, 4 or 5 if you are lucky, it is easy to become a pushover. It’s easy to choose not to say “No” consistently. I think the lack of parenting after day care is over is a contributing cause for the decay of society – not just the fact that they were in day care.

  37. I’ve seen both sides of this issue up close and personal. I was raised by a single mom who worked 60 hours a week. I stayed in day care after school and frequently was the last one to be picked up if my mom worked late. I hated every minute of it. My wife is a stay home mom to our kids, but the one under school age does attend a three-half-days a week program at a local church for some socialization. For us, this is the best of both worlds as my wife gets a break three mornings a week, and my child loves to go to “school” like his older sibling. Ultimately, it is an individual family decision.

  38. In 1968 I was in junior high and my sister was about to start kindergarten. My mother, who had worked as a waitress and short-order cook, tried to go back to work. (She quit when my sister was born, but we desperately needed a second income.) Every possible employer asked her what she was doing about her kids – this was the 60s, it wasn’t yet illegal to discriminate against working mothers. My mother looked into daycare for my sister, and then realized she could do it herself. There were other parents, such as our immediate neighbors, who had the same need. She took a training class, was licensed by the state, our house was inspected by the health department, all of us had medical check-ups to make sure we had no contagious diseases. My mother has been the “other mother” to countless kids. None were from wealthy families, as I can testify. I was the weekend babysitter for many of the those kids, and I saw their homes. My mother did not run a school. It was Licensed HOME Daycare. Children playing, with toys and games, or out in the backyard with the swings and sandbox, not plunked in front of TV. If the parents Ok’d it, the kids could watch Sesame Street when it was on. They learned colors, numbers and the alphabet when they were old enough. (My mother kept the age range small, so that the children would be on similar schedules.) All meals and snacks were balanced (state requirements) and menus provided to the parents on request. Some of these kids had no siblings – the daycare group was their little “tribe.” Birthdays and holidays were celebrated. My parents often ended up house- and pet-sitting for the families when they were on vacation. Taking care of other people’s children from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., or even later, is not easy. My mother did for longer than some of you “child rearing” snobs have been alive You would have been damned lucky to have been one of “Vicki’s Kids.”

  39. My family has made tremedous sacrifices for me to stay at home with our son. I’ve only just started working part time, around his school hours, and he’s in the second grade. I truly believe that if it’s possible for one of the parents to stay home, they should. Not “if we can have our McMansion, big screen TV, and big ass SUV” possilbe, but “we have a roof over our head and enough to eat” possible. I worked in several day cares while attending college (degree and certification in Early Childhood Ed) and one of them was one of the best in town. I was a good day care teacher. There simply was not enough of me to go around and give them the care they deserved, even though we were well within the limits. I barely made above minimum wage, not a living wage by any means. It was an artificial environmnet for those precious little ones who should have been at home in a parent’s arems, not waiting for me to change one of the other kids so they could get their bottle. Infants and toddlers need absolutley no “socialization” outside of their family. Preschoolers socialization needs are not nearly so great as you would think and can easily be met by playgroups or preschool classes a few mornings a week. I’m aware that this is not even a choice for many families. If I had not worked in daycares and education I might not have thought it was a choice for us. But we made our son’s care the biggest priority in our lives and did what we had to do for me to stay with him (my husband’s income was greater than my teacher’s salary) It’s been hard but worth every price we’ve paid. We are not financially where we should be and where we would be if I’d continued to work. But it’s been worth it.

    BTW, as a kindergarten teacher for many years, we could tell with almost total accuracy which kids had been daycare kids and which kids had a SAHP. And I don’t mean that in a good way, either.

  40. @Todd
    Glad to see some people have some values similar to mine here! It’s all a matter of values! If I take an example, I know a family of 3 girls. 2 were stay at home mom and 1 a working mother. The children from the 2 SAHM are all doing pretty fine and the ones from the working mom are into drugs and not doing so well… It could be just a coincidence…
    My mother was a SAH. She sacrificed any pension plan she could have for her children. We turned out quite well. We are very mid-class, I have the highest salary of the couple and we strongly consider having a stay at home parent… It’s one of our priority.

    As for socialization, I think this aspect of the child’s developpement can be introduced later on in the education. I think that it is VERY important for the child to build a high confidence relationship with his parents, to be able to trust them. If they always end up one of many children in the daycare, they never get a priviledge space in someone’s life, some important attention. I think this can lead to having confidence in anybody, and never having a place to be himself… I have a hard time explaining my point. Children in this situation will highly probably be sensitive to anyone giving them a bit more attention, and anyone giving it to them will have them on their side: it can end up being a pimp, drug dealer, any spouse… whoever gives the person the attention he wanted…
    I find spending the first years of childhood with my children is important. This time don’t come back.
    @Bill
    As you mention, I also find it sad that people thesedays put aside rising their children for more comfortable life and goods: bigger home (to be more far apart), bigger TVs, lattes and other stuff, that don’t really bring much in the end!
    @!wanda
    I think doing some work from home, if possible, is a good compromise.

  41. “The idea that poor people shouldn’t have children bothers me from a civil liberties perspective, not from a personal one. I am adamantly opposed to a financial litmus test for people having children – that is something that is personally abhorrent to me.”

    Civil liberties? There isn’t a law against it. What some of us are trying to say is there needs to be a good deal of adult responsibility. I know plenty of people I would consider low income (“poor” if you will), but they provided for their children.
    I’m talking about the people who can’t afford to have children and yet still do because they know the system will provide. That has nothing to do with civil liberties. It has to do with total disregard and disrespect for those tax payers funding the very system that is raising those children.
    People need to look less to the government to subsidize every part of their lives and take some personal responsibility. I do believe however that there are certain situations with people that justify public programs and intervention.

  42. “Many households simply can’t make it if both parents aren’t working. That’s the economic reality today.”

    As a side note, I don’t believe that is the economic reality. The economic reality is people want stuff and are not willing to do without. That’s a pretty broad statement to make about what is and what is not reality.

  43. Just realized that I typed so quickly I had many mistakes in my last post, sorry. I am just very passionate about this subject having been involved in so many aspects of caring for and educating young children. I think Bella made a lot of good comments about building trust in the parents. I have done a lot of research on attachment disorders and one of the possible causes in some children is not even inconsistent care, but inconsistent caregivers…having different people come in at different shifts, having a succession of caregivers, etc. Bonding is not just a catchphrase, it’s a reality. And with infants, it’s not about “quality” time…it’s about who’s there or not there when their needs are being or not being met. With children, quality time where you spend time one on one with the child doing something is great, but so is the time when you are cooking dinner and they are sitting on the floor playing with the pots and pans. I certainly don’t, and never have, spent every moment in “quality” time with my son. But I’ve always been right there with him and he’s known it. He is more independent now, of course, and I’m planning on increasing my work hours when he starts the next school year.

  44. Great article!

    Kids need full time attention – not just when they’re infants, but also and especially when they are middle schoolers and high schoolers. If you aren’t prepared to give your kids full attention then you shouldn’t have them.

    However, it’s quite possible to pay others to provide basic care and nurture to your very young children. Sure, you must bond with them, but IMO it’s worse to abandon them to their own devices (and/or those of paid caregivers) when they’re older. You have to be able to monitor them and follow through on threats and punishments, and you can’t do that if both parents work 60 hours a week. Your kids will know this.

    However, I don’t think one parent has to abandon their career and stay home full time in order to achieve this. These days it IS very psychologically challenging to stay home because we are ALL educated (at great expense, often) and raised to “reach our full potential,” and I don’t know about you but cleaning up spit up all day is not my idea of my full potential.

    And it would be hard (for me at least) not to resent the spouse that still gets to enjoy all the social, emotional, and financial rewards a career and income provides.

    What I do think is that a person (male or female) who plans to have children should plan his/her career accordingly. I chose an industry and a job that will afford me great flexibility after the initial 5 year grunt work period. I’m also saving and investing like a mad woman in case I DO decide to stay home, so I don’t lose my sense of financial independence and contribution to the family.

    But I know I’d be willing to do whatever I believed was necessary; and that’s the only thing that really matters.

  45. I don’t care if you daycare your kids or stay home.

    I do care if you have more children than you can afford, acquire state run poverty insurance, get food stamps, and refuse to use birth control. I am sick and tired of paying for other people’s children. If you cannot afford the children you have NOW then don’t have any more…DUH.

    Thank you.

    Jeff

    P.S.
    I am not against a poverty safety net. I am against the willful disregard of common sense and a sense of entitlement that many poverty folks seem to have. I know what government cheese tastes like.

  46. In traditional societies, the nuclear family is not the be-all and end-all — the child really is raised by the whole village. Most kids over the age of toddlerhood are not even in their mother’s sight for most of the day. Even babies and very young kids are not nursed exclusively by their mothers, but by whoever’s around at the time. So daycare is just a formalized version of that kind of community care. The idea that the mother alone should stay and look after the children intensively all day long is a very modern idea that doesn’t predate the 20th century by much. It’s isolating and it’s labor-intensive. Even in the ’50s and ’60s, kids were still out roaming the neighborhood most of the day, not sitting under their mother’s eye in their house. Daycare actually follows these traditional patterns of community-based childrearing better than keeping the mother at home to do it all herself.

  47. I saw an article a while back that said the break even point for a spouse to work versus daycare was $30,000, when ALL financial costs are taken into account (professional clothes, commuting, meals, car insurance due to mileage increase, daycare, etc.). You might want to do that kind of analysis. Another article I read suggested the average house size has doubled since 1960, while occupants per house have gone from just over three to just over two.

    I think people build a lot of expensive lifestyle choices into the “need” for two spouses to work.

  48. Dear Friends, If poor people are willing to pay for raising their children, fine. You can raise a child to be a healthy, responsible contributing member of society with yard sale clothes, driving a succession of used cars, clipping coupons, raising your own vegetables, careful shopping, and lots of attention to the child. I RESENT our welfare system which PAYS low quality ghetto women of ALL races to breed 1. the next generation of the male criminal underclass who fill our prisons and terrorize the rest of us and 2. the next generation of teenage welfare brood mares. Welfare may last only 3 years, but women live off those ADC checks, sucking the rest of us dry financially and producing children who will be a burden to society. LOOK AT THE ABYSMAL HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION RATES OF AMERICA’S LARGE CITIES, THESE ARE WELFARE CHILDREN who will never become good citizens and contributors to American society. Frankly, the minute a woman signs up to take my hard earned tax dollars through welfare, aid to dependent children payments or taxpayer funded child health care, SHE OUGHT TO HAVE TO GO ON NORPLANT (birth control) FOR THE DURATION OF TAKING TAXPAYER MONEY. You pay your own way? Have as many children as you wish. You want me to pay with my taxes? THEN DON’T reproduce because we have enough low quality individuals feeding at the public (taxpayer funded) trough.

  49. Well…I was raised by a SAHM who was divorced before the kids were grown or even in their teens. Talk about a tough life! Mom had no occupational training and though when my parents were married I was raised in poverty, I really felt it when they broke up! I am a working mother (teacher), and both my kids have been in day care since babyhood. Luckily for me, the people at the daycare treated my kids like family. I don’t have the radar the previous poster has to detect the crummy daycare kids from the noble SAH kids. I’ve seen a lot of great kids and crummy kids from both camps. I think just staying at home being a fulltime mom is not the best situation for all women. Have you read The Feminine Mystique? A feminine reaction to staying at home while husband leaves for work sparked the women’s movement. A lot of us women have benefitted from this social change! We now have a choice to work or not, and get the same pay and less discrimination.

  50. DeRuiter, if you want to be a contributing member of society you need to spend less time on right wing blogs and more time researching what poverty is really like in America. Maybe then you could contribute something useful to a discussion like this.

  51. anyways…..

    Trent the problem is with how you’re presenting your making out like everyone has a choice, motherhood or career.

    For many people being a SAHM isn’t an option, as commenter 40 pointed out his mother was a single mom, she didn’t have a choice but to work long hours. Add in a divorce rate of over 50% and you probably have half of all families in America where the mother has no choice but to work. Particularly as America has no real social safety net. Also todays SAHM could be tomorrows divorcee working two jobs trying to make ends meet. And for obvious reasons no one likes talking about the potentional of you marriage falling apart as a reason to stay on the career path.

    Secondly even where you have both parents there it’s hard to find a job that pays enough to live on. My niece is in that situation, they want a family, he works in “high risk of layoff” industry (Auto sector in Southern Ontario strong CDN dollar is laying waste to manufacturing jobs). She’s love to stay home but they can’t risk him losing his job. Secondly he doesn’t earn enough money to pay all the bills, even with frugal living.

    Secondly specific to America, health care, I’ve read alot of stories and met people in this situation. Mother has all plans of being a SAHM when just before the baby comes Husband loses job. Wife has job with healthcare, suddenly all the plans are thrown into chaos.

    Secondly most working Mom’s that I’ve talked to have family to help out. This is particularly true in Spain where most are two income families. Often the Grandparents will provide after school care and or babysitting. Kids go into daycare maybe 1-2 days a week.

    Secondly you have to remember that back in our parents day jobs there were alot more good paying manufacturing jobs available. You could leave school and find a good job that provide for your family and give you a life time of income. Today income insecurity even in the white collar field. Your Wife could be a rising star today and tomorrow be unemployed in the next restructuring.

    Like I said, I love your blog but to present it as a choice between daycare and having a parent at home is simply misleading. It’s not that straight forward.

  52. I sort of resent the implication that all kids who went to daycare or are raised by a parent or parents who work will obviously grow up to be a disassociative drug addict who will do nothing but beg for government handouts. There is such a gross overromanticization of the myth of the stay at home mom, IMO.

    I think the obvious concern here is that everyone – regardless of if you work or stay at home – needs to be an active, involved and caring parent. For every kid who is struggling because their mom has to work at night and can’t help them with their homework, there’s a spoiled entitled little monster whose paretns have smothered and spoiled them to think that they are entitled to everything because someone was always around to give it to them, or is completely incapable of being independent. If you’re a good, involved parent then you’re going to raise a good kid, I think.

    Personally, I also dislike the insistence that no matter what personal dreams or career aspirations a woman may have, that staying home with the kids should naturally trump all of that. If you want to stay home fine, but I think the whole point is that it is a personal choice, and it doesn’t automatically mean that your kids are inferior or less loved somehow if both parents work.

  53. Obviously, yes, for some family situations there isn’t a choice when it comes to daycare – but it’s moot to talk about those if there’s no decision process involved.

    Here, there is a decision process, and thus something worth discussing.

    I actually *love* posts like these, because they bring out people’s passions and often go in interesting directions.

  54. Great post. My wife and I had the same issues with our son on whether to send him to daycare or not. It really depends on how you feel about someone teaching you child everything and being their parent for eight or so hours of the day. Money is usually the biggest issue with this decision because daycares are so expensive. In my opinion it is much better for one parent to stay at home with the child(ren)because the relationship you have with your child will be worth much more than any money you can make. But if you are a single parent, by no means do I intend to offend you. Life is life and you have to do what you have to do.

  55. These daycare posts are always so controversial.

    Trent, how old were your kids when they started daycare?

    I know many people who were in daycare as toddlers and it didn’t seem to hurt them but it worries me when I see both parents go back to work when the baby is just several weeks old. It just seems too soon. Does anybody have experience with this and did you see any adverse effects on your relationship with the child?

  56. While I think it is best for kids to be at home with their mother, I do not think daycare is absolutely the worst thing. There are actually good daycares around. The one where I live has about an 8-month wait list. Everyone I talked to who has kids there loves it. The kids love it.

    I left a full-time job as a nurse nearly eight years ago to stay home with my premature baby. He’s had developmental delays, and I have been glad to stay home and make sure we did his therapies and track his progress closely. He is now in first grade, makes all A’s, and only a trained eye could see some small lingering issues.

    But, now my skills are out of date. I did recently go back to being a fill-in at a doctor’s office. Grandma helps me out on these infrequent occasions that I have been working.

    Both kids went to morning preschool and loved/love it. Again, it’s a great school, and I felt the happy vibe the moment I walked in there.

    I often think about going back to school either to further my current career (LPN to RN) or learn something new. but I have doubts. My husband often works 60 hour weeks, rotating 12 hour day/night shifts. I feel someone has to be here to anchor this family. And I also am concerned about leaving preteens and teens on their own after school and during summer. My parents divorced, and my brother and I were latchkey kids. So I know quite well the things kids do when they know exactly what time mom or dad will walk in that door every day.

  57. For some it is not an option, understood and I can sympathize. My mother worked after my parents were divorced, but I was of school age by then.

    My wife and I made sacrifices so she would be able to stay home with our kids for at least the first few years of their life (twins). We saved money for years in advance of trying to conceive, I drive an old fuel efficient car, passed on many vacations, etc.

    The main reason we made the choice was because we did not want our kids spending more waking hours with day care providers than they do with us, especially in these early years when they are forming bonds with us and a sense of security. It’s definitely not an easy job and stay at home moms are to be revered. Living a bit less comfortably than we could be is something we have not regretted. Why have kids if you are just going to let someone else raise them?

  58. It’s so fun to see people get all riled up about this topic. When my friends from college get together these days, we always have a heated discussion about SAH vs. working. I don’t think that there is a “right” answer here, but I do agree that procreation should be given serious thought.

    BTW, I was raised by two SAH parents (farmers who worked extremely long days “at home”) that were loving but extremely busy people. I would have much rather been in a daycare meeting other kids than playing by myself (or later, my sisters) when I was pre-preschool aged. Now I am a serious, bookish adult who much perfers being alone to social situations – I am pretty sure that’s a result of how I was raised.

  59. I recently went back to work after almost 5 years at home. My daughter is 4 and my twins are 2 1/2. They take off every morning and say Bye mommy! and run and hug their teachers. They are well behaved, polite and fun to be around. The teachers are reinforcing what my husband and I do at home, discipline/behavior wise.

    I currently don’t make much after paying for daycare, but my income is growing steadily. By the time the kids are in school I will have a ton more flexibility and be able to go to sporting events, pick up kids, etc.

    Like Meg said in comment #148, she’s doing the grunt work now. I am too, so that when the kids are older and more curious I will be around.

    When I get home from work I WANT to spend time with ths kids. As a family we are all happier.

    Financially, I don’t need to work. We’ve set our standard of living up that we only need 2/3 of DH’s income to live off of and none of mine. We’re saving a ton in case DH gets laid off. We have no “stuff”. But now that I am working again we have more “backup” in case something happens to DH or his job. For that reason we all sleep better at night!
    Danielle

  60. I agree more with Jon’s POV than Trent’s. I don’t believe in litmus tests, however children have very specific needs in the course of their lives, from healthy food, warm clothing, the right equipment for getting them around in their early years, to education, activities, tutoring, clothing and higher education. In this extremely harsh and competitive world, a human being needs EVERY advantage to get from the beginnings of their lives to an adulthood offering opportunities to succeed in their own lives.

    Often prospective parents see children as they do new accessories, or pets. I realize that sounds harsh, but when one considers the actual cost and time involved in raising a child, it’s clear many simply don’t consider these matters realistically until after the fact. They see parenthood as about them, not about creating new human beings. And it’s not just them who suffers, their children do, society does, the world does. We need humans who can contribute to our world, not just add to it.

    This should be a discussion about money and responsibility. There shouldn’t be “guilt” about discussing realistically the specific costs of raising children. Children DESERVE these types of discussions. I wish we had them more often. People should be encouraged to think about more than how much they would “love to have” a child (which in itself is an apt description when you are acquiring a new household item rather than a realistic discussion about the pros and cons of whether you have sufficient resources available to you to consider giving life to a child).

    Children are MUCH more than possessions, objects to be acquired, although the law does not see them as more than that sadly (parents can do pretty much anything to and “for” their children short of abuse).

    Children have very real needs for all of their lives, costing time and money and commitment. If you take on that responsibility, it should be about more about THEM, rather than YOU and a need to love and reproduce.

  61. I think it really depends on what you expect your child to get out of day care. If you just want them to be supervised, it isn’t a big issue. But if have specific goals for day care, such as if you want them in a Montessori program, it gets more complicated.

    Siblings also affect the equation. The socialization aspect of daycare can play a much bigger factor for an only child than for kids with brothers or sisters.

    I was an only who went to morning daycare for the friends. There was no one my age in my neighborhood to play with. In the afternoon, I was home with my mom. I think it was a great balance.

  62. @ tightwadfan (comment #59)
    > I know many people who were in daycare as toddlers [...] Does anybody have experience with this and did you see any adverse effects on your relationship with the child?

    Both my children went to daycare when about 3 months old (though only for 2 days a week). We’re in the lucky situation where we both work part-time, so I take care of them for one day, and my wife for two days. And we have the weekend for the whole family!

    I did not see any adverse effects on our relationship with the children. And I personally think it will be more important to have a stay at home parent when they’re about 12 years old (and can get in real trouble) then now…

  63. My husband and I both knew that we wanted children and that we both needed to work. But we did not want to put our children in day care. Our solution… I work full-time during the day. My husband takes care of our preschool aged son at home and takes our two girls to school, etc. When I get home, we eat together, and then he goes to work. My husband is self employed and makes his hours. Sure, we have less income than if he could work all day, but it works for now and we feel that it is best for our family. We economize, coupon, eat at home, grow a garden, drive older cars, and it works. It is draining but we feel that it is best for our children. Once the kids are all in school (full day), my husband will work days again and we can can spend more time together (as a couple). I know a lot of folks that do it this way.

  64. Thank you, Juliska, for pointing out another alternative: women who care for others’ small children in their homes!

    We were fortunate to have two such women within walking distance of our home. My son stayed with them until he was out of diapers.

    Then I took a job at a university 15 miles from my house, so I put him in a daycare that was alleged to be the best in the city, which was just down the street from where I worked. What a FIASCO! He instantly got sick and stayed sick the entire time he was made to stay in the place. It was just filthy–water flowing on the dirty bathroom floors, dirty toilets, dirty bathroom washbasins, dirty everything. They were fed junk liked canned Spaghetti-Os. The day I walked in to pick him up and saw him climb on a table built of a board slung over the backs of two child-sized plastic chairs just as the lash-up collapsed on top of a little girl was the day I took him back to the neighborhood women!

    It took him a couple of weeks to throw off the diseases he’d picked up and several more weeks to get over the psychological trauma of having been left in that place.

    Now, if that’s good for a child, I’d like to know how. The only circumstance in which a situation like this could be positive would be if the parents simply cannot earn enough to feed the child and themselves without both partners working, or if the parent is alone, has no resources, and both parent and child(ren) will go hungry unless the parent works.

    You can find women who do home child-care through your church. Ask around. Also, many states license home child-care operations, and so you should be able to find out through your state’s registrar of contractors. In either event, be sure to observe carefully before you put your child there, be sure there are no unfenced pools or other hazards, and occasionally pick the child up at unscheduled times so you can see what’s going on when the person doesn’t expect you to be watching. Ditto that last with any day-care center!

  65. Trent:

    I was not economically able to have a child, but after my first kid born six months ago I been able to cut at maximun all my expenses in order to fulfill all his necesity. I think that even if you can’t but love to they shoul try it. The humans were created with the capacity of survive in rough time.

  66. I think there needs to be a distinction made here between sending infants to daycare and sending older children to daycare. The needs of an infant are vastly different from that of a toddler. Not to mention that first time parents are dealing with sending their infants to daycare not toddlers. My husband and I had our daughter this past summer and I was able to take 3 months off from work for those crucial months of development. Instinctively, I wanted to stay home, but financially we did not plan for it so we had to resort to daycare. We searched high and low for a Montessori school for infants but there were none in our area so daycare it was.

    For my family, daycare is not a place for a baby. It’s in my opinion, that a 3 month old does not need social interaction. There are no lessons a 3 month old will learn in daycare that they could not learn while home with their parents. All a daycare setting does for a 3 month old is over stimulate them and stick them in toys that bounce and make noise to keep them occupied. It broke my heart everyday to drop her off and know that she was just one in a room of 10 babies. They did do other stuff, like tummy time and reading, but there’s only so much you can do with an infant when you have a room full of them. Don’t get me wrong, I think that daycares do their best to provide activities for infants but unless it’s a specialized one for infants (such as a Montessori infant program), a child isn’t really getting good developmental attention. (this is an issue for us because 8 hours is a lifetime to an infant and we wanted more than just supervision)

    After being in daycare for 3 months, our daughter began hating the place. I would go pick her up and she’d be so puffy from crying she looked like a different baby. Do I think the daycare did something evil and wrong? No, I just think they weren’t able to provide the loving and caring environment that she was used to at home. Why did it take so long to manifest itself (she’d already been attending for awhile)? I believe it’s because her emotional needs had begun to change. As an observant parent, I can identify that. If she were home, I could devote the time and love to her that would fulfill those kinds of changes. At a daycare, even with a good care giver to child ratio, it’s not easy to give that kind of attention. If she’s crying and another baby has to eat, a choice has to be made and one infant will be left with unattended needs. Sure another person can watch the unattended (emotionally unattended) infant, but they don’t need watching – they need care. Babies are still figuring out the world around them. I think people are quick to think that after the 1st 3 months, they are ready for anything. They are still fragile and figuring things out.

    I could go on forever on this topic because I have very strong feelings about it and I’ve lived both sides of the arguement. After she began getting upset at daycare, my husband and I examined our jobs and figured out that there was no way I could stay home full-time but that we could certainly re-arrange our work schedules so that we didn’t need daycare anymore. We are lucky in this respect; not everyone has an employer that would allow an alternate schedule or a job that offers it. It’s hard to tell someone to really think about what you want before you have kids because before I had my daughter, I was 110% positive that daycare was the choice for us. Motherhood changed my opinion and my husband supports that. If we couldn’t have changed our schedules, we would have done everything under the sun to find a way to make it work without daycare.

    We are now planning for a more secure future which includes me eventually staying home (we’re aiming at 3 years). I think about that day every day and know that we’ll get there. I wish we had planned for this before our daughter arrived but it’s a lesson learned. This is the right move for our family – it’s in line with our values and our financial situation, more importantly my husband and I (and baby) are emotionally happy with our choice. When she was in daycare, we were an emotional mess because she was so unhappy. Everyone has to make the choice that fits their values, their financial situation and that provides them sanity.

  67. My mom stayed home with her 5 kids.

    Pros:
    I feel close to my siblings and thankful to my mom for all she did.
    We are all fairly smart and well-adjusted.

    Cons:
    I think my mom would have felt better if she had worked.
    I was kind of shy, and I think more interaction might have been good for me.

    I don’t have kids yet, and I’m not really decided on this one way or the other. I really like my job and get a sense of accomplishment from it, but I don’t really like the concept of daycare.

    My ultimate goals would include – grandma and grandpa watch the kids some days, I have a flexible work schedule so I can work from home occasionally, so does my husband, and maybe the kid goes to some kind of preschool.

    I also would love it if my employer had on-site daycare.

    I think America could stand to have better laws regarding maternity leave – like many european countries have a year off, standard, for each parent.

  68. I’m not going to argue one side or the other due to anecdotes. For example I didn’t go to preschool when I was a child and I turned out fine; my daughter has gone to part time preschool (9am-1pm) and really thrived because of that extra socialization and I believe made us better parents because we had a break from caretaking.
    A reminder, just because the kids go to school doesn’t mean you don’t have responsibility towards your kids becoming educated, same way daycare is not an excuse not to be fully involved with raising your child.

    Also I think people need to define what “poor” is. I think many people posting may say they were poor because their parents couldn’t afford things the poster wanted as a child, or that they scrimped and saved. That’s not what I’m talking about. I define poor as a) parent(s) who cannot provide the basics for their children in terms of food, shelter, and emotionally and physically safe living environment, and b)their situation is not likely to improve or may be even be worsened by the fact there is a child in the picture due to time demands, lack of opportunity for higher education, abusive situation, etc.
    In my personal opinion no, I don’t think a child should be brought in that situation, it shortchanges both the child and the parent. I am NOT talking about parents who can’t buy extras or their children wears used clothes, parents have to save for things, etc.

  69. I am a SAHM but also know there are plenty of excellent daycare options as well. I know plenty of great kids who’ve been in daycare (center, home or nanny).

    For my family, the biggest factor in deciding to have a parent at home was not quality of care during the day but what DH and I saw as the other potential problems of a 2 full-time working parent household. Before I had kids I watched what life seemed to be for my working parent coworkers and didn’t want to sign up for that…the stress of rushing to finish at work so you can do the daycare pickup on time, trying to fit in all your errands and household chores on the weekend or late at night, virtually no personal time since you (of course) want to focus on the kids as much as possible when you aren’t working, and kids who don’t get enough sleep. The sleep issue, IMO, is one that does not get the attention it deserves.

    Once I had my first baby the benefits of a SAHP for children’s sleep really became apparent to me. In my previous job I had to be out the door by 8am to get to work on time. I usually was home by 6pm. Add in daycare drop off/pick up and I’d definitely be leaving earlier and getting home later. My baby, however, was a mess if he wasn’t in bed by 7pm and (after a couple night feedings) usually slept until 7am (I was blessed with a great sleeper!). He’d also nap 2-3 hours in the afternoon. To accommodate his sleep needs as a working parent, if even possible, I would have spent very little time with him outside of night feedings. I also expect he wouldn’t have napped as well in the more busy environment of a daycare center. On the rare occasions that we had to disrupt his sleep he was just a mess. His behavior was absolutely effected by diminished sleep. My 2nd child’s sleep experiences were similar. If I’d worked FT since my babies were a couple months old we never would have known what their optimal sleep patterns were since they’d have had to adjust to our work schedule. If they were chronically cranky, would I have known they needed more sleep? Or would I have just thought that was their personality? I have no idea.

    I fear we are raising a generation of chronically overtired children, and lack of sleep makes it harder for kids to learn and harder for them behave well.

    I just don’t think 2 40-hr a week out-of-the-house careers works well for raising kids. There’s only so much time in a day, week, etc. I think most parents wish there were more flexible/PT options and businesses, and our society, would be more effective we could figure out how to work together to offer those options.

    Right now I work PT 10 hours a week (kids are 3 and 4) and intend to work more when my youngest is in K. But I don’t expect to work full-time unless it’s a flexible, WAHM arrangement.

  70. Trent .. There are more aspects to having a second income than just buying stuff. Yes, I could afford to scrape by and stay at home full time with my kids. We’d eat, we’d have some clothes, we’d have an apartment. But because I work, we have a nice (modest) house in a great school district. We have college funds so our kids will never have to deal with school debt and will be able to go to the schools of their choice. We have plenty of money to pay for whatever interests and activities our kids develop an interest in — baseball, karate, art, dance, bugs, skiing. We create great memories and lots of fun by going on family vacations. My kids have parents that are saving for retirement and have healthy emergency funds and will never be a burden to them. They never see their parents stressing or arguing about money because there’s nothing to stress or argue about. Both parents work reasonable hours and thus, my husband does not have to work 60-hour weeks and gets to spend a lot of time with them. We have dinner together as a family every single night. There’s plenty of money to expose them to things like opera and museums and the food of other cultures. There’s money for academically gifted classes (or tutoring should that be an issue). We can go away for the weekend and show our children where MLK gave his “I have a dream” speech or Paul Revere rode, or the salem witchcraft trials took place. How do you put a price on these things that my kids have only because I work as well as my husband? Especially when they thrive and learn in daycare (like Trent’s an expensive and exclusive one) and are perfectly healthy, very smart, and really very happy and attached to us? We don’t use the extra money to buy things, we use it to buy security, education and experiences. We drive old cars, take reasonable vacations, cook often (though not always),clean our own house and cut our own lawn, wear discount clothing, celebrate holidays reasonably, make regular charitable contributions, and have few electronic “toys” (computers, cell phones, etc.)We stress education and fun and experiences. Why does that make me selfish? I think it’s a matter of what people want for their children … I think there are different ways to get it for them. But I think we shouldn’t undervalue things like the negative effects of having parents who argue about or stress over money or the positive effects of being able to take dance lessons or go to a museum on a weekend or get extra help with algebra. I never see these things mentioned in discussions of the daycare debate … (And yes, I do realize that this is somewhat elitist of me and that for many, many parents, two parents must work to provide just the basics. Those parents are the real heroes and they shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about working.)

  71. This is obviously an emotional issue, but WOW, the comments on this entry are unbelievable enough to finally force me out of lurking here.

    First off, why is it that every person that commented on a parent leaving a career to stay home chose to have the wife be the stay at home parent? My husband and I are in a position where I make more money, have better benefits, and enjoy my job more than he does. Many of our couple friends and family are in the same position. I refuse to believe this is an aberration. Why does the woman staying home seem to be the default/easy decision at this point in our history?

    I think there is enough guilt assigned to parents who are forced to make this decision. If they send their children to daycare, they are vilified as parents who care more about nice cars and homes then the well being of their families. If they stay home they receive nothing more than lip service about their value, and often have a very difficult time regaining any career momentum they may have built, even if they stay home for only one year. Every decision is so loaded it seems impossible to make. I know my husband and I are having a terrible time making the decision ourselves.

    As a society we need to be asking ourselves why even the best quality daycare workers are among the most underpaid industries in the country. Why we have little or no protections in place that would allow a parent to stay at home with a partial salary, or medical care. Why we place blame on each other when we’ve made different decisions, rather then lay fault with a system that is obsolete.

  72. If my wife or I had to stay home with our kids all day we’d go nuts! My brother and I were both raised in daycare and my parents make the same observations that we are making now. Generally our kids are more social and understand how to get along in groups, share, etc than those not in daycare. I own 7 extremely successful franchises and my brother teaches at a State University. This is a personal choice. Live and let live.

  73. After having both my mother-in-law and my mother come take care of my infant son for about 2 and a half months after my maternity leave ended so I could return to work full time, my husband and I found a grandmotherly-type lady who provides licensed home child care to three other children, ages 1, 2 and 3 to take our son to (age 4 months). She has been amazing with him and I have felt at ease knowing he is both with others from diverse socioeconomic stations and yet still in an intimate setting with one-on-one care. The backyard is filled with fun imagination toys and play houses and even a tire swing and see-saw (I want to stay home from work and play too!) We live in a townhouse and cannot provide this opportunity for my son to just be a child and play outdoors without traveling to a public park (where crimes against women have, sadly, become increasingly common). I flirted extensively with the idea of staying home full time, and I feel that we need to substantially increase our savings before such a move can be made. My job covers 100% of health insurance costs for myself and any children I have while employed, which in itself is invaluable. In the end, we are going to go with part-time family care for social foundations plus having my mother move in with us to provide that “at home” care a couple days a week while enabling my husband and I to continue to work.

  74. @anne: ‘I think it was invaluable having a working mother as a role model.’ – I totally agree with you and I think this is very important.

  75. I am lucky to live in Canada, where a one-year maternity leave is standard. I can’t imagine leaving my baby at only a few months old to go back to work … I’m having a hard time even leaving him at a year.

    I have enjoyed my time at home, but choosing that path means significant financial risk to our family without a clear benefit to my son. While I’m sure he’d love having me around, I am not convinced that daycare will be a detriment, so long as it is a quality setting.

    My sister-in-law is a SAHM and her kids are in daycare part-time and she can’t say enough about how good it has been for them. Our plan is for me to return to work, and monitor our son … if he doesn’t take well to daycare I will try to cut back my hours or perhaps even quit and seek occasional or freelance work. For us, it makes sense to choose this path now and revise if necessary.

    For what it’s worth, my mom stayed home for the first couple of years, and then transitioned us into part-time daycare, then preschool. I remember loving my daycare, and mom said we usually were so involved in play that we didn’t want to come home when it was over.

  76. Well said, MB. I am very grateful to my mom for staying home and raising me. I was so proud as a kid that my mom was the one who helped out at all the school functions, was our girl scout leader, and that we are so close now. However my dad makes plenty of money and she did not go to college, so in our situation that made the most sense. I will not be so lucky to be able to stay home with my kids. I earn way more than my husband does and so I will probably need to continue working to keep us afloat. My husband may decide to stay at home with the kids, which he wants to do. I think I will be so jealous that I have to go to work while he gets to stay with them all day, but that is the way it has to be.

  77. MB (#74) puts the issue in terms I can relate to. I don’t work to stave off poverty, but to fiscally secure. It is nice to not argue about money and to have savings and $$ to go on vacations. It’s nice to be able to sign kids up for camp or scouts and not need a scholarship to do so. It’s nice not to wear thrift store garb. It’s nice that one spouse isn’t working overtime to make the mortgage. You can still be a great parent if you work. You should never count on a rich spouse to save you, he/she could run out.

  78. my daughter went to daycare and is the most polite and well mannered kid i know. i know kids that didn’t go to daycare and would be the most ill mannered children (who bit) my kid.

    if you are taking care of your kid and doing what’s best for your family, no one has the right to say what you should or should be doing.

    if you can’t afford to take care of kids, then maybe you should rethink how many kids you can afford.

    some people get on their high horses and say they don’t want other people raising their kid. well if that’s the case, then your kid should also be home schooled and never let out the house.

    my daughter’s first education always begins at home and everything else is supplemental. i’m not less than a parent for ask for help or downtown. if i need to put her in daycare for a few hours to be a better mommy, then off she goes. who wants to be up under their kid 24/7 days a week. we all need a break, some people are just too proud to admit it. it’s not failure or you letting your kid down, it’s reality. it takes a lot to raise a kid and no two parents do it entirely alone.

  79. Like others have written, a child under 2 does not benefit from “socialization”. You may have reasons for using daycare, but don’t make one of them the “benefits” a baby receives from “socialization”.

  80. You know, child care isn’t an all or nothing thing and there are MANY options besides daycare centers – co-ops, shared care, part-time care, individual in-home care.

    I worked part time from home as long as I could and shared care with another mom. Then we found an in-home day care with a very loving and experienced caregiver. Kids of all ages were there and my daughter was motivated to succeed at potty use, table manners and advanced play because the older kids did it. She has also benefited from being an older kid teaching the youngers. We started part time at 2 and have varied the schedule to fit our needs and hers for 2 years. I didn’t put her in preschool because I thought it would give her less than her situation in private care, which actually was more affordable and flexible than any daycare center.

    We found our care giver through the local kindergarten teacher. Most county children’s agencies can provide a list of licensed individuals.

    Ultimately what’s right for you is right for your child, regardless of what others say. This was right for us.

  81. One point I should make, is the base assumption often is that the working Mum has chosen career over motherhood, which thankfully is finally being put to rest here.

    Secondly I don’t understand why, if the second income is needed why parents can’t work shift work. When we married (almost 25 very happy years) none of our friends stayed at home, all had to work to make ends meet. More importantly they did it without expensive daycare. How, easy, one worked mornings the other afternoons. Take for example a co-worker Jared. He and Margie raised 4 boys both while working fulltime. He work 4 10s (2-12 4 days a week) she worked 8-4 and the Mother in law covered the overlap. I see no reason why kids need their Mums 7-24. When the husband gets home the wife heads out to work. No daycare costs and full parental involvement. Lots of parents have done it that way.

  82. Rob in Madrid suggests parents working opposing shifts to cover childcare, and that is a solution for some families. I guess I’m selfish. I want to have a relationship with my husband that is more than working and caring for kids and passing in the night on the way to or from work. I doubt a stressed marriage is better than a stable daycare. I also don’t have the luxury of a grandmother to “cover the overlap.” A lot of grandparents don’t want to be unpaid child care options. Some work themselves or have health issues or live far away. IMO, daycare is a stable environment and my kids, at least, went to daycare from birth to 4 willingly and with no tears or sadness about it. They were also glad to come home of course when I picked them up.

  83. Jayrengo, how sad for your children that both you and your wife feel that spending a good portion of your time with them would make you nuts. May I ask what possessed you to keep having children if your found their company disagreeable?

  84. I think what we’re seeing in this thread is that different personality types handle parenting differently. We all love our children, no question there, and we all want the best possible situation for them.

    There are some parents who are better suited emotionally and psychologically for short bursts of uninterrupted parenting – a few hours of solid interaction in the evening, and they’re emotionally spent. Other parents are suited for a full day of interactions, with the ups and downs of intense interaction and independent play.

    With these different makeups, different solutions are optimal for the child.

    The only thing that’s wrong here is judging someone else as a bad parent when they’ve discovered an optimal situation for their child that’s different than the optimal situation for your own child. You’re putting your own personal judgment above theirs without knowing their psychological makeup, their child’s psychological makeup, or the details of the care situation that works well for them.

    Parents, my point is this: don’t let the hubris of someone else shame you into making a choice that isn’t the best for you or for your child.

  85. “Like others have written, a child under 2 does not benefit from “socialization”.”

    There are a ton of studies out there that show that a diversity of social situations is incredibly important to very young children.

    Read up on Patricia Kuhl’s research, especially her PNAS 2000 and PNAS 2003 papers to see how diverse social environments promote language building.

    Toddlers under two years were shown to be more reticent around others when their mothers were more interfering with their socialization activities with peers, according to Rubin 2002.

    I could provide a pile of these, but to say that there’s no benefit to greater social exposure to children under two is flatly nonsensical. I researched this – and by research, meaning I went to the actual scientific literature via PubMed, not flipping open Parents magazine – when my son was born.

  86. Well written post, Trent. I do feel that the socialization issue is far over-rated. Kids can be adequately socialized at home, with the normal social interactions that take place there and in the marketplace. Church is another great opportunity, for those who choose to participate in it. I prefer for my son to socialize with kids who are more mature than he, and with adults, as I am hoping he will learn to be an adult. He already knows how to be a kid. That said, he has great fun with kids his own age, too. Socialization has never seemed to be a problem for us–unless it’s OVER-socialization!

  87. Jeff said: “I don’t care if you daycare your kids or stay home.

    I do care if you have more children than you can afford, acquire state run poverty insurance, get food stamps, and refuse to use birth control. I am sick and tired of paying for other people’s children. If you cannot afford the children you have NOW then don’t have any more…DUH.

    Thank you.

    Jeff

    P.S.
    I am not against a poverty safety net. I am against the willful disregard of common sense and a sense of entitlement that many poverty folks seem to have. I know what government cheese tastes like.”

    So my taking in 4 kids (foster thru the state), and my partner being a stay at home mom to care for them is a bad thing? We get by on my income, but we get by better on my income, plus the state stipend for our kids, plus WIC for the kids in the right age group. I work 50+ hours a week and make under $55k- hell, we qualified for CHristmas Bureau gifts last year! Where do you think my kids would be better off served for parents? An institution?!? With richer parents?!? I doubt many would have considered dealing with the infantile crack addiction they all came to us with! We didn’t *have* these kids, but their issues came with them.

    How nice for you to live a life of entitlement and espouse such beliefs about those you have no idea about!

  88. “There are a ton of studies out there that show that a diversity of social situations is incredibly important to very young children.”

    Perhaps, but there are many ways to define socialization, and short of being isolated inside a home, children are naturally socialized simply by living in an post industrial society. They go with their parents to the grocery store, bank, library, post office, doctor appointments and many other activities necessary to modern life – and while doing so, are subsequently exposed to a variety of social situations. Daycare provides peer socialization, not the “diversity of social situations” that are incredibly important to very young children.

  89. DivaJean,

    Do you honestly think he was takling to YOU?

    He is talking to the people who make the messes — ex: using crack while pregnant — not the ones who clean it up.

  90. Kelly Kelly-

    Yes I see where think that, but we as a family participate in programs he feels have no place in this world.

  91. @DivaJean

    No where in Jeff’s statement did I see where he addresses those who take in those children and act as foster parents. His statement was the same as mine, don’t have them (meaning birth them) if you know AHEAD of time you cannot afford them and will be forced to use government handouts. If anything his statement would be directed at the parents of those children you are taking care of, not you. I’m not sure how you twisted his words around to think that he was attacking you and what you are trying to do. Maybe you should re-read his statements and see who they REALLY apply to. He clearly states he is not against safety nets and government support programs. There was no sense of entitlement in his words, only frustration at abuse of the system by people who should know better.
    You are part of the solution, and I am thankful for people like you who are willing to step up and take care of children. I think that government programs are excellent in situations like that. WIC is a great program that helps ensure the health of children who had no choice into the environment they were born.

  92. My husband and I both have a PhD in Chemistry and we are both PostDocs. Since we don’t know who of us will get a job afterwards, we both have to work. Working ours as a PostDoc are not regular hours but can sometimes be around the clock. Even though, I would love to be a SAHM, I also have to think of our future and continue working until one of us has a “permanent” job. We went to university 11 years and it’s really hard to live like this.
    Because of our crazy worklife, we have to send our son to daycare. We found a great one with great teachers, a developmental specialists, someone doing sports with kid and musicians coming a few times per week. This costs us more than $2000 a month (and nothing really left to save), but for us its worth it. Our son really likes his daycare, teachers and friends there. He just turned two and he is very social (even though someone here said, small kids don’t need socialization) and has a lot of friends. He also “speaks” three languages. We are both non-American, so he learns two languages at home and English in daycare. I think, it’s not fair to condemn families sending their kids to daycare,since a lot of them don’t really have a choice. I can’t just tell my parents, hey, you paid University and now that I finished my degree I will stay at home and throw my education away.

  93. Years ago, I made a commitment to stay home with my daughter when she turned a year old and I realized someone else was raising her and enjoying her during her waking hours. I now run a state-licensed daycare in my home, I’m a single parent, and I homeschool my three kids. We regularly get together with other homeschoolers, we are actively involved in our church, and my children are developing into engaging, friendly, talented young ladies. I had to buy a small house, but we do have a pool and a fenced yard. We don’t go on extensive vacations, but we take Saturday trips to places like Gettysburg, Washington, D.C., Mount Vernon, etc. We don’t have a TV, so we play board games and bike and walk. My children have had years of piano lessons and violin lessons (the local University’s Conservatory has scholarships), and we sing and perform in church. My eldest has taught herself to play the drums. We shop outlets, Goodwills, and Ebay. My kids have never had a $100 pair of sneakers, and they never will. I do not date. I can’t begin to imagine the upheaval it would cause. Extended family and our pastor help provide male enrichment. My girls love having daycare kids around. They miss them when they’re not here, and cry when a “favorite” has to withdraw from care.

    I think it’s all a matter of perspective, and time and money management.

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