The Stay At Home Parenting Question Hits Home – Hard

Yesterday morning, I took my son to daycare as usual, but this morning was a bit different than other ones. As he’s near his second birthday, he has moved to a new room with a different staff and a far different setup than before. They take their naps on open-sided cots and there is a focus on potty training. They also eat their meals in small but normal chairs rather than high chairs.

We spent much of the last few weeks psychologically preparing him for this move, spending significant time introducing him to a toddler bed and encouraging him to use the potty at home. He seemed largely fine with this – his first night sleeping in the toddler bed (his first night without sides on his bed) was a bit rough, but he actually took to using the potty pretty well.

When I took him into daycare, however, he got extremely upset and didn’t want me to leave at all, something he never did before in the “under two” room. It was a scary and unfamiliar place for him and he wanted me to be there while he explored it. I stayed for a while, but whenever I would move to leave, he would run to me crying and cling to me.

I know my son – I know that if I spent a good portion of the day there until he felt comfortable, he would be completely fine after that. It works like a charm at his grandparents’ house and also at the houses of others – he’s highly uncertain at first, but he starts exploring while my wife or I are there and then begins to feel comfortable and, before long, he’s completely fine if we’re not around.

This knowledge doesn’t change the fact that my already-existing desire to be a stay at home dad has been kicked into overdrive by this experience. I spent much of the last twenty four hours puzzling over this, calculating whether it would be financially feasible, and also talking to my wife about it.

I’ve come to two painful conclusions.

We can’t afford this move right now. No matter how much I wish we could, we simply can’t. Even with The Simple Dollar helping a bit and the vast reduction in daycare costs and transportation costs, the bottom line doesn’t work out for us, even when the second child arrives.

We’re not sure if it would be the right thing for his development. We want him to be independent and social, an area that my wife and I both had weakness in when we were young. His daycare (which is quite expensive) offers very strong individualized attention and plenty of social interaction with his peers – literally the children he will be going to school with should they stay in the same area. I am very aware of the benefits of keeping a child at home and that’s a major positive for us, but there are some aspects of it that really concern us – I do not want my child to be as socially awkward as I was in grade school.

As much as a part of me cries out to be a stay at home parent, it simply isn’t in the cards for us right now. That doesn’t change the fact that my son’s shouts of “Dad! DAD!” and subsequent crying as I was leaving tore me up to the point that I stopped my truck on the way to work because I was so upset.

Sometimes I wonder if I wouldn’t be better off living in poverty back in my hometown.

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