The Downside of Daycare

Yesterday we covered several of the wonderful things my wife and I have enjoyed about our experience with full-time daycare HERE. Today we’ll flip that coin to the other side and explore a few of the challenges with using childcare for our little girls. I write this post late at night as we endure a teething toddler and a not-so-adjusted newborn waking up 4-5 times nightly. It’s definitely one of those stretches where I daydream about a life without using daycare, without the tightrope walk of work/life balance, no financial constraints, and nothing but free and easy time with my girls to watch each moment of their childhood. Alas, reality calls and the blog awaits.

If you reside in a dual income or single parent household (or even if you don’t), you know that the time between the first helpless, waking-up cry and the time you get out the door is a daily struggle. The first battle, at least for us, with infants is making sure there are no overnight explosions needing addressed. We’ve gone through stretches where a morning bath was a necessity based on the diaper carnage left from the night before; let me tell you, that’s not a great way to start the day. Assuming we dodge the diaper blowout, I typically make my toddler breakfast which can also occasionally lead to the need for a morning bath. As my wife and I swap the girls back and forth to somehow shower and look professionally passable, the time quickly erodes and the day begins in earnest. One of the toughest parts of daycare is all the excess time surrounding the workday. Scheduling in a daycare drop-off means an extra 20 minutes earlier to leave which means an extra 20 minutes earlier to wake up. Tack on another time chunk for after work pick-up and a short weekday gets even shorter.

While daycare for dual-income families may lead you to believe that great wealth is somehow involved in this story, it’s unfortunately not. I don’t have the exact tab, but I think we’re currently heading towards over $21,000 in daycare expenses this year. For added perspective, we live in a fairly low cost-of-living area; I’d imagine metro area daycare could easily double that figure. When you take a big gulp and write that weekly daycare check, it’s never cause for celebration, to say the least. When my daughter someday complains about not going to the college of her choice, I’m going to show her these receipts and laugh maniacally.

Another challenge that comes with daycare just as it comes with school is aligning your standards to both the daycare and your kid’s peers. When you have your first child, you create this idealized childhood that slowly tears down. In the beginning, the food is Organic, the language is pristine, and the devices are absent; as fatigue sets hold and way leads on to way, we slowly loosen the reins on seeking perfection. The first time your child comes home from daycare and drops a no-no word or behavior, it stings. For Eliza, we’ve always avoided using “hate” around her so imagine our surprise when she looked at my dinner one evening and said “I hate this.” Thanks for feedback, princess.  Kids will be kids and we expect this to continue for the next decade or so, but that doesn’t mean we don’t chalk this down as a negative on the daycare scorecard.

The final difficulty with daycare is the largest and one we may explore again later this week. There certainly isn’t a right or a wrong way to raise children, but there is definitely a twinge of guilt that infrequently drums our hearts when our girls are in daycare. We’re confident in our decision to use daycare for our girls but that doesn’t completely stifle some sporadic self-doubt from time to time. There are so many great things that childcare provides and I’m so proud of my wife’s professional journey (and content in my own), but there’s no avoiding second thoughts and weak moments of contemplation. If the decision was reversed and one of us stayed home with the girls, I think we’d still be caught in reflection on whether that was the right decision. It’s a different circumstance for each and every family and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. We’re incredibly thankful for the parental ride we’ve been on for nearly 3 years, and I suppose constantly weighing decisions like these means we’re not doing completely terrible. Uh-oh, I think I hear a teething toddler stirring…

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