Is Daycare Worth It?

We’ve talked about the good, we’ve talked about the bad, and we’ve talked about the balance. Daycare week finally comes to an end with a final verdict and a few lasting thoughts; after today, I can banish the subject from my blog for at least a few months and go back to joking about my home gym, the terrible influence my mother is on my toddler, or mocking social media stereotypes. Anyway, back to the daycare conundrum. While I haven’t enjoyed writing five straight blog posts about daycare, I forced myself to do so because it’s become such an integral part of my family. It’s been an area that delights us, frustrates us, and occasionally consumes us. I’m going to spoil the punch line of the article and say that there is no right answer if you’re choosing between using and not using full-time childcare.

I picked my daughter up today midday for a doctor’s appointment from the daycare. It was amazing to watch her strutting confidently through several rooms of kids, playing coy with several of the workers, showing off her baby sister, directing me to her favorite friends and toys, and walking down the hall like a BOSS. My daughter, unfortunately, inherited my passivity and she has never really been much of a social butterfly. She’s normally reserved and perhaps a bit socially anxious so it’s a relief to see her comfortable and progressing in that regard. I see the caring faces of a dedicated staff, a room full of diverse kids with different personalities, and feel like my daughter is getting a beneficial head start before reaching school age.

I reflected on all that today because the decision to use daycare has never been easy for my wife and I. Whether we contemplate stay-at-home-mom or stay-at-home-dad, we often wonder how confident we can feel in our decision. I don’t know that we’ll ever reach 100% confidence in either direction, but it is reassuring to have moments like today where I can witness my daughter in her element and see how it pushes her growth. As a parent using daycare, you need to sometimes stop by midday and witness your child’s curiosity and environment developing him or her subtly.

There is, of course, a flipside that exists where my wife and I question our decision and wonder how we could operate with a full-time parent at home. This isn’t something I can speak to intelligently, as my wife and I have both worked full-time for the entirety of our daughters’ lives, but it’s still something we’ve thought about. Would staying at home relieve the occasional pang of guilt for our daughters being in childcare? Would a stay-at-home parent make weekday nights and even weekends less stressful? Should our girls be learning more from us? They’re all questions without answers but headaches nonetheless.

I wanted to explore daycare this week with some meandering path towards a verdict and resolution, but the truth is that the more I contemplate it’s value, the less convicted I am in a decision. My family’s life is frantic, stressful, and chaotic but I literally cannot fathom being more content with the insanity; thinking about doing something different terrifies me in that it would upset the delicate balance we have currently. We’re an elephant balancing on a thimble and a whisper in either direction could tilt the eclectic harmony we currently possess. If you’re looking for a definitive guide to whether your family should use daycare, you won’t find it online. You have to search your values and your circumstances to choose what is best for your family. The best piece of advice I could possibly give is to commit wholly and ignore everyone else. No matter what you choose, it will be wrong to some and right to others. If you want to survive the infant years with a shred of sanity (and hair), always focus on your own conviction and your instincts will lead you and your children well.

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