November 14, 2012

The Benefits of Day Care

I generally try and stay away from “mommy wars” topics. My personal philosophy is whatever works for you and your family. There is no one-size fits all style of parenting because every family is different. Still, it’s sometimes so easy to get consumed with guilt when you feel you’re not living up to everyone else’s standards, especially when it seems like society agrees what’s ‘best’ and it’s not what you’re doing. One of those areas where I felt particularly large amounts of guilt was daycare.

There seems to be a perception held by many that only moms who can’t afford to stay home are the ones who work. It’s true that leaving Nicki at day care for the first time was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. I referred to the experience as my kryptonite. For me it was harder than watching Nicki get her shots, or having her blood drawn. In both those cases I knew it was for her benefit. Society sends moms the impressions that daycare is for mom’s benefit, not the baby’s.

But there are benefits to daycare for baby as well as mom. Here are a few that I have discovered.

Between the two of them, Nicki’s daycare teachers have over thirty years of infant experience. Thirty. At an 8:2 baby to day care provider ratio, that’s 240 babies! I may be Nicki’s mom, but I don’t know much about babies besides what the books say, and both our families live pretty far away. Let’s face it, being a parent requires on-the-job training. Some days I feel like I’m fumbling my way through it. I’ve asked Nicki’s teachers for advice on everything from brands of pacifiers, to sleeping habits, teething and feeding. Sure, I don’t always follow their advice, but I’m grateful to have the extra perspective. Since they spend three days a week with Nicki, I’m getting advice tailored specifically for her.

The day care center prides itself on the level of stimulation they provide. They’re always buying new educational toys, and trying new activities. They live, sleep, eat child development. They do sensory play and baby sign language. If I was a stay at home mom, child development would only be one thing on my plate. While I think I could find some fun things via pintrest, I don’t think I can keep it up as well as a group of people whose full time job is baby development.

Then there was this week. Domingo and I got sick at the same time. I suspect it was food poising, he thinks it was a fast moving stomach flu. Whatever it was, taking care of Nicki was difficult. She was happy, healthy and wanted to play. Us, not so much. Not only were her day care workers healthy enough to take care of Nicki properly, but it gave us a chance to rest. I wasn’t able to rest when we all got sick previously. It took me three weeks to finally kick it! Being able to get well sooner meant I was able to better take care of Nicki on her home days.

My point is not to suggest that every parent should utilize a day care. (That would be just as mommy wars-ish as suggesting every mom should strive to stay home.) But there are some benefits to day care for the child, and for some parents day care might make more sense then staying at home. It doesn’t make someone less of a mom for choosing that path for her family.

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