It felt like not only would my baby be in good hands, but my husband and I would be too. The lessons and love she bestowed upon our first child made such an impact on us that we sent our second son to her day care as well, despite the fact that we had moved farther away, despite the fact that I quit my day job to work from home. Some people, however, think of day cares as an inferior option to a child staying home with a family member or nanny, and voice these opinions both in explicit or subtle, undermining ways. Whether a new mom is confident in her decision or uncertain about putting her baby in day care, here are 10 things she doesn’t need to hear.
I was about seven months pregnant when I chose my son’s day care provider. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was looking for, but I knew after we interviewed her that she was the one: She was organized and positive, and she emphasized her background as a teacher.
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1. “Are they licensed?”
This seemingly innocuous question is accusatory on two levels. First of all, some families can’t afford licensed day cares, which is not an ideal scenario, but it’s not like this country has ever made affordable child care a priority. So unless your follow-up answer is, “May I give you a thousand dollars a month so you can afford a different child-care scenario?” asking about a day care’s license is just another way of shaming parents. Or are you just implying that the parent didn’t do his or her due diligence when it comes to where she would be leaving her child every day and thank goodness you’re here to point that out?
2. “Nannies are really expensive, huh?”
Some people equate child care to Uber: Nannies are the town cars, and day cares are the shared rides and actually there isn’t even a car, it’s just some guy who comes by on his bike who lets you ride on his handlebars. Yes, nannies are often more expensive than day cares, especially because you’re paying not just for child care but for transportation and housekeeping as well. But many people who can afford nannies actually choose day care because they prefer the socialization, the backup care (because sometimes nannies get sick), and the lack of drama that can come from employing a person one-to-one.
3. “People are so materialistic these days. With just a little budget-balancing, you wouldn’t need child care.”
This is a double-whammy insult. First, there’s the outer shell of the frequently deployed S-bomb — that anytime parents (mothers, in particular) spend their time or money on their own pleasure, it’s selfish. God forbid a parent model self-care or demonstrate to a child that he’s not the center of the universe. Second, while not every parent enjoys a satisfactory work-life balance, staying at home with children is not every parent’s dream. I went to school and trained to be a writer and did not study early childhood development. During working hours, I would rather pursue my own professional goals and leave my children with people who are actually professionals at this.
4. “Did you hear that horrible story about the little boy who died at day care?”
It’s true, it happens: Whether due to neglect or freak occurrence, children die or are injured in day cares. It also happens when children are in the care of nannies or even their family. There is absolutely no way to guarantee a child’s safety. Parents are, by nature, worried about their children’s well-being. Just as it’s unkind to bring up the latest plane crash to a person with a fear of flying who’s about to go on a trip, it’s cruel to stir up images of harmed children in the mind of a parent. Plus, to mention horrible events is to subtly imply that the parent is choosing to risk his child’s safety.
5. “I’d be so afraid I’d miss an important part of my kid’s life.”
When you begin a parenting-related sentence with “I’d be…” or “I could never,” it almost ends in sanctimony city. Yes, with day care, a parent might not see a child’s OMG official first steps or first word, but much like the tree in the proverbial forest, if a child takes a step and the parent doesn’t witness it (or take a video), did it really happen? My day care provider definitely observed a few milestones before I did, but my baby didn’t seem to care who saw it first. Plus, the information was unrolled to me not with a tone of shame but one of excitement: “James walked today!” I got to share the joy with somebody else who loved him and then I was sure to keep an eye out for his second step.
6. “How many children are in the day care?”
You may ask this question in perfect innocence, but odds are the parent to whom you’re asking this will hear, “You’re okay with your kid getting lost in the shuffle at that baby zoo?”
7. “You have your kid in there for how long each day? That must make your life so much easier!”
File this under “You don’t know my life.” I have yet to meet a mother whose life is simple and relaxing — even the most privileged ones I know have their struggles. Yes, if you dropped in on me during the day, you might see me at the grocery store or at the gym, but I organize my day both around paid work and unpaid tasks that I prefer to do while my children are at day care instead of on the weekends or in the evening. Even with the nine hours (that’s right, I’m not ashamed) per day I have my younger child in day care, I am spending none of that time drinking sauvignon blanc and watching UnREAL — unfortunately. (Yeah, okay, I get the occasional manicure, you caught me.)
8. “It’ll be interesting to see how that changes her.”
This is a strange and ominous observation — couldn’t you argue that any different experience changes your baby, from new foods to new clothes to new destinations? It also implies that by handing a child over to caretakers, you are destined to get back some different kid, one that is not yours, one that is somehow less lovable. Here were the biggest ways day care “changed” my kids: They got germs (which can be acquired anywhere); they sometimes came home with food on their clothes (which definitely happens at my house); and they often came home with new knowledge. The times that I picked up my kids and discovered they had been practicing new words or skills, I was delighted and excited, not thinking, Who is this changeling?
9. “Why even have kids if you’re just going to stick them with somebody else?”
Indeed, why even get married if you’re not going to spend every waking minute gazing into your spouse’s eyes? Why buy a house if you’re just going to go outside? Why get a dog if you’re going to leave him at home for a spare minute? Because we all have lives that divide and demand our attention. Modeling a balanced life for a child, as well as opening up a circle of people who love and care for him is not exactly abandonment.
10. “Whenever I walk past day cares, the kids look so sad and the providers look so uncaring.”
The obvious issue with this statement is the unwarranted judgment, but let’s dig deeper. Nobody can take a quick glance at any child-care situation, unless, perhaps, the building is on fire, and determine its value. Child care, most of the time, is not beautiful: It is messy and can be dull and disorganized, no matter who is doing the caring or where. A drive-by glance at a day care is not an accurate measure of what really goes on so perhaps it’s best — as with anything! — to keep your snap judgments to yourself.