L, my 18 month old daughter has been going to daycare since she was four months old. Initially, the decision to use a daycare instead of a nanny came down to finances. We simply couldn’t afford to pay a nanny over the table and we got a great deal on a fantastic daycare which was discounted by my husband’s job. So, when my daughter was four months old, I went back to work three days a week and started taking her to daycare. Initially I was really happy with our choice. Then L got her first cold. I was furious with daycare. I told myself that she wouldn’t have gotten sick if she had been home with a nanny.
And so began a debate that I have been having on and off with myself since daycare began. Usually, I am very happy with the arrangement. But now and then I question whether it was the right decision. Every time she gets sick (which is often) I wonder whether daycare was the right decision. Every time I have to rush out of work to pick her up before daycare closes, I think daycare was a bad decision. Every time my daughter gets a diaper rash, or only takes a 50 minute nap. . .well, you get my point.
On the other hand, the other day in her bath, L counted from 5 to 10. I did not teach her that. I didn’t teach her the itsy bitsy spider but she knows all the hand movements to the song. When I dropped her off this morning, after having been out for a few days, she ran to her little friends squealing with delight, giving them big hugs, and showing them her new band-aid. She uses finger paints and markers, plants gardens, makes vegetable soup, has dance class, story time, and plays on an outdoor playground made specially for toddlers – things I am not sure she would experience with such frequency if she was home with a nanny. She has learned to wait her turn, to clean up after herself, to play well with other kids, to share, not to push or hit, and to say she is sorry.
My point is this. There is no right answer. I am sure that I will always question my decision to send my daughter to daycare (as well as, pretty much, every other decision I have made about her upbringing). When she is in high school and comes home drunk from a party I will tell myself that it is all because I sent her to daycare. But I also know that many of my friends who hired nannies wonder if they made the right choice as well. I know that the moms who hire nannies have their own struggles when the nanny calls in sick, when they try to find creative ways to entertain their kids, when they wonder if their child is learning how to interact with other children. It seems that everyone struggles with the decisions they make.
So I ask you. If you decided to go back to work, what kind of child care did you choose and why? And how do you feel about your decision?