Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Nanny vs Day Care Debate

By Mama S
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?  


  1. Wow, this post spoke volumes to me!

    I work out of the house full time, 4-5 days a week. I have the flexibility to work from home once a week, which I try to remind myself is a treasure....(but sometimes forget!)

    Long before I had a baby, I had made up my mind that I would have a nanny for my child. Mainly because all the women I work with do. I liked the idea of someone dotting only on my daughter, "feeling like they were part of the family," having incredible flexibility on hours (b/c my job can be irratic at times), the option to have my daughter right there for when I work from home so we can lunch together or play for a bit longer before I have to start my day. When I was searching for a nanny, I felt confident in my decision to hire one person to care for my little girl...totally confident.

    Until I didn't.

    Then I began to worry, about what if she wasn't getting enough stimulation from other kids, what is she was getting spoiled with too much attention--I never wanted my daughter to be an attention hog. I worried about the amount we relied on one single person, and despite managing a team of 10 people, couldn't bring myself to vocalize issues --albiet minor-- to openly discuss with my nanny. I'd instead complain to my husband and hope things changed on their own. Or over weeks and weeks, I'd squeak out one little request.

    Today, my husband and I had a last minute change of our schedules, and our nanny was more than accommodating, making me grateful for our flexible situation...however, it still weighs on me.

    Our daughter is developing beautifully; is it nature or nurture, I don't know. Probably both. Would she probably enjoy all of the activities mama S posted about, yes. Would there be many other drawbacks, it make my life, and thus my time with my daughter a bit more stressful--getting out the door with food and clothes and all of that...and then worrying about Daycare pick up time, yes?

    Do I wonder and wish if I could just quit my job and stay home--probably 3-5x a day? But then I wonder if I could get back in to my profession? Is now, the worst economy of our times, the right time to give up a financially rewarding and otherwise stimulating career? Is there every a right time? I can't get this time back with my daughter, I know that...and it aches in my gut.

    People talked about motherhood being hard, and wonderful. It is definitely more wonderful, but it is also so much harder. I never realized that no matter what decision I made, for the rest of my life, I would second guess myself.

  2. I have a completely different situation and yet I relate so closely to other posts.

    I work half time. My husband stays home one day per week. The other day and a half my daughter spends with a mom I met at the school where I work. This woman stays at home and has daughters in jr high and high school.

    Overall I am happy with the care and attention my daughter receives while I'm working. I can tell she is happy to be there and is treated as part of the family. She gets lots of one-on-one attention, does not catch frequent colds, does not learn negative behavior from other toddlers, and is kept roughly on the same schedule we have at home. But there are times when I question whether the grass might be greener elsewhere. Like those occasional days when the TV is on when I drop her off and pick her up. Or when the sitter bought my daughter her first big girl panties without checking with me.

    I'm pretty sure no matter what I'd probably feel the same: completely blessed to have found someone who loves my child and cares for her and also a little disappointed that things aren't always done the way I'd like.

  3. Having been involved with the au pair program for 10 years, I am partial to that option and hope that when it is my turn to be a mom, I will be in a position to host a live-in nanny (preferrably from France or Germany to reinforce the foreign languages we both speak).

    For me, it is the personal one-on-one attention host children receive, with a childcare worker dedicated to their family (studies or other families are not dividing the nanny's time) for 1 - 2 years.

    The cultural enrichment an au pair can provide through a plan the parents develop togetherh with their au pair on what games & aspects of her culture they want her/ him to teach their children.

    The opportunity for the kids to meet other "international" kids in the area through the au pair / nanny group or mom's meet-ups.

    The additional help around the house (laundry, meals, dishes, etc.) and total flexibility of schedule a dedicated live-in nanny provides.

    And then making a new friend from another country, that the family keeps in touch with years after they have returned and often plan to visit in their homecountry on a family trip... when the kids are old enough to remember and enjoy!

    Each parent's situation is different though, and there is no right or wrong... I think you will always struggle with that feeling of guilt for going to work and leaving your children with someone else, no matter what childcare option you choose.
    But your career is important too and remember the contributions you make to society as well as to your household income, therewith supporting your children's ambitions and dreams!

  4. I have to agree with the French Au Pair who commented on the benefits of having a live in Au Pair. Au Pairs provide such a rich cultural language experience for host families and are highly trained and screened. In order to be an Au Pair they have to love children and they have to have previous childcare experience. The Au Pair also does help with lite household chores like laundry for the children. All of them have an international drivers liscense and are between the ages of 18 - 26. For more information please visit my blog: http://kniesen.aupairnews.com
    and our main website is www.culturalcare.com

  5. I've just read a very interesting book by the psychologist Oliver James called How Not To F**k Them Up, and I'd highly recommend giving it a read. In it he quotes from reliable studies that have shown time and again that the under 3's do not need education, stimulating environments and friends, as so many parents assume to be the case. Before the age of 3 children engage in parallel play (playing on their own) and don't actually play with each other at all.

    What they need is nurturing care from an adult who loves them. It doesn't have to be the mother, but it does need to be the same person right up until the age of 3, something that day care is very unlikely to be able to provide, with their high staff turnover and the fact that each carer has three or more children to look after.

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