Daycare is often presented as a subpar alternative to a stay-at-home parent—but that really isn’t true.
I watch my 15-month-old toddle frantically up the driveway, moving as fast as his little feet will carry him. He looks back at me to make sure I’m following him, babbling and pointing toward the door. We’re at the place my husband and I have lovingly declared Miss Jane’s—the in-home daycare our son has been going to since he was eight months old.
In the seven months my son has been going to Miss Jane’s, I haven’t once regretted the decision to put him in daycare. After staying home with him for eight months, I was nervous about the transition. Would we miss each other? Would he get enough attention? It seemed no matter what I did—went back to work, stayed home or something in between—I would miss out on something.
As with most parenting decisions, there are always pros and cons, but ultimately putting our son in daycare was the right choice for our family—and one that comes with many benefits.
1. The socialization opportunities are amazing
The in-home daycare my son attends has a mix of children ranging in age from four months to four years old. At 15 months, my son falls in the middle and gets the benefit of interacting with children of various ages, giving him the opportunity to both learn from the older children and model for the younger ones. As an only child at home, this environment exposes him to learning opportunities he may not get elsewhere and lays the foundation for important social skills such as sharing, communication and empathy.
2. I can teach him a lot—but others can teach him more
I love being a mom, but admittedly I often struggle to come up with activities to foster my son’s development, which is one reason why I am so grateful for our daycare provider. She fills in the gaps where I feel I’m not quite measuring up—developing my son’s language and problem-solving skills with songs, stories and games, and promoting his creativity with endless craft projects. I know he is learning and growing in ways he may not be if he were home with me full-time.
3. Daycare is great for independent little ones
This transition has been made easier by the fact that my son’s personality shines in a daycare environment. He has always been very independent and eager to explore his surroundings. I took him by the daycare a couple times before my first day at my new job and he warmed up immediately.
I do think a child’s personality and disposition make a difference in whether or not daycare is a good fit. If my son were upset every time we dropped him off, that would be much harder to deal with and would make me far less comfortable with the whole thing. But, as it is, he’s thriving!
4. My mental health has improved
For me, going back to work has greatly improved my mental health and made me a better mom. After suffering from postpartum depression, going back to work full-time has given me the space to rekindle the parts of myself not wrapped up in motherhood.
I’m able to be more present when I am with my son and more fully appreciate our time together. All parents are different, and while some thrive staying at home full-time, others may find they need to work outside the home—either for financial reasons or because working makes them more calm, patient and happy. ?
5. The more positive relationships in my son’s life, the better
Best of all, it’s clear how much Jane adores my son and all the children in her care. Before going back to work, I thought I may feel sad should my son develop a strong attachment to anyone other than me. But, now, seeing how much he loves his daycare provider makes my heart swell.
I want to do everything I can to foster any and all positive relationships in his life, and instead of seeing his relationship with his daycare provider as any kind of threat to my bond with him, I see my son’s daycare provider as another influential role model to show him love and help him feel safe.
For our family the pros of daycare outweigh the cons, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t drawbacks. It is expensive, and for that reason alone it is often out of reach for too many families, especially those with more than one child. I sometimes struggle with the guilt that I’m not there enough for my son—a feeling all too familiar in motherhood regardless of the choice to work outside the home or not. And while I love my job, I do sometimes miss my son and am grateful for the photos his daycare provider sends me throughout the day.
It’s difficult to strike a balance between the many roles I take on each day, but knowing my son is in good hands gives me the freedom to focus on my work. Knowing he is thriving and well cared for in my absence is truly a blessing.