Day Care, Mom’s Vacation, and the Incredible Lightness of America’s Child Rearing Theories

I was over at Grumpy Rumblings this morning, where I came across nicoleandmaggie’s latest Deliberately Controversial Post. They ask if it’s right (or not) to keep on dropping your kids at day care when you’re on vacation, at one point citing the example of a child who realizes what’s up and is unhappy because he doesn’t get a vacation from the institution where he’s being warehoused.

Naturally this elicits a great string of commentary, much of it pretty entertaining and much of it pretty interesting. Several women remarked that since they’re paying for day care five days a week, they’re most certainly going to use it. Others snorted at the idea that the brats will be scarred for life if they’re left in a day care center for a few more days, willy-nilly.

Grumpy Rumblings has that WordPress comment function that forces you to sign in to enter a comment. I don’t wish to comment as English 235 PVCC, but I would like to add a little rant to the conversation. As follows:

Well. You are paying for it. Good reason to make your kid miserable, hm?

Seriously, IMHO it depends on your child and her attitude toward being institutionalized five days a week. Some kids love it. Some don’t. My son was utterly miserable and sick all the time in what was said to be the best day care center in the city. Fortunately for him, I happened to walk in the door just as he was climbing onto a makeshift table cobbled together by balancing an old door across the backs of two plastic kiddie chairs — he and the door tumbled down on top of a little girl before I could reach him. We left and never returned; I took him back to his old sitters in the neighborhood, which cost more but was sure as He!! worth it. He soon threw off the chronic infections he’d had since I enrolled him in the place, and his whole attitude changed. For the better.

And yes, when I was not physically at work, I did leave him with those women, each of whom watched two to four kids in her home — it allowed me to get a lot done and to unwind from the demanding and sometimes unpleasant job of mothering as well as from my paid work.

IMHO we too often fail to put ourselves in our children’s shoes; videlicet the idea [alluded to in nicoleandmaggie’s post] that you should tell kids how they’re feeling. How would you like some patronizing fool to tell you what’s going on in your head? Similarly, how would you like to be locked up in a day-care center, coming home sick with every bug in circulation, so that you’re literally never feeling well? If your child isn’t bothered by this, by all means leave the kid there when you’re on vacation — you work hard and you do deserve a break. But if she is bothered by it, maybe she’s trying to tell you something.

But then…we often fail to put ourselves in anyone else’s shoes, eh? It’s part of the human condition.

What do you think of this conundrum? Go on over to Grumpy Rumblings and add to the fray! 🙂

14 thoughts on “Day Care, Mom’s Vacation, and the Incredible Lightness of America’s Child Rearing Theories”

  1. Thanks for the link! The actual is it ok post was over at mothers in medicine–ours is more focused on not making a big deal over things that aren’t big deals.

    If you want to comment w/o logging in, I think you just leave the website part blank.

  2. Ps sounds like that daycare sucked. Some do. Many don’t. I’m pretty sure that most of the women on our blog and at Mim have done their due diligence in picking out childcare. (And no doubt pay extra for smaller teacher ratios etc). And slight fussiness at drop off does not indicate a bad daycare, especially when accompanied by slight fussiness at pickup as there often is among kids who aren’t crazy about transitions.

    • At the time, daycare in general hereabouts did suck.

      I was working at the Great Desert University, editing a research newsletter. We did bang around a great deal trying to find a good, clean, learning-centered daycare. Two surfaced as the best.

      A good friend whose kids were in one of them invited me to a school shindig. During this event I heard one of the “teachers” ask another staff member if pneumonia was contagious. “No,” the other said. “Pneumonia is just pneumonia. It’s not catching.” So a kid with pneumonia whose mom needed to get him off her hands would be allowed to stay at the daycare.

      That kind of basic grade-school ignorance put me off, so we put him in the other center, which a number of faculty members and their wives believed to be the best facility on the East Side and probably in the entire Valley. Hence: constant sickness, a filthy bathroom up to your ankles in dirty water all over the floor, and lunches of Spaghetti-Os.

      I think a two-year-old is just too young to be put into one of those places, and today I wouldn’t do it unless my back was absolutely against the wall. Some women’s are, no question…and that is not a good thing.

      Later, when he was about four, we put him at a much respected Montessori school. And that did work out exceptionally well. It was clean, the teachers had measurable IQs, and the school also offered day-care that extended until one could get off one’s job. He liked going there, and in fact continued to enjoy going to school for the rest of his educational career.

      By “miserable,” I’m not talking about fussing at drop-off and pick-up. I’m talking about MISERABLE. It’s important not to blow off signs of real unhappiness with light terms like “fussy.” Sometimes crying and resistance actually do have meaning.

      No, we don’t want to make coddled eggs out of our little saints, but we should remain aware of their emotional and psychological status.

    • I’m fairly sure that most folks can tell when their kids are miserable vs. fussy, though they may not be able to tell when other parents’ kids are miserable vs. fussy. And you can read stuff about transitions and why kids are fussy when mom leaves and are perfectly happy once she’s gone and they’ve transferred to daddy or the daycare provider or whoever they consider to be the next best caregiver. Or with older kids, why they fuss both going to daycare and leaving from daycare.

      I hope you’re not saying that all of our readers who use high quality center daycare for kids below the age of two are doing horrible things to their children. Because our kids grew out of their nanny/mother’s helper situation long before one year old and were in desperate need of additional stimulation. Obviously if you don’t have good childcare options, then that’s a problem. And it’s a problem in a society that doesn’t subsidize childcare for people who can’t afford low student-teacher ratios and trained teachers.

      And as for sickness, kids get sick and then they build up immunities. DC2 got sick earlier and younger than DC1 not because of daycare, but because of DC1. Therefore when ze started with daycare we were able to avoid that initial bout of sickness. Also, I’m not a doctor, but pneumonia is no longer contagious once it’s treated with antibiotics a certain amount of time, or at least that’s what I remember from my childhood (a brief internet search backs that up).

    • @ nicoleandmaggie: Oh, god: I wish I could say that I know, but I don’t. As you look back, you realize more and more that you didn’t know then and you don’t know now: even hindsight casts an illusory light on life and the decisions you make.

      You think you know, for example, the difference between fussiness and misery. But then one day, 20 or 30 years hence, your child, a grown man, tells you that his earliest memory is of pacing disconsolately along the storm fence around the daycare playground, alone and praying that you would come, please come soon. And then you understand: you didn’t know then and you don’t know now.

      Truly, I hope you never have this moment in your future and that none of your colleagues and contemporaries do. But as a practical matter, my friend, I know you will.

      If there’s a god, may She help us all.

  3. Ooooh, videlicet! Never heard the word before, sigh, had to look it up.

    I’ll probably still go with viz, but thank you for the new word!

    My kids were taken care of: first by a friend from high school, then when she quit, during a summer, by a high schooler, then the high schoolers’ Mom, who started potty training no. 1, we stayed friends with the family and my kids did overnights and weekends with them! Then when we moved and my hubby went to college, by neighbors, who thankfully potty trained no. 2 and taught them to ride bikes!! And stayed friends with them for quite a while. Then had a few less than best sitters. Then moved and got to enjoy a program sponsored by the grade school they went to, which was very affordable, where they learned to swim and went on skiing trips and other day trips. Then they were on their own for the hour before school and the hour after school, with phone calls from me. All in all, we/they had more good times than bad.
    Oh my, another rambling response with run-on sentences [and probably, bad punctuation [LOL].

    • I love that! It really takes a village, doesn’t it?

      “Less than best sitters”…yes! Someday I’ll have to tell the story of Ninette. 😀 One of the great (but extremely well meaning) less than best sitters of the Western world, she was.

  4. Ahhh Day care…after health care probably one of the biggest domestic challenges of our Country. DW and I went thru this over 30 years ago with DD1…and were blind sided with the cost of day care. DW ran the numbers and it actually made more financial sense for her to be a full time Mom.We did enroll DD1 in a stellar pre-school for the social and educational aspects…excellent school and staff with matching invoice to boot. As memory serves the kid chose if she wanted to attend school over the “vacation days”. The crazy thing is that same DD now has children of her own and I have heard her state…”we’re paying for it…he’s going”. It would appear that her child doesn’t get a vote….Not a fan…but I get no vote. Which is why I spend zero time with DD1 and her lovely DH…

    • Yup. It’s SO expensive, you actually can understand the logic, in a way. At one point, while our kids were in Montessori preschool, one of the other mothers observed that for what we were paying we could have been sending the kids to the UofA medical school!

      When I went to work for Arizona Highways, it was a state job and so they couldn’t discriminate against me on the basis of my gender — it was the first time I’d ever earned an actual living wage. (This does reveal my age, doesn’t it!) We were so thrilled at the amount I was earning, we figured we could hire a housekeeper/nanny to come in about noon, clean up the house, pick up the kid after school (by then he was about in the second grade), and maybe even start dinner. After much searching and interviewing, we hired this lady through a service. She earned minimum wage: it was more than half my gross pay.

      Since my husband was among the top 3% of US earners, my salary pushed us into a bracket that took almost half of my pay, too.

      Thus my “career” became an expensive hobby. We netted almost nothing from my job.

      And yes. Financially we probably would have been better off if I’d stayed home. Or if we’d divorced at that time and kept living together, so only one of our salaries would have been taxed at that rate.

  5. As a daycare provider I find all these comments so interesting. I have a small home daycare, my youngest 2 kids 1 &4, are here plus 4-8 extras, depending on the day. I only charge when the the kids are there so my situation is a bit different. I sometimes get annoyed when parents drop their kids off when they aren’t at work, the kids usually know or sense it and behave accordingly. I probably wouldn’t get so annoyed but it is very difficult for me to get time off from daycare kids let alone my own so I guess it might be a little jealousy

    • To this day, 30 years later, I’m so grateful to the three wonderful women who provided daycare for my son, with several other kids. He had no brothers and sisters, and so letting him be at homes like yours helped him, so very much, to learn to get along and share and think considerately about other young people. The women who cared for him had raised successful young adults of their own, and they helped me to learn something about what’s entailed in that. These things passed beyond “services” to true gifts.

      Thank you!

  6. Somewhat related: on a road trip to visit family for Thanksgiving – driving through a small town we passed by a main street business with this sign:


    Doesn’t sound real nurturing!

  7. I think there is a struggle between working mothers and SAHMs that is built upon guilt. I feel that guilt is largely self-imposed but I guess most guilt is lol.

    SAHMs feel like they aren’t adding to the bottom line of the family while judging working moms for not being home enough. Working moms feel like they are deserting their children while judging SAHMs for not living outside their children.

    The most interesting part to me is that this is all a relatively new speed bump in society…can’t be more than a discussion that is 40 or 50 years old.

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