Forty years ago, less than half of women returned to the labor force following the birth of their children, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. For many of our own mothers, the decision that accompanied pregnancy was whether to return to work or take up the task of full time child rearing. Today, over 70% of mothers are in the labor force. Following the end of maternity leave (if you are even lucky enough to have one!), the choice facing most women is no longer whether to work or stay at home. For many of us working mothers, the largest decision we face has become whom will we trust to take care of our precious children while we work. Will we trust our children in the hands of one nanny? Or would we prefer a daycare center where our little ones are surrounded by several carers and other children?
And if I am being really honest, I worried that my son would grow to love a nanny more than me.
My daycare experience was excellent. I loved that my son was being socialized at a young age by playing with other babies. I actually thought it was good for him (and ultimately me) that his needs could not be met the instant he started crying because there were seven other babies in the room with him also requiring attention. I was satisfied that given the number of care givers in the center, and a wonderful and very involved center director, there was the constant supervision and oversight that was such an important factor for me in choosing daycare care. There was also the added convenience of not having to worry about scrambling to find childcare when a caregiver fell ill or moved on to another job, as at the center there were always other care givers around to step in. And I loved the extra time I got to spend together with my son commuting, and relished my time with him during the lunch hours that I could manage to get away from work for 45 minutes for a quick cuddle.
And yet at the same time, I was tormented by the revolving door of illnesses that my son suffered during his first year in daycare being surrounded by so many other children. I was sometimes concerned that so much time was spent by his care givers tending to the basic needs of eight babies (feeding, diapering, settling, feeding, diapering, settling, etc.), that not enough individual personal attention was paid to playing and entertaining any of the babies. I was frustrated that there seemed to be a revolving door of staff, which made me feel like he wasn’t developing a close enough bond with any one care giver. And I was EXHAUSTED, having to get up over an hour and a half earlier each day to get us both ready to go, and schlepping a baby and his accoutrements on the New York City subway system during rush hours twice a day. Not to mention the cleaning and preparation which occurred each evening just to make the morning go more smoothly.
So basically, the reasons I liked having my son in daycare were the exact reasons I didn’t. Conundrum!
Daycare centers can be a wonderful, and often more affordable, option for working parents. There are excellent centers that can provide your children with a loving and nurturing environment, while stimulating and socializing your children at a young age. But the use of a daycare center often does mean more work for mom and dad as they struggle to get out the door each morning. Ultimately for most parents, financial considerations will likely be the primary factor in deciding whether to use a nanny or daycare, but it’s a not a decision made lightly in any event.
How did you decide whether to put your child in a daycare center or with a nanny? If you did decide to go to daycare route, what do you see as the biggest pros and cons for your choice? What is your advice for helping first time moms decide?