I became pregnant with my baby boy, Fox, when I was 31 years old. I had a successful branding and consulting business with creative clients from all over the world. I often traveled for work and was making really great money, especially for the amount of freedom and flexibility I had in my schedule. During my pregnancy, I became obsessed with the philosophies of what I now know as “attachment” parenting. This included everything from home birthing, to co-sleeping and baby-wearing, to exclusively breastfeeding, followed by baby-led weaning. The parenting experts I trusted were telling me how important mother-baby bonding was for the first couple years of life and I believed them. I often felt resentful that growing my family and growing my career were happening in tandem, and I secretly hoped that I would want to sacrifice my growing career for domestic bliss. But at six weeks postpartum I started missing my work. I loved my little bundle of joy but I also loved my work and missed feeling like a boss.
I decided that I did in fact want to work and that I couldn’t juggle the roles of mom and boss at the same time. I found myself Googling things like “why day care is amazing.” I read article after article that assumed most moms would prefer to stay at home with their child and shared tips for moms on how to find a day care that wouldn’t kill their child or spouted off developmental facts to ease the fears of reluctant moms. But what was missing from these articles was acknowledgment that moms are human beings with complex needs and emotions when it comes to childcare – facts are great but a little bit of authentic support would have been helpful too. At the same time I had well-meaning friends and peers asking me if I was going to work from home with the baby or quit work altogether. (I think it’s fair to note here that nobody was asking my husband about his career plans now that he had a baby to care for – but that’s another column for another day). So not only was the internet telling me how sad day care was, but there were subtle social cues at play sending me a nuanced message that day care was the least desirable of all my options. I was confused and full of self-doubt.
I realized if I was going to find the permission and validation I craved, that day care was a right choice for me and my family, it wasn’t going to happen via Google. I knew if I wanted to find the article on why day care is amazing I would have to write it myself. So here we are. My son is now 2.5 years old and I genuinely love day care. My son goes to a facility that is pretty typical of a reputable childcare center. While I might prefer something a bit more “crunchy hippie” (the food is far from organic, the books are weathered around the edges and the toys are 100 percent plastic), the love and care my son receives from his tribe are beyond words.
I’m writing this column for the mom who is craving the time and space to learn a new skill, go back to school, explore a talent she has a knack for, use an expertise she already has, or simply wants to work and is thinking about day care as an option to carve out that time and space. Speaking as a new mom who’s figuring it out as she goes, just like you, here are just a few reasons why day care is awesome:
Day care is an investment.
I know a lot of women who get frustrated that day care eats up a large portion of their earnings and ask themselves “why bother?” There are a couple points I think are worth mentioning here. First, unless you are a single mom day care is a shared household expense between both parents. Second, think of day care as an investment rather than an expense. If your job makes you happy, you will see a return on the cost of childcare – at work and at home.
It takes a village. But, no really.
We’ve all heard the proverb it takes a village to raise a baby. But it’s just another cliché until it comes to actually trusting your village and asking them for help, whether that’s friends, family or a day care to share in bringing up your baby. Look, I had very clear ideas of how I wanted to raise my baby and I assumed, as his mom, I knew best. But it turns out my tribe also knows what’s best. Letting go and giving my community the opportunity to step-up in raising my baby has taught me so many lessons. Not only has it given me the opportunity to see other ways of child-rearing that work just as well, if not better, than my own limited views, it has also eased the unfair pressure of having to be everything, including the perfect mom, to my child.
It’s actually awesome having someone else raise your baby!
“But I didn’t have a baby so someone else could raise it.” This is something I hear from a lot of stay-at-home moms (especially in the comment section of the aforementioned articles I Googled) and I totally get it. But the truth is, for those of us who need or want to choose an alternative, no matter who takes part in helping you with childcare, you are still the mom. Nobody will love your baby like you love your baby. Nobody will replace the bond you have with your child no matter how long your workday is. Besides, it’s actually awesome having someone else help you raise your baby! My son’s day care teacher, Miss Ashley, spends her day painting, dancing, reading, and playing with the children. And you guys, she’s even potty training my kid! I feel like I’ve won the lottery.
Your day care providers are real people who really love your kid too.
When you’re thinking about day care it’s easy to think of it as this nameless, faceless facility void of the love you have for your child. But the truth is – your child’s day care provider is going to form their own special bond with your baby. Fox’s teacher often sends me texts throughout the day with updates or pictures of what my kiddo is up to (especially if he’s had a “first” moment – like when he pooped in the potty the other day). She misses him on the weekend and he’s always excited to see her on Monday morning. What I’ve learned through the experience is that my son’s love for his teacher doesn’t negate or take away from his love for me. There is enough love to go around and in a lot of ways, I believe that by sending my kid to day care I’m increasing his capacity to love and be loved.
It’s not always perfect and that’s okay too.
I mean, even parenthood has its days where you’d rather be 24 years old and backpacking Europe again. So, there are days or seasons where day care isn’t great. Like maybe your kid has a teacher he doesn’t connect with. Or maybe you feel like your child is a petri dish of illness and is snotty more often than he isn’t. Maybe there are days when your babe cries for you when you leave. Even worse is when your child saves his hard emotions, bad moods and total meltdowns just for you. Sometimes I get resentful when my life isn’t a perfect picture I can post to Instagram but … that’s life! The fact that I can teach my child at a young age that it’s not always easy but we’re resilient and choose gratitude over guilt… well, that makes me feel like a good mom.
In closing, day care is awesome. Having the opportunity to build my creative career while my child is thriving with his tribe … it's a win-win situation. The last thing I want to share is that no decision is permanent and no choice you make has to be black and white. A growing child is constantly evolving, as are your needs as a parent. You can try different things and see what works! The main thing I want you to know is that day care is an awesome option and if you’re interested in trying it choose gratitude over mom-guilt.
Kathleen Shannon co-hosts Being Boss, a podcast for creative entrepreneurs, and owns Braid Creative & Consulting. She currently lives in Oklahoma City with her husband and their two year old son, Fox. Learn more about her child care experiences at her blog, andkathleen.com.