The Daycare Dilemma: Part 1

DaycareDilemma

I’m incredibly fortunate to have so many choices when it comes to childcare. Because of this my options ranged from stay-at-home to work-from-home to hiring a nanny to putting my baby in daycare. Each option has its pros and cons. And as I explored each one I found myself flooded with self-doubt and guilt.

Ultimately, I found myself leaning towards daycare. It seemed to be the most straightforward and financially sound solution for our family. So why did I feel so bad about it? I scoured the internet for pro-daycare articles but came up short. Everything made it seem like a necessary evil and ultimate compromise for women who would much rather stay-at-home.

So I called on Rebecca Egbert for help. I first met Rebecca when she took all three of our Braid ECourses and quickly realized we were kindred spirits. Rebecca is a former midwife and maternal health expert who launched her own business working as what I call a “momma coach” for successful women who need help transitioning into parenthood. (P.S. Yes, I have since hired Rebecca. I wish every new mama had one-on-one access to her – it’s the best decision I’ve made in a long time. But more on that later.)

Six weeks in to my maternity leave I sent Rebecca this email with the intention of sharing it with you all who may be struggling with the same issues. This is a long post so I’m going to share behind the cut (for those of you who aren’t interested in my baby-momma drama).

To: Rebecca Egbert
From: Kathleen
Subject: Daycare Dilemma

Dear Rebecca,

So starting off let me tell you a little bit about me. I waited until 31 to have my first baby. Prior to that I went on adventures with my husband such as trekking to Mt. Everest Base Camp and backpacking across Eastern Europe. After growing up as an award-winning graphic designer in the ad industry I launched my own successful business with my sister doing consulting, branding, and coaching with creative entrepreneurs. And then I had a baby – his name is Fox.

I’m 6 weeks into this new adventure and everything everyone said was true: it’s the hardest thing but the most rewarding. I’m lucky that my husband took 5 weeks of paternity leave with me. But I’m shocked at how many friends, family, acquaintances, and pediatricians ask me if I’ll be going back to work. (I try not to take offense that they’re not asking my husband the same.) I love my job. It lives in me. So yes, I’ll be going back to work. That said, I’ve been 100% mom for the past 6 weeks. I love my son something fierce, but I miss my work. My heart and my ego are at odds with each other and I’m confused as to how to make sense of all of it. I am privileged with the choice that many women don’t have. Our household income is such that I could stay at home. I also have a flexible situation that would allow me to work from home. That said, I know I’m a good mom and I know I’m a passionate business woman – but I know I can’t give both the attention they deserve at the same time.

So now I’m looking at daycare. When I tour the facilities I get a little sad – probably with the same questions and thoughts that are typical to any first time moms who turn to daycare for help. What if I drop Fox off and he thinks I’ve abandoned him? What if he starts crying and doesn’t understand why I’m not there to make it better? Is this the best choice for the long-term well-being of my kiddo? And then the big questions: is it worth it? Should I maybe sacrifice the career I’ve built from the ground up for my kid who means the world to me?

What do you think? I would love to hear your experience with working moms who send their kids to daycare. What kinds of issues do they have to balance and weigh?

Love,
Kathleen

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To: Kathleen
From: Rebecca Egbert
Subject: RE: Daycare Dilemma

Kathleen,

Here I go…Let me begin by telling you that I have spent my adult life “practicing” how to improve and empower the lives of women, mainly through women’s health and Midwifery. For a stint in my 20’s, I also lead backcountry wilderness expeditions for women and girls, and I was an educator. When I started my own Midwifery practice, and after my patients “graduated” from care, I would hear from them months down the line and their stories would be about struggle, relationship issues, and issues about how they walk in their new role. These calls would make me reel, as part of a system that really is doing a horse-shit job (on the large spectrum) of taking care of it’s women and moms. Over time, with an innovative, research-oriented, creative mind I thought, “It’s time to start a new ‘practice’ in the postpartum years. I have to do better for moms and their health.”

When I read your note, my verbal response was, “Well, yah…” It’s going to be really hard to give both your family and your career the same amount of time and dedication you gave prior to Fox’s birth. I don’t think it’s actually achievable until your kids are older, like teenage older. Nobody will tell you that though, unless you get them talking from a vulnerable place. The first years post-natal/postpartum are the ones we see, clinically, that kick a career passionate and driven woman’s ass the most. But, if you start taking care of yourself (emotional, mental, physical and soulfully) where the providers leave off early on in your postpartum years the stress, anxiety, and postpartum depression we’re seeing, especially in working moms, in this country will start to dissipate.

You see, I read the book Maxed Out the first week it came out. I was blown away by Katrina’s story, because she intensely describes the feelings she had when she’d drop her daughter Ruby off at daycare. She would drop her off, commute to work in the city and spend her day focusing on how Ruby was and not be able to clearly focus on her work. If Katrina would have come to my office and asked me if this was normal, I would have answered, “Yes, it is normal, and it’s your new normal but we can work with it if you do the work, and do it early.” My mom always told me a story about this NICU nurse who said to her, “Having a baby is like putting legs on your heart and spending the rest of your life chasing after it.” You will always wonder if you did enough, are enough, and love wholeheartedly. Your hardest work you will do as a mom is all about trust. Trusting you, trusting the transformation, trusting the container and boundaries you create for your little ones will help them grow to be successful adults. Trusting that your kids are making good choices, because of how you nurtured their growth. That trusting thing…it’s the hard work of motherhood.

Remember, this first decision of “which daycare do I choose” is just the beginning of a long list of decisions you’re going to help this little man make. Yes, it’s your responsibility right now to ensure he’s safe and loved. That overwhelming sense of responsibility is also your new normal, and it doesn’t go away. So, ask around…Ask all your momma friends and mentors who have gone here before, how they made their decisions and why.

I’m a daycare kid, my kids will be daycare kids, and I definitely appreciate the daycare world. Focusing on the theme of trust and I’m going to dip into some biology here…The area of the brain used for reasoning doesn’t start doing the work of “rationalization” until a child is older, like 5 or 6. So your question on whether or not Fox will feel abandoned, neurologically that part of his brain isn’t developed. What he knows about trust and love right now is based from these physiologic/neurologic truths: You and Jeremy’s heartbeats are like his world, that sound is trust and he knows your rhythm better than you. Every time you hold him close to you, after a big day of work and daycare, both of you will receive a shot of Oxytocin and trust will come back. He will “think” I am safe and in my momma’s (or daddy’s) arms. Your smell, oh my gawd, he loves your pheromones even more than Jeremy does (get used to it daddy’s). When you whiff him, you think you’ve gone to heaven. If you have given him love and a safe environment in these early weeks, he gets around you and butterflies run through his veins. He is in heaven – safety dance heaven. I’m serious. Trust, trust, trust. And your touch. The way you held him when you greeted him, the first words you whispered to him when he was born – he may kick your ass mentally 8 months from now – but those first minutes told him he made a good choice. Your touch will always reconnect the two of you and remind you that you’re both safe and loved. More trust is developed in your bond.

So, when you drop him off on his first day of daycare he may cry. It will most likely break your heart into a million pieces. However, if you’ve interviewed daycares and you have chosen a place that gives you a gut feeling that he is safe, well-cared for and you trust the staff, your worries will eventually dissolve. Trust, which is developed and nourished in our limbic brain (the seat of our emotional center), will help the fierce mother in you make a decision that feel both right for you and your whole family. Katrina’s daycare provider said to her one day after her massive breakdown/panic attack (and this part of the book made me sob for women), “Your children are your heart, let me take care of your heart.” The right environment will care for you as much as they care for your kid. If I was you, I’d look for that place and wouldn’t stop until you find it.

As far as sacrificing your career, that really has to be up to you. My question: Is it worth it to your health (mental, physical, spiritual, and intellectual) to sacrifice something you love and created prior to becoming a mom that totally fuels you, moves you and even rocks your world? Is it worth it to you and is it worth it to Fox, and your family’s health? That’s the life-long question and no answer is perfect, it’s work.

I want to start here, and I’m going to pass the torch to Maggie now. She has been my inspiration as a modern-day daycare dweller. Her kids LOVE their daycare and she trusts them, inside and out. She can help answer the questions I didn’t touch in our first exchange, specifically, “Is it worth it?”

Big Love!
Rebecca

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To: Kathleen
From: Maggie
Subject: RE: Daycare dilemma

Hi Kathleen,

I am finally sitting down at my computer while my littlest still naps and before my older one gets home from ski lessons. The ever-elusive 5 minutes uninterrupted.

First of all, thanks for including me in such an eloquent and lyrical conversation about the real challenges you are facing as a new mom. Both you and Rebecca have perfectly summarized what I consider to be the most difficult double bind of becoming a mom while still being passionate about your career. I know this conflict first hand. I have lived with it, fought with it, cried with it and tried to pretend that it doesn’t exist. Some days it clobbers me. Other days I feel like I am “Leaning In” just perfectly. I could probably write for days about the myriad of ways that I have bumped up against this bind and come away with a new perspective. My experience is definitely a work in progress. Though I am only 5 years in with my oldest, I am beginning to believe that parenting itself will always be a work in progress. As you are probably already discovering, the second that you think you have figured something out, it all changes.

and the baby wakes… to be continued.

So, that was Sunday, and I am finally sitting down to pick up where I left off, and it is Wednesday. Really? I just dropped off my kids at daycare and am sitting down at my computer. I am a daycare believer. For our family, it has worked. That said, the one thing I am absolutely certain about is that there is no right way to do anything when it comes to your choices as a parent (the obvious things like feeding your baby mountain dew in a bottle aside). I am lucky enough to have an amazing older sister that has 3 boys. She is a fantastic mom and a priceless resource, so I definitely turned to her, as well as other moms, as well as books, as well as internet…. But what I have found is that you really need to listen to your deep intuition to determine what is right for your family. For me, I needed to keep working from a financial perspective, but I also have learned that I really need to keep my mind engaged in something. I am truly and fundamentally a much better mom when I am doing the things that make me my best self. Even if that means a little less time with the kiddos. My core tenet is quality over quantity. I have learned this the hard way, as I worked full time from home with my first child at home with me while running my own business. Total recipe for disaster. I found that I didn’t do anything I wanted to do very well. My work suffered. My mood suffered. My health suffered. My relationship suffered. And ultimately, my family suffered. When I finally got over the unfounded guilt I had associated with daycare and dropped my little one off so that I could work, the fog lifted. It was amazing how dramatically my overzealous multitasking had affected my life. The ability to focus on one thing at a time is a gift that we all should continue to use as a point of relativity in our lives. What I found was that my little one thrived at daycare and learned so much as a social creature. (Not going to lie…I read Bringing Up Bebe, and repeatedly told myself that all-day daycare is the norm provided by the government in France.) The transition was hard. But I can honestly say that it was hardest for me. And that was because my heart was out there in the world being cared for by someone else. I don’t think that it was really that hard for my babe. It has been his normal, and he hasn’t known any different.

When I had my second one in 2012, we already knew that he would be going to daycare at 6 weeks. I struggled with postpartum depression with number 2, and it took some time to get back on my feet. The fact that I had the support of a daycare I was comfortable with was a gift. Having worked through the struggle of being a working mom with 2 little ones, I can truly say that the most important shift for me was to abandon the old mindset that I had collected somewhere along the way that I had to put myself last in order to be a good mom. Not sure why our mom culture has so ardently attached to the martyr concept, but I think it is a total disservice. Because I spent time away from my little ones for work, I felt guilty spending any free moment doing anything for myself. I bumped up against the double bind every time I considered going to the gym or having a girls night. What a massive relief it was when my mindset shifted, and I began to believe that taking care of myself should be priority number one. I began to thrive in so many ways. And I now constantly remind myself that the most significant way that I can parent is to live in a way that I would want my children to live. To live with intention. They learn more from our example than anything else, and I don’t want my little ones to think they should sacrifice any part of themselves for any reason. I believe you can have it all as a working mom….it just looks really different than any of us thought.

So…to come full circle, you just have to listen to your gut about what is best for you and your family. Your babe is a magical and resilient little being, and he will thrive if you are thriving. If that means you need to dive back into the work you love, then do it. He will be there with open arms at the end of your day, and he will know that it is ok to follow your dreams. And most importantly, he will always know he is loved. Because you will tell him every day.

Hope there is a morsel of something helpful in all this. If anything, know that you are not alone and always feel free to reach out with any questions. There is a tribe growing….

xo
Maggie

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Wow. Receiving this generous support from these women was a game-changer. I can’t thank Rebecca and Maggie enough. Also, big shout-out to my sister and business partner who was been super supportive offline as well. I’m going to share more details in a couple weeks on Fox’s first few weeks at daycare and how it’s going (spoiler alert: so far, so good).

In the meantime, I want to hear from you. Have you struggled with the daycare decision? What has worked for you and your family? I know this can be a touchy subject, but like Maggie said in her letter – there is no single right way to parent – so let’s keep the conversation constructive, supportive, and respectful. I will not tolerate nor approve hateful or negative comments.

  1. FM

    We love daycare! I hate the narrative that a parent at home with their kid is the ideal, and anything else is second choice. I think in my family, two full time working parents and a kid in full day daycare is actually the best thing for all of us. She loves being with other kids all day, she loves her daycare teachers, she loves the activities they do, she loves the routine, she LOVES daycare. We love being a two-income family and doing non-kid things during the work day (although I wouldn’t say we love our jobs, but I had a long maternity leave and so I can say with some confidence that being an every-day all-day primary caregiver is NOT for me). I love that my kid knows that our lives are full of love for her and also filled with other things that aren’t her, and that she has lots of adults outside of her parents that she can trust and love. I don’t feel guilty or agonize about my kid being in daycare. I’m not saying there is anything wrong or unusual about feeling that way, but so few people talk about this without apologizing for thinking their kid in daycare is a good thing so I think it’s important to have that perspective out there.

    One thing I would say is that, like anything else, you can always change up what you’re doing if it doesn’t work for you or stops working for you. People (including us) get very worked over choosing the best daycare, but I think it’s important to keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to be stuck there if it turns out it’s not as good a match as you thought it would be. Of course, your access to other options will impact that, but I find it is very helpful to keep that in mind in life.

    I also think that daycare has been good for me as a parent because it helped me let go of control over certain things that were unnecessarily taking up my mental energy, and hearing about what they do with my daughter at daycare has helped me realize that she is ready for a next step before I thought she was. It has also allowed me to do certain things parenting-wise that would have made me nervous about creating crutches for my kid if I didn’t know she was ok without it at daycare. For example, I loved nursing her to sleep but would have worried I was creating a sleep issue, but since she was a great napper at daycare without nursing I was able to just enjoy that time.

    • YES. EXACTLY. To all of it.

      I love that you talk about things being able to change. I was so hung up on this Huge Decision that I forgot that I can always change my mind. Nothing is permanent.

  2. Ros

    The daycare-or-not question is really a US-centric one, for the most part.

    I’m currently in Quebec (and 37 weeks pregnant…) – our child will be going to daycare after my (year-long – thank you, Quebec) maternity leave. I went to daycare, as did my brother, my sister (gawd, she LOVED it), my husband, HIS sisters… My mother was actually one of the researchers responsible for putting together the current system of childcare in the province, and most kids go to daycare. It’s just considered the normal thing here.

    Daycares here are subsidized by the state, and child-care costs are tax-deductible. We’re also a society with fairly different values from the US (odd, considering we’re an hour drive from the US border…). Given the state subsidies (and inspections) of daycares, and the different social culture (most French-Canadian couples don’t get married, people don’t go to church… overall, we lean pretty independent and left-wing – and, frankly, you’re not gonna stay home if there’s no cultural pressure to and you gotta earn money) the emphasis isn’t so much on “women should stay at home” (’cause most women don’t!) as it is on “make sure your child is taken care of and that you’re able to provide for your child and be a good parent while you’re there”. If we look at other countries – I’m most familiar with France, given my cultural heritage – daycares (“les creches”) are almost an essential part of childhood, and pretty much all children go to some form of out-of-home care. Women work. That’s just how things are.

    I think FM’s comment above about choosing the RIGHT daycare is right on the nose.

    Also, though, looking at my childhood: I think there’s something valuable to a child growing up knowing that they’re very important to their parents, but that they are not the ONLY important thing (there’s a really comment French expression people usually use for children “tu n’es pas le centre de l’univers” – you’re not the center of the universe – that sums that up). Growing up, I’ve never doubted that my mother loved me and cared for me, but there was also never a doubt that she was also important to other people and that she contributed things of value to more people than me, and that the things she was doing were important. Maybe I’m just pulling too much from my own experience, but I do think there’s value in a general awareness that everyone is part of a bigger system/circle, and that, while they’re also an important part of it, they’re not the center of it at all times. It’s the kids who haven’t absorbed that by the ages of 6 or 8 who are… somewhat more difficult to deal with, let’s just say.

    • Ros, yes. Now as a new mom I can see there are LOTS of US-centric issues and lack of support for women, in general, here in the states. It’s truly shocking.

      And pretty much “amen” to your whole comment. I couldn’t agree more with all of it.

  3. Emma

    I started sending my son to daycare at about 16 months, and I will say it was the best decision ever. Before that he was going with family, but it was someone different almost every day. I have a (boring) 9-5 job at a law office, so finding someone for that span of time 5 days a week for free was hard, and I felt like it was becoming a burden. Plus it was stressful for me to try finding someone the night before.

    Then Julian started going to daycare, and it was like a weight had lifted from me. I was sad to say goodbye every day, but it got easier once he realized he got love and food and extra toys and friends. Now he barely says goodbye to me! He has learned his ABCs, can almost count to 10, and sings a handful of songs really well. He’s so affectionate, and I know I can partially thank our provider for being so nurturing and sweet. Julian gets healthy meals at his daycare, and now I’ve noticed that he won’t even eat jonk at home because of it- awesome!

    I love daycare because it’s like having a third parent, someone on the outside that the kid might listen to better, someone whose opinions allow me to step back and think about things a little more. It’s nice to have that extra resource, especially as a new mom!

    It really is all about trust though, especially when you see so many terrible stories in the news about sitters that have abused kids. But it’s just important to follow your intuition and really do what you think is best!

    • Daycare was the best decision for us for that very reason. I wanted the flexibility it provided to know that I have a safe space for my kid to go at any time M-F between 6AM and 6PM.

      I think the news sensationalizes some of the abuse stories. I mean, yes it’s awful and happens but the amount of attention it gets on the news vs. how often it ACTUALLY happens is quite disproportionate. That said, it definitely played to my new mom hormone-driven fears and anxiety over the whole thing. This site helped me with some of that: http://www.freerangekids.com

  4. Margie

    I am fortunate enough to leave my son with my mom but it still breaks my heart every time I walk out that door. I’ve always said that working mom sometimes feels like a dirty word. It’s tough. You are supposed to be able to handle it all without flinching but hell, it’s tough, tough, tough. But, I have learned not to be so tough on myself. I’m human and I’m trying so, at the end of the day, my son is happy and I’m happy and the husband is happy. Up high, Kathleen. You and Jeremy are doing marvelously.

  5. Jessica

    This has been one of the hardest areas of my future life to deal with. I never went to daycare, my mom was home, her mom was home, and so on, so I have a lot of guilt not being able to do the same. But I love my career, and I need the mental balance and feeling of achievement it gives me to be a good parent, so there’s obviously the crux we all deal with.

    A year ago I took a job with a progressive virtual firm. It was, at the time, a dream come true because I thought I could have it all. Baby could stay with G’ma and G’pa a few days a week while I worked hard, etc. But the job turned out to be a nightmare (full of parents neglecting their children, very abusive etc) so I left. I’m back to office life, and now facing this reality that my kid will spend more time with his care providers in a week than he spends with me. Oh, my heart. :(

    • Olivia

      Jessica,
      I was in the same boat! I was the FIRST woman in my entire family to go back to work when my babe was an infant. My grandmothers didn’t work, my mom didn’t work. It’s hard…it seems unfair at times! But, because my mom didn’t work, it enabled her to watch my son while I work–she’s a SAHG! That situation works for me, even though I had never seen it played out in my family’s history.

    • Jessica,

      I’m going to post about this more in Part 2 but three huge things that have helped me cope with the time spent at daycare issue are:

      1. Breastfeeding. Feeding Fox after a long work day helps us find our way back to each other again. Also, it’s a bond just him and I have.

      2. Co-sleeping. It doesn’t work for everyone but it works for us. Being close to each other all night means that he is spending more time with me.

      3. Baby wearing. Taking Fox on a long walk or simply wearing him around the house gets us close and cozy.

      I know breastfeeding and co-sleeping can be hot topics or simply don’t work for everyone. So I would be curious to hear from other moms on how they reconnect with their babies after a long day.

      • Kristy

        I am also a new mom. My Ava is 4 months old and I completely relate to your “new” life. We send Ava to a smaller in home day care M-F, and some days I still get that awful feeling in my tummy and have to make myself go to work instead of running back to get her. I also breastfeed, co-sleep and wear Ava around almost every evening to reconnect with her (although just breastfeeding would be enough – I adore that time). I am struggling the most with the co-sleeping arrangement though. While I LOVE it I also miss cuddling with my husband. I miss our alone time. I was just wondering (if its not too personal) how you and your husband are handling that? Have you thought about how long you are going to co-sleep? Do you ever get alone time?

        BTW, Thanks for your blog – I love it. It is so real. :)

      • Beth

        My daughter is 18 months old and has been attending daycare full-time since the 11 month mark. I never thought I would BF past 1 year but I’ve found that I’m not ready to give it up. I still nurse Aria to sleep every night and sometimes at nap-time on the weekends exactly for the reason you state- it is the perfect way for us to reconnect at the end of the day. Quiet time that I dedicate just to her without worrying about dishes and laundry and vacuuming.

      • Heather

        I love co-sleeping for this very reason. I love getting to reconnect with our daughter at the end of the day snuggling in bed. So often her big brother needs a bit more attention in the morning and a good portion of the evening, so she doesn’t get a lot of one-on-one attention. Thankfully co-sleeping and baby wearing make it easier for me (and her dad) to stay close to her. I’m also okay with middle of the night feedings when the entire house is quiet and it’s just the two of us.

  6. Heather

    When we had our son, we were in a position where I could be a stay at home mom if I chose to do so. As much as I loved staying at home with my kiddo, I also knew myself and knew that I would not be happy staying at home all day. I don’t really have a career or an amazing job, but at the time we also lived in a small town that wasn’t near anything and I was struggling with some PPD. I knew I needed to get back to work and be around other people. We interviewed in-hom day cares, but ultimately went with a center, and while that first day was hard, as time progressed I knew we had made the right decision.

    As it would turn out, our son is extremely extroverted and he loves day care – always has. I love that he’s able to be social with other kids his age and he learns so much while he’s there. When our daughter was born, we knew that even if I wanted to, I couldn’t be a stay at home mom because our son thrives in day care and we couldn’t take that away from him. So, our daughter started at the same center at 6 weeks, and she’s as happy as a clam. I know she gets lots of snuggles and attention and while I feel like I don’t get as much time with either of my kids, I make the evenings and weekends count. Sure, our house isn’t as clean as it once was, but I’d rather spend time snuggling and playing when I do have time with the kiddos.

    I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m probably not cut out to be a SAHM. I don’t feel guilty about that, though, and I don’t feel like my kids are going to be worse off for being in day care – It’s what has worked best for our family. I have the utmost respect for moms who stay home, though. It’s not an easy job. I’m just thankful our family can afford day care for both kids.

    • Me too Heather. It took exactly a week alone with Fox after Jeremy went back to work to know that “stay at home mom” was not the job for me. Amen to women who can do it because that ish is hard.

      I also found that my spirits lifted as soon as I got back in touch with the things I love beyond my baby – like writing.

      Again, like Rebecca says if the mom is thriving the baby is thriving.

  7. Sarah

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the insightful responses from Maggie & Rebecca. I am a mom of 3 boys (9,9,5) and it is only recently that I have figured out that I am a far better mom when I am looking after myself. It has meant slowing work down a little to get myself in shape and healthy but I have also set boundaries of when I am working and when I am with the kids. I guess I am a late bloomer as a mom to only be figuring this all out now but letting go of trying to be a super hero for everyone else and taking the time for myself has made our whole family happier. I truly identified with this post – thank you.
    PS – all my kids were daycare kids and I wouldn’t have done it any differently.

    • Isn’t it sad that there isn’t more discussion on self-care for mommas?

      I actually take time to workout and meditate while Fox is at daycare. Some people might see this as extremely selfish but I think it’s the best gift I can give to Fox and my family.

  8. Julie

    I love the words of advice you were given. I wish I had this when I tried to explain to my friends, who mostly decided to stay home, why daycare was the right option for me and my family when they looked at me like I was crazy for going back to work. I knew that working would make me a better mom. There are a ton biological, social, and psychological benefits to daycare and they should get more positive press. Thanks!

    • I’m shocked by how many people get an instant sad face when I tell them Fox is in daycare. I think they’re well-meaning and are just used to moms being super sad about it. And that’s what I was expecting – so I was pleasantly surprised when I wasn’t sad about taking my baby to daycare. So now I’m sure to respond to the sad faces with “No, actually – it’s totally awesome. You should try it!”

      • Megan

        Ha. I switched to freelancing last October and work from home — so everyone assumes the baby is home with me. I respond the same way as you do. I feel lucky that we love our daycare, that our baby thrives there, and that it gives me time to do what I love (including working out). Also? Daycare picks are AWESOME. So fun to reconnect with him at the end of the day (and agree that breastfeeding is also bonding for those who choose to/are able).

        I love this topic and how respectfully everyone is contributing.

  9. Christa

    I also really struggled with where to put our daughter knowing how much I really wanted to continue to work and how much I truly cared for her and her well being. I think my daughter goes to the same center as your nephew (or where he used to go – not sure if he still does). I cannot believe how often I am validated in our decision to send her to SLCC. That “daycare” which really is a cover for an amazing pre-school has done more for our daughter than I could have ever done as a stay at home mom. I’m not trying to belittle myself, but I know my strengths and weaknesses.

    When my 3 year old comes home talking to me about pentagons and hexagons, complex information about animals and food I am constantly amazed. She is learning things that I would have never thought to teach her. I watch her around other children and see that she is not suffering by my lack of being at home – rather she is thriving. She has social skills far above and beyond other kids her age and is extremely intelligent. While I know some of those traits can come naturally to some children, I cannot give enough credit to her teachers and the center where she spends time.

    I have a large group of friends that are moms and I am only 1 of 2 out of the group of about 28-30 that continues to work after having a kid. 2 out of 30 that still work. There are times that is frustrating to me. While they say they do not judge, I think they still do. And then I remember it isn’t about them or what they think or don’t think. And to be honest, they probably aren’t judging. It’s about me and my husband and it’s about my kid. And what we are doing right now is working out really, really well. I won’t have the chance in 15 years to do the things I am doing now if I skip out at this point in my career. There are so many benefits for our family for me to continue in my current path. No one is suffering. One of the only downsides I face is the occasional twinge of guilt I get but I’ve decided that I impose that on myself based on what I think other people think – and really, who gives a damn?

    I fully support both sides of the issue here. I can see no greater benefit to a family than to do what is actually best for your own family. For my family – this is what works and I am proud of our decision to do what was best for us – not what I thought other people thought we should do. I quickly realized for our situation it wasn’t an issue of what I wanted – it’s what I thought others wanted me to do. I hope you find this was the best choice for your family too – and if it wasn’t – you’ll find it. Either way – once you have found your sync – just be proud of it.

    • Christa,
      We’re still on the wait list there but Fox is going to one of SLCC’s other daycares. (I won’t mention here for privacy / safety reasons).

      My sister was a huge positive factor in me deciding to send Fox to daycare because of her kids’ really positive experiences at SLCC. It definitely helps to have recommendations from other moms on good places to send your kid.

      Also… if anything, I bet your friends are more jealous of you than judge-y. Ha! Not really, but I now have a deeper understanding of how hard it really is to stay at home. It’s truly a job. I also think people don’t have room to judge when you stand in your own decisions with unapologetic confidence.

      My dilemma came from not knowing what I wanted. And really, not knowing what to expect. Now that I’m “in it” I can see much more clearly what’s right for my family.

      • Allison

        I hope you don’t mind me chiming in… I live in the SF Bay Area (very expensive), so I was shocked at how many SAHMs you know! And, I also would not be cut out for it personality-wise. Being at home all the time with little ones is really hard. I am *very* lucky to have a job that allows me to work part-time.

        But, I wanted to speak to the judginess that seems to be an inherent but unwanted part of parenthood. There are SO many choices to make from day one, how to feed, how to sleep, how to discipline, and no one knows if they’re making the “right” choices, and so even if they don’t mean to, they will cling to the choices that they’ve made. If you’ve chosen to do something differently they might have a feeling about that, if not an outright judgment. Parenting is tough stuff, and there’s so much uncertainty, but of course we’re all trying to do the best for our kids, and support each other in that effort.

  10. Olivia

    Hi Kathleen,

    What a topic! I am so torn on this. Like an above commenter, I am in a blessed position because my parents and sister watch Weston while I’m at school (I work 8-3/4). MOST days, this is wonderful (ALL days, he’s happy, loved more than anything, and the king of the house–I’m talking more about from my perspective, here)–but some days…I really wish I was at home with him. I get really, really angry that we live in a high-cost place and I can’t afford to stay home, really. Could I stay home? Sure…if we downsized (my husband is very supportive of my dreaming!)…but like you said…I’ve been building my teaching career for 6 years…I love teaching…and…giving up my job would be irresponsible. I have health insurance, and Weston can go to my school starting at 2! But, I’m not going to lie here: if I didn’t have my family watching him, I would have given up my job. Also: the idea that I spend the day with other people’s kids and not my own is heartbreaking, sometimes. Some days I get VERY angry I’m not with him all day. BUT, like daycare (in a way), he spends his days with my family, with people, with a dog, playing piano, drawing, on walks…he’s learning, he’s happy, he’s so loved. You’re brave for even talking about this topic! Being a working mom is really hard, but…my time at school is my only ME time! I try to cherish that!

    • You know… I even thought having a family member watching Fox would be ideal. But after really considering that I think I like the idea of daycare expanding Fox’s worldview beyond what even my family can provide.

      I’m not sure what I would have decided if I was working a more traditional 9-5. I imagine I would’ve quit my job, become an entrepreneur, and then send Fox to daycare. Ha!

  11. glynis

    Beautiful. I believe that being a mom is the best job ever and whatever form the function of it takes we need to all stand together and encourage each other to truly invest ourselves in life. We are powerful souls as women and we need to support each other. I’m on the other side of parenting as my children are now adults and it is the most rewarding thing in the world. Daycare, daddy care, my care, whatever… just care. If they know they are loved, that’s what matters.

  12. Just wanted to say thank you for sharing the beautiful messages you received from Rebecca and Maggie. Their words had me crying at my desk. Being a working mom is a lot harder than I ever thought it was going to be, but knowing there is a community of moms (and dads) out there who are struggling with the same tough emotions and transitions makes everything just a little easier. xoxo.

    • Ah, this comment is exactly why I posted this. I’ll admit this was a hard one to hit “publish” on but I’m so glad I did.

    • Oooh, can’t wait to listen to this one.

  13. Michele

    I was 32 when I had my son. My son went to in-home daycare at 8 wks – while he was well taken care of, my heart was not…(I knew I was in trouble when we got a puppy yrs prior to child and I had to take it to work with me for fear “something would happen to it alone in the house” – ha!) ..As days grew into weeks with in-home, I knew we made the right decision. .BUT as he grew the care level did not….So when he was 3, and need a little more one-on-one time, more stimulation (if you will) we switched him to a day-care facility. One of the best decisions yet!! While 1st provider was great, she was a great match with newborns and babies – toddlers – notsomuch…… My son loved daycare, all different things to do (color/paint/outside, snacks) there was never a dull moment, total movement except for nap time, and the kids love kids….so for my son (he’s an only), it was like having 50 siblings of all ages, cribs ages – after school care. I believe it was instrumental in developing my child in a way my hubby and I could not, the interaction with other children of all races, color, sizes, and ages, the very structured setting, (my son thrives on structure at 11!) … I wish you the best and just know that if you didn’t love Mr. Fox sooooo much, it wouldn’t hurt your heart soooooo bad….
    And to continuously fill the “village” with special people that you and Jeremy handpick (and trust!) to be in Fox’s life, it’s all part of your little guy “growing up…..

    • Such a good point that as our children evolve so will their childcare needs. It’s so easy to forget that my baby is going to keep getting older. Heh.

      I’m with you, though. I feel like daycare is going to provide my child with so much more than even I could. I would probably just plop him in front of the iPad so I could get work done. (Not really… but maybe).

  14. Danielle

    As an almost mamma (36 weeks!), I’ve been thinking a lot about “to daycare or not to daycare”. I’m not loving my job and the associated hour long commute and am worried that I will love it even less if my time spent there means less time with my babe. On the other hand, I don’t know that I want to be a stay at home mom. I’m in this awkward position of wanting to start a new career but also about to become a new mom. Doing both feels overwhelming but I don’t want to give up on finding a career I’m passionate about (and also something a little more flexible). Question to mammas out there – how much has passion for your career played into your decision to daycare? Is it too much to go for something new while also figuring out this whole parenting thing?

    • Danielle… I think there is something about growing a baby that taps the creative side and ignites growth, transformation, and change in all areas of our lives. I think this is why so many stay-at-home-moms actually go on to become entrepreneurs.

      This is a topic I want to explore and tap into a bit more. Especially with the work I do I find that LOTS of our clients build their businesses on the side while staying at home with their babes.

      If you can afford it I’d say quit your job AND send your baby to daycare AND find a career your passionate about.

  15. Hi! I know how hard this can be. Nathaniel started daycare when he was 2 months old. I was working full-time and didn’t have a choice about going back or not. However, I was ready to go back, even though I wasn’t working my dream job yet! It was hard at first, but I also REALLY liked having the time “to myself.” It felt good to be able to concentrate on other things again and spend UNINTERRUPTED time on one task. Nathaniel will be four in August (!!!???!!!!) and daycare has been WONDERFUL for him. He’s learned so much, socially and educationally. He’s more independent. He’s gotten so much out of it and I think he’s better equipped for the world/school for it. I know myself and know that staying home with him full-time just isn’t something I could do. I love my son to pieces and spending time with him is one of my favorite things in the world, but my brain craves more creative stimulation and time alone. XOXO

    • I hear you! Part of me struggled with feeling like I should have the baby at home with me just while he was so little and even start daycare at 6 months or a year. I lasted a whole week with him before I was climbing the walls. Part of that was probably his age + my inexperience at being a mom.

  16. emily hassman

    Oh lordy, this hits right at my heart, as I consider how to care for my future baby in not-so-many months. I have fantasized about being a stay-at-home mom (not a good financial option for us right now), but in my heart of hearts, I must ask myself: do I only want to stay home because I want to escape from an unfulfilling career? If I was on fire about my work, would I even consider leaving it behind?

    And to echo Danielle’s comment above, is it possible to reinvent your career concurrently with reinventing yourself as a mom?!

    As a kid, I went to my “nanny’s” house from 6 weeks old until kindergarten. My nanny cared for kids in her home, and she was sort of like my 3rd grandmother. Her house is one of the fondest places in my childhood memories. If I could find that for my own kids, I would not hesitate for a moment.

    • I had the stay-at-home escapism fantasy too and have a fulfilling career! I think I was just thinking that it would be simple (not easy… but simple). Like, I just wouldn’t have to think so hard or feel so much pressure to be successful all the time.

      I think transitioning into mommahood is a GREAT time to reinvent elsewhere. I’ll tell you what – I feel like a phoenix rising from the ashes after the experience of labor, delivery, and now having a new baby. I have a renewed energy to grab life by the balls. (But I’m oh so tired.)

  17. kelsey

    Thank you so much for starting this conversation and for sharing such great perspectives with all of us. I am a working mom of one daughter, Rooney, who is 2. I always thought I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom because I thought it would be really relaxing and easy (hahahahaha). I had a difficult maternity leave, with lots of anxiety and postpartum depression and unsuccessful breastfeeding. I was surprised to find that I ready to go back to work after nine weeks, because at least there I knew what the heck I was doing!

    Well, I kind of disliked my job before I had a baby, but afterward I HATED it. I realized that if I was going to spend 40 hours away from my baby, it was going to be doing something I loved. I asked to cut down hours but they would not allow it. So when Roo was 7 months old, I got a new job at our church. It has been PERFECT for me. I work 32 hours (four days a week with Wednesdays off) and get full-time benefits. It’s a very laid-back environment and my family is my priority. On Wednesdays, I hang out with my daughter and do laundry, and it is a great balance for me personally.

    We started at an in-home daycare and then switched to the daycare on-site at our church when I came to work here. Both daycare experiences have been amazing. Rooney has little friends that she talks about all the time, and developmentally she is very advanced.

    I wonder when we have our next kid if I will feel the need to cut hours again to support my family, or if it will still be the right fit. My husband is in the early stages of starting a business (he went through the same thing as me and has hated his job since Rooney was born) so perhaps our financial situation will be much different then and I will go to 40 hours or 24 hours or 0 hours. I’ve come to realize that I can’t make that decision now and will have to wait and see how it all plays out. :)

    Thanks again for being real and sharing your experience with this. Can’t wait to read more!

    • First off, Rooney is cutest. I mentioned above that I imagined being a SAHM would be simple (not relaxing or easy – ha! – but simple).

      It’s so great that you were able to find a better fit for you. Jeremy has expressed that he would love to work more part time (like 32 hours a week) but it’s just not an option with his government job.

      It bothers me that for as much as our country allegedly values family there aren’t a lot of options for men and women who want to work full time, part time, or even stay at home. I feel like everyone should have the choice without finances being a primary factor.

  18. Angela

    Hi Kathleen,
    Great news that you and Fox are both doing well. Parenting is so hard, I think the guilt about everything comes right after birth. Every family should do what is right for them. My husband is a stay at home dad and he rocks it! It has worked well for all of us so far. Too bad the discrimination of stay at home dads is so bizarre and weird. I love my job/career and am a much better parent if I am working. I knew that staying home was not going to be for me. Everyone needs to do what is healthy and beneficial for themselves and their children. Excellent post.
    Take care.

    • Angela, I would LOVE to dive into how sexism and gender roles playing I all of this as well. I actually had to ask myself “would a man feel guilty about this? Why am I making it my responsibility to feel bad about this decision?”

      In the meantime check out this TED talk. Stick with it because her final points are so spot on. http://www.ted.com/talks/anne_marie_slaughter_can_we_all_have_it_all

  19. Lisa

    I spent my firstborn’s first two years at home with him. Whether it was postpartum depression, having no clue what I was supposed to do as a first time mom or the stress of moving cross country (twice) and away from family, I was a hot mess. I mourned the loss of my old self; my independence and “adult-ness…” It seemed like everything mom-related was difficult and I decided I needed to go back to work. I fell right back into my previous career and found a wonderful daycare to send my little man to. It was hard leaving him, but it was even harder finding the drive to be a rock-on employee again. After I got down to brass tacks at work, I realized how I didn’t care as much about my job as I once did; it all seemed a little trivial… I never imagined I could feel that way about working for a non-profit driven to empower women and girls, but there I was; feeling like the most important thing I could be doing was raising my son. After I got the news I was expecting again, it was a no-brainer. I put in my notice, had my daughter and never looked back. Since I parlayed old connections into working from home. Sure, I miss the extra money, but it is afterall, just money.

    What I didn’t expect is how much judgment we women pass to each other for making the decision to go back to work or for staying home. I got flack for putting my son in daycare AND when I decided to stay home. Why is it that we can’t just accept each other’s choices and be supportive of one another?

    One thing is certain; you will find your way. We all have our own path to walk. It is a major f-ing pain in the ass while it is happening, but once I look back on our journey so far, it feels like it was all supposed to work out this way. Oh, and that little Fox is one adorable baby. And for what it is worth, you seem to be doing a great job. :)

    • Honestly, I haven’t experienced that much judgment (thank God). Even looking at this comment thread there has been nothing but support.

      But amen to women just supporting each other no matter the decision. I will say that my compassion for other people’s choices they make for their child has grown immensely since having a baby.

  20. Justine

    Hi, Kathleen

    I am a new follower of yours and have been thrilled to watch the later parts of your pregnancy and your early days of being a momma. I love your honesty and the way you share your ‘sobbing in the bath days’. You look so competent and warrior-like, it’s so great that you let others know that you too have hard days.

    I haven’t commented before, but I felt the need to respond from Australia – the other side of the world and as the mother of a ten-year-old, which will also seem a million miles away for you.

    Daycare was great for Gus. Initially, we were going to put him into a ‘family day acre’, which is daycare in someone’s home. But at the home visit, something just didn’t feel right in my guts. When our name finally came to the top of a not-for-profit daycare centre, my worries lifted from the minute I walked in. In a centre, there are so many more checks and balances than in someone’s home or with a nanny. You will know what is right.

    One thing the other commentators haven’t said is that for the first 12 months, Fox will be sick ALL THE TIME. You will wonder what is wrong with this kid? Do I have a sickly child? Why is this kid’s nose green every second week? But I promise, after that initial 12 months, that kid will have the strongest immune system. Gus has had about 5 days off school in 5 years.

    And as other readers have said, daycare sets children up socially and emotionally. I have a kid who takes my breath away with his compassion and interest in others, and his ability to be comfortable in his own skin and with his place in the world. As Gus’s mother, there is nothing more I could wish for him.

    So, you will know what to do. But take heart in that we are all there with you and all wish you and Fox and Jeremy well on this exciting adventure.

  21. Jenny

    Thank you for this post! I live in Ireland where the norm is 6 months or more maternity leave. However, I am self-employed and as a result I was back working from 6 weeks. Some of the work requires me to leave home, Some I can do from home. My mother-in-law minds my son. And while it’s great in some ways, it’s also really tough. It means I hear her opinions on every decision I make. Sometimes I consider moving him to daycare, but he loves going in to his granny and I know she takes excellent care of him, it’s just me who struggles with the judgements and criticisms.
    However, the hardest part for me has been the attitude of other mums. It’s like they feel threatened by me because I don’t fit into their norm. I have been regularly told that they are shocked I am back to work and then they ask how my son is coping. This is all he has known, so he is perfectly happy with it! I love my work, and I have spent years building it. I also firmly believe that I am a better mum because I have get to work and focus on projects that engage me.
    I look forward to reading more about your journey!

  22. Amanda

    Piping in to give a view from across the pond. I had Kilian 5 months ago in London and instantly joined mum and baby cafe chats, cinema days, yoga and music classes which created an instant community of supportive mums as well as stimulating activities. Now that we have just moved to Barcelona I’ve started doing the same here meaning we get all day together to meet other mums/babes, go for long walks, breastfeed on demand and stay connected. Some days are tough as I crave a bit of freedom, but overall I adore being able to spend so much time with him and watch his development day-by-day. Of course, I feel very lucky that the UK supports stay at home mums allowing up to a year off work with financial support for the first few months.

    Once he matures and is more interactive with other people, we’ll definitely pop him into a daycare part time. In the meanwhile though, I feel that this is our special time together and my most important job in the world :)

  23. I think it is different for everyone and depends a lot on the household situation. For a work-from-home mom, who works few hours or can stop often (VERY often) to attend to her baby needs, then why not leave him at home?
    But I also think that the daycare environment is great, as it helps the kids with socialization and friendship.

    I started leaving my kid at daycares when she was about 1 year old. Her grandmother (dad’s side) would pick her up often after a few hours she was in the daycare. Then, eventually, she started looking after Gwen herself. SHE couldn’t accept me taking her to a daycare at such young age.

    My kid stayed for less than a month in the daycare. So she had really few interaction with other kids. Consequentially, when she went to Pre-K, she had THE HARDEST time. She was so shy, the school psychologist suggested she could have autism. So we visited a couple of professionals. Autism was ruled out, but they agreed she had social interaction problems. As an only child, with very little contact to other kids (or adults)for 3 years… well, figures!

    Pre-K and Kindergarten have made her bloom. She a whole new kid! She talks, dances, run, makes contact with other kids easily. I always wished her dad’s mom hadn’t interfered so much with daycare -all this painful phase (for her) could have been avoided.

    Best of luck with everything. I love seeing little Fox’s photos on Instagram. He’s adorable!

    • You know I really thought I’d be able to rock working from home but even when he was asleep I was on edge because I never knew when he’d wake up. So I was just constantly distracted…

      On another note… I think people are often a bit too fast to diagnose kids’ unique personalities and quirks. But I’m so glad things worked out!

  24. I feel kind of funny commenting here since I seem to be one of the few mothers who actually does stay home with my kids (which I’m used to because I am one of the few of my friends and family members, as well) but I wanted to commend you for how much thought you are putting into the decision. That alone is an indicator of how positive the experience will be for you and Fox, because you are willing to do the hard work of MAKING it positive. That willingness is truly the key to making it work – putting him first in your mind even when you aren’t going to be with him every hour of every day. I was a daycare kid and my mom felt very strongly about women going back to work as soon as possible after having babies so I was in daycare from the time I was six days old. How she even found someone willing to watch such a young child is beyond me. For me – ONLY for me, and I truly believe I am in the minority – my daycare experience included some very traumatic situations over the years, as my mother was not diligent about researching care providers. I would love to be able to work full-time again and I am really excited about my three year old starting preschool next year (two days a week at an exhaustively well-vetted school) but I have so much baggage from my own childhood that I just couldn’t manage to get over while she was younger. I would have been a mess.

    So. That’s all my long way of leading up to: there really truly are no guarantees but what you are doing, thinking it through and listening to your instincts, is very powerful. You and Fox are both going to do great. And, if not, if it doesnt work out, you will do great in a different situation (with a nanny or with you at home, whatever). My oldest eased right into preschool at 4, she had no social or immunity issues. And she probably would have been fine at 4 months too. It all works out in the end.

    Thank you so much for sharing your perspective and the invaluable advice you are so lucky to have gotten!

    • Jenny, thank you for weighing in! I think all sides deserve to be heard and I really appreciate you sharing. Of course I hate hearing that you had a traumatic experience.

      Both my mom and dad stayed home with me. I think my mom tried taking me to daycare once and every cell in my body rejected it. I’m sure I would’ve adjusted eventually. I will continue to check in with Fox and make sure his needs are being met too.

  25. Ashley

    The daycare dilemma has been quiet the emotional roller coaster for me personally. My son went to a daycare/preschool that was so wonderful and he thrived there until he left for kindergarten this past fall. I would now consider much of the staff there my personal friends and they always had his best interest at heart. Now my one year old attends and everyone knows her and shows her the same kindness and love. I cannot Imagine having found a better place for them.
    But having said that, I still struggle with the idea of working outside the home vs. staying home with my kiddos. I love my job and the company I work for. It has literally been a dream for me. It is fulfilling and exciting and I thoroughly enjoy going to work each day. But lately there has been this pull at my heart..it tugs more and more each day. It started when my second child started daycare. I think having an almost 5 year age gap between them has allowed me to see how amazingly fast the baby/toddler years fly by. I know I’m going to blink and my youngest will be going off to kindergarten. And that just breaks my heart because I feel like I will have spent so much of that time at the office.
    I’m a very focused person and I like to give my all to whatever I’m doing. So when I’m at work, I am 100% at work. And when I’m with my kids and 100% with them. At least that’s how I feel I should be, but in reality, it’s like 90% work 10% kids. By the time I pick everyone up after work/school, get home, get dinner out… It’s time for bed and I’ve had like zero quality time with them.
    I have never questioned sending my kids to daycare, I think it was a great decision for our family. I think I’m having a hard time finding that elusive balance that everyone talks about and wondering if it really even exists. I’m currently trying to figure this out and what will be the best decision for us and what impact that will have in both the short and long term. At the end of my life will I regret not taking that opportunity to spend more time with them when I had the opportunity? Or will I regret sacrificing a part of myself and something that is so fulfilling? So here I am, 5 1/2 years later…still trying to figure it out.

  26. Erica

    I don’t have kids (yet), but I have to say that watching your journey has really opened my eyes to how many opinions people have (and, seems like, want to share with you and sometimes push on you) about having and raising children. I know that I’ll struggle with that part immensely (as much as I try not to be, I’m really affected by other people’s opinions, especially strong ones), but I can also start preparing myself to really follow my own heart and not let the negative parts affect me as much. I’m saving this post for when I need it, and I thank you for writing it and for being so willing to share your journey in general.

  27. Jennie

    I just want to thank you for sharing all of this. I am currently 22 weeks pregnant with my first, and am already feeling the daycare struggle. I can’t imagine how I’m going to feel after he’s born. THANK YOU for having and sharing such an honest and supportive conversation. I really love all of your pregnancy/mom posts and look forward to more!

  28. Meghan

    Thank you for this post – I think the overarching theme is trusting your own wisdom and doing whats best for you and your family more than just about the acceptance of daycare.

    Our daughter is 2 and just started part time preschool. My MIL has been our full time childcare. Continuing to work full time after she was born was best for our family on a number of levels. But as we explore having another child, we are looking at the childcare with fresh eyes. I’ve fallen out of love with my current job and its time for me to transition into something new that I’m passionate about. Staying home with a second would allow me to do that.

    Having children/motherhood/marriage – its all constantly shifting and changing and the easiest way to navigate it is to trust yourself to make the choice thats best for everyone (including mama!)

  29. Gina

    My little gal goes to SLCC, and we love love love it! She is such a chatty cathy compared to her buddies who stay home with nannies. Daycare has been nothing but positive for us!

  30. We were living in NYC at the time that Henry was born and the idea of daycare was terrifying. We were all about it, until Henry was born then I was like heck to the no! He was so tiny, it was so far away from my office I could barely handle it emotionally. So we hired a nanny, still it felt like it was too far from my office (if I worked closer to my house this would have been fine!). So I quit working at my office, ventured off on my own to freelance and worked from home with my nanny there. We also did a nanny share, so one day the boys would be at my house, another day at the other parent’s house. This way they were also being socalized early on. It worked out really well, and was cheaper than a FT private nanny. I think that daycare/preschool is AWESOME for kids that are 3+ and without it they are a little weird (usually) when they get to K and have issues adjusting.
    This was the choice that we made for us, for Henry. But everyone is different. And OKC is not NYC, he will likely be closer to where you are. Its just nice to be able to nurse when they are hungry, and go sniff them when you need it. oxox

  31. julie

    Not sure if we just go to an unusually well-run place, but we LOVE our daycare facility. The teachers are fantastic and the community of other parents that we’ve discovered has been a huge bonus for us. I honestly never knew such great places existed, they really are out there.

  32. I’m a work-from-home entrepreneur, and it’s so lovely to hear people support daycare.

    There is often a lot of talk these days about what is “natural” or not for raising a child—oh the warfare over it. I told my husband that daycare was like having a village help us raise our child! Like having a passel of aunts, grandparents, and cousins, to play with our son every day.

    Before even turning 1 my son started saying “Thank you”, or rather “Tan-too”, whenever we gave him something. I’d had NO CLUE that I could have been teaching him that already. The people at our daycare have so much experience with children that they are teaching us to be better parents.

    I hope you find one that makes you feel as glow-y as our does. And with self-employment, if you’re lucky, once in a while you can play hooky and keep Fox home with you and go on an impromptu adventure.

    • This is so spot on. I’m learning how to be a mom and will never pretend to know it all. Why not learn from people who have made caring for babies their job? I’ve already learned new swaddle techniques from watching Fox’s teachers swaddle babies. Cheers to the modern day village!

  33. Becca

    I fantasized about staying home once Helena was born but it is not financially feasible. I had a 3 month maternity leave and then a very generous boss who let me work from home 3 days a week and in the office 2 – those 2 days my husband worked from home. So from birth to 6 months our daughter was with Mom or Dad every day. Was it great? Yes. Did we get a lot of work done? No! I could not have maintained that schedule permanently so I went back full time when she was 6 months old and we are in a nanny share with another little girl down the street. We all love it. Her Nanny is kind and wise – she is a professional, after all! I love that there is another adult who loves my child and I love that Helena has a little friend her age to play with all day (she’s our only). I cried the first day I dropped her off but she didn’t, and I got over it pretty quickly. I love my job and I love my daughter and I feel so lucky that I have found something that works for us for the time being. My job is a part of who I am and becoming a Mom didn’t change who I am, it just added a wonderful new facet.

  34. Megan

    We did daycare with our 1st. Somehow I picked 2 epic fail daycare providers!!! So when she was 2 I felt as though I had no choice but to quit working and stay home. I was so scared that I wouldn’t be able to care for her all day everyday. Plus what was I going to do with a 2 year old all day?!? So I put her in MDO. Looking back that has been the best decision for our family. What surprised me was the amount of criticism I received from other mothers. I got “that’s not financially smart” to “how selfish.” I was the type of girl that never wanted kids to surprisingly getting pregnant. I was scared shitless that I was going to screw my kid up and other mothers where tearinge down!! I spent a whole year trying to be this perfect mother and all that got me was a kid I was scared of and a husband afraid he’d say the wrong thing. When I stopped caring about what others would think and realized that more than likely I was not going to ruin my daughter I began to gain confidence. Do I miss work? Hell yes! Can it wait a couple more years until my baby is in school? Of course! Why can not women be more supportive? Odds are if I struggled with child care decisions then so did the woman sitting next to me if she is honest. Mothers put up this facade living in fear that they will be exposed. Why? We need to gather around each other and give encouragement and put an end to tearing each other down! So I say good for you for reaching out for support(wish I had them 3 years ago) and doing what was best for YOUR family. Thank you for sharing your honest adventures into motherhood. It is so refreshing and uplifting!!

  35. Marcie

    I’ve been a stay at home mom for over 8 years. My oldest is eight and a half, my second is six and the ‘baby’ is almost two.

    When my oldest was a newborn, I couldn’t imagine working. When the second came along, I stayed home but decided I needed a ‘work from home’ job. Then when they both went to elementary school, I was ready to go back into the office. Just kidding! That lasted about six months before my heart ached and I decided I wanted just ONE MORE BABY!!!!

    Funny thing is, baby is almost two now and this stay at home mom decided she was ready for something new. So, baby #3 is recently in daycare while my husband and I have started our own business.

    I’m so glad I did what I did in my early years, but where I am now is a completely different place. It is 100% true that the only consistent thing about motherhood is the inconsistency.

    Everything constantly changes but it should all be okay because the change is coming from within your family and only you know what’s right for your family at the right time…

    BTW – I’m an Okie who lives in Austin now but I love reading about OKC on your blog!

    • I have found it so interesting … How motherhood changes the things you thought you knew about yourself. I’m glad I went into this new chapter of our lives with an open mind regarding SAHM, WAHM, and working mom w/ child care. I truly thought I was going to rock working from home with my babe but my heart and my gut we’re telling me that if I tried to do it all I would burn out on all fronts so fast.

      I also think it’s interesting how many moms become entrepreneurs. There’s gotta be something to that. Best of luck to you and your family!

  36. Danielle

    My daughter started daycare at 13months, (she is now 15 months), so although we are new to this journey, we are all settling pretty well. I was lucky enough to have family watch her for the 8months…which made my decision to go back to work a little easier to take. Like you, I struggled with this decision, it weighted on my heart through most of my pregnancy. I regret that I spent so much of my time stressing over it, when I should have been relishing every minute of the life growing inside me.
    I live in Seattle, and daycare wait lists are the norm, (I am actually still on a couple wait lists that I got on while I was 6 month pregnant). So I had prepared myself that I might need to put her into my second or third choice, if I did not get in the one I liked when I needed it. We also went back and forth on whether or not I should go back to work, or stay at home. Not only are daycares here hard to get into, they are very expensive, (like half my salary expensive!), but at this point in our lives, it made sense for me to go back to work, financially.
    Not only did the financial aspect come into play, but during my pregnancy I also read the book Bringing Up Bebe, and really liked some of the ideas that the book brought up, like someone else commented on, the daycare question is a US-centric one. I am the first of my friends to put my baby in daycare, and although I am sure they did not mean it, I felt judged by many of them for making the decisions to put her in daycare. I think there is such a stigma put on daycares now days, which in turn puts a stigma on working mothers. I can’t say that it is easy to drop my daughter off at daycare, and leave her for eight hours, but seeing her smile and greet her friends and teachers, comforts me in my choice. We are lucky to to have such wonderful and caring staff to watch over our baby, and I am forever grateful to them for the love they show her everyday. Being our first child, she is getting socialization skills, both from people of authority and her peers, that she would not get at home all day with me. She is learning independence, building friendships, learning basic skills that will help her once she enters school, like waiting her turn, standing in line, listening to someone other than her parents…. the list goes on. But is also good for me, I need adult interaction, and to feel important in other areas of my life other than mother and wife.
    I know this is a struggle felt by many, and there is no black and white answers, but daycare is giving our family what we need, and I could not be happier with our decision. Best of luck to you.

  37. Priya

    Kathleen, I just wanted to say how very much your blog helped me! I love your honesty and the way you break things down.

    I’m a freelance writer, and have been for 9 years as I love it so much, but going on unpaid maternity leave has been freaking me out. Not to mention the complexity of trying to work out how long I can take financially, how long I’ll want to have just me and my baby and no work intrusions, and how the whole complex chaotic mess will work out. I’m lucky that I’ve got super affordable childcare options as I live in England, but not in an expensive city like London. There are some great daycare places within a 5 minute walk, and I’ve also found a lovely nanny who will come to my home, but even so, I can’t decide whether it would be insane trying to work with a baby at home even though she may be cared for by a nanny while I work upstairs – like, when she cries, will I be able to quell my motherly urges to run to her?!

    I’ve tried to do a lot of reading about this and there’s actually so little on balancing freelancing with being a new parent -most of the stuff around the blogosphere is on how to start freelancing while on maternity leave, which while useful, is obviously not relevant for me.

    I guess what I’m learning in the past few weeks of reading and thinking is that there’s no one solution for everyone as babies are all different, and new parents are all different. I’m sure that when you are freelance in a profession you’re passionate about, the concept of “work” has a very different connotation to being in a stressful job where you’re commuting and have to work hours dictated by someone else.

    Anyway, thanks again for this, and your experiences are so helpful, so please do keep writing about this issue.

  38. Viv

    OMG your description is exactly what I felt Kathleen. I took 7 months leave to ensure my baby was on daycare after 6 months and wheaned…men that hurt and thi tiny baby cried streching arms every day for 1 week until I lingered longer and hidden to learn that she would stop right after I was out of sight. Trusting caregivers is the only thing that gives you peace and when you find peace the baby loves the place. As you I am also privileged with flexibilities so these were my boundaries:
    – if my baby turned out not to be daycare material I would revisit solutions
    – caregivers were intructed to call me if she got miserable or missed me, i made clear that I did not want my baby to be broke in. She could take her time
    – as I matured as mom I learned to read when my baby was about to get sick or fussy to teething…I give her the be efit to be with me at home these periods. She gets fussy and clingy and I give her what she needs to got through it
    – my husband made and makes same consessions so we both can manage our carriers
    I am a mom working and not a working mom. In europe you can work part time and most couple take turns on their parental day but I am convinced that you have to decide what is your standard and leave with judgment as it comes with motherhood territory!
    BTW this girl LOVES daycare and after I relaxed she relaxed. They have great activities and development boosts. My girl is 18 months old and does a little dance when I tell her she is coming to daycare. She waves goodbye and closes the door kindly inviting me out of the class! It is playtime all day !
    Good luck with your process and remember: you can change your choice as soonas you feel it is not right regardless what people say!

  39. Emily

    Hi Kathleen,
    Though I can’t personally contribute to your call for daycare experiences, I still wanted to comment. Your pregnancy and transition back to normal (eh, ‘new’ normal) has been so educational for me. Over the past year or so I’ve been changing- my body has changed, my priorities have changed, things I didn’t think I wanted (kids) have started to change. It’s been so hard to handle! But, reading about your journey has been so very helpful. I appreciate that you’re sharing all of this with your readers.
    Like I said, I can’t give much to the daycare commentary, I never went when I was a child and luckily had grandparents (both sets) close by and they took care of my brother and I because my parents owned their own business. But, my husband is an elementary school teacher and has worked at daycares’ in the past. The only thing I can say is that he cares about some of his kids as much as he’d care about our own children- I’ve seen him cry when some move on to the next grade, I’ve seen him furious to the point of tears over some of their home situations (he works in a low income area) and I can assure you that there are caretakers out there who will take just as good of care of Fox as you will! Good luck in your journey, I’ll be following right along! :)

  40. Rebecca

    Hey women,

    Maggie and I have been reading these posts and are in total awe of your truth, honesty, connection and starting such a beautiful conversation. We are a team, professionally, and when Kathleen and I started discussing this conversation – we didn’t know what to expect.

    Thank you for your curiosity, generosity and love for one another. And from all over the globe…WOW! Incredible, truly.

    Big big love and K, I’m sending new mommas from Italy and around the country to start reading your conversations.

    Blessed,
    R+M

  41. bliss

    I thought pregnancy was hard until i gave birth. then i thought birth was hard until i had a newborn. then i though newborns were hard until i had to leave her to return from work.
    we chose daycare because a nanny wasn’t in our budget and wanted her to be around her peers. even if those peers were other little crying, pooping blobs. and it worked with our schedules. i could curse in a little later than my hubs, but he’s job is one that ends at a normal time. my work day varies AND i work at an agency that’s in a neighboring city. (Raleigh to Durham)
    Nothing could make a decision of leaving your babe in the capable, yes, but 100% unknown hands of a bunch of strangers than that first week back. It racked me. I never wanted to be a SAHM, but i was riddled with guilt for driving so far away from my baby so many days a week. but she was fine. i got to sip coffee in peace and chat with co-worker friends about how awesome our babies are. I was an adamant pumper (for a year and a half no less!) and used that time to look at pictures and watch videos and eat chocolate and paint my nails.
    Now our babe is nearly 2 and even if i didn’t have a job to go to, i feel i would find a way to still send her to daycare. at least part time. she LOVES it. and i love that she has her own little life. and i have mine. we talk about our days when i get home and i get to read about what she did and who she played with and the bonus of getting little pieces of art work that i didn’t have to prepare or clean up after. :)
    I was, and am, disheartened too about the “necessary evils” of daycare, but i’m not buying it any more. you’ve got to find a place that fits and you feel comfortable with, but i absolutely adore our situation now. minus the 30 mile commute on my end. (BUT that’s when i get through my audio books so i’d be sorta sad to give that up too!)

  42. Lynn

    Hi Kathleen
    All three of my kids went to daycare and they loved it. I loved the flexibility for me and the structure for them. As a teacher, I needed reliable daycare so I didn’t have to take off work during the school year unless it was for my own reasons (no daycare vacations, etc).

    Now my babies are teenagers and I actually wish I could be a stay at home mom now! Teens are so busy with their activities, and then you add in various appts, plus family time; and there is very little time to work. But I love my job and I will have three college tuitions to pay for so I will stay working.

    Good Luck!

  43. I’m at home with my 2nd little one right now. He just turned 8 months. And I”m beginning to get the itch to get out of the house. Thankfully, or not, in Canada (not only in Quebec, but in the entire country) we get 52 weeks off. Split between 15 weeks maternity and 37 weeks parental leave (available to either parent).

    I am completely for daycares and we’ve had absolutely amazing two daycares for our older little one. She loved them and we, as parents, loved them and trusted the caregiver entirely. The only reason we had two daycares is because the first family moved away. Which I”m still heartbroken about. They became part of our family and we miss them all the time.

    The only thing I am a little sad about is that 6 weeks is a REALLY short time. Please don’t take this as criticism, or anything like that. It is not. Just from experience of my two kids, at six weeks we were just getting the hang of the new dynamic. But things are what they are, and leaving your own business for a longer period of time cannot be easy! Business is your baby too :)

    I guess what I”m trying to say is what’s been said so beautifully before. Know yourself and your needs. A stay-at-home mom is not the golden standard. And while we could financially swing being a one income family, I love the fact that we’re not.

  44. DJ Kittie

    I can’t lie, this entire post gave me tears. I’ve been having the exact same thoughts about my almost 5 year old and almost 4 month old attending day-care so I can go back to school full-time to earn a certification in cosmetology. Even though it can help with going to school full-time, I know I will miss them to heart’s content, especially my 4 month old.

  45. Linda

    Hi Kathleen, this is a wonderful post and the comments are thought provoking. I’ve two children and not based in the US, we have 6 month maternity leave and 3 further unpaid months.It took me the guts of year with my first to feel any way normal, 6 weeks is very early in your journey as a mother. The first year is tough but wonderful! I always maintained that I’d go back to work and put my baby in daycare. For me things changed when I actually had my first baby, I had a crap job at the time and I just wanted to be at home with my daughter. I’ve honestly never regretted it. I do personally feel that women can miss out a lot by putting tiny babies in daycare that daycare become the primary carer and this was something I knew post birth that I didn’t want to do. But that’s just me, there is no right or wrong way, you’ve made the best decision you can for you and your son.

  46. nicole

    Thank you so much for sharing these emails. My daughter is 6 months old and I work very part-time — just two days a week in the office; work at home when I can on my freelance writing — while leaving her at home with a babysitter. It is much harder than I anticipated! (We are not doing daycare for various reasons right now, the main one being that we recently moved to Morocco and there has been enough major change for the moment that leaving her in her own house gives her more stability. And nanny/babysitting here is much more affordable than in the States.) Part of this is because the job I have is not a ‘career’ job for me, but it does get me out of the house and around other Americans which is priceless in its own way. It’s been about 3 months now and I still go back and forth about working — and I’m home 5/7 days of the week with her! So I appreciate reading the thought processes you went through, as well as these other women; I think for many of us it’s an evolving thing. But I feel the same way: ultimately you need to make a choice that feels good in your gut and that fulfills you. You also have to the right to change your mind from your initial decision! Best of luck to you all.

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