Why Stay-at-Home Moms Shouldn't Feel Guilty About Day Care

baby signing My kids have learned a lot from their part-time day care. Social skills, like sharing, are a big one. Potty training goes a lot quicker if there’s peer pressure. My friends say kindergarten goes a lot more smoothly when your kid has already gotten most of the viruses that go around. And I don’t know why this never occurred to me, but day care workers trained to use sign language can get your little one started with communication, too.

I'm starting to think a little day care is a bigger help to mom than I had realized. It gives us more than a few free hours to fold the laundry and shower. It also amounts to having a parenting coach. I know I've learned as much from day care as my kids!

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Maybe it’s because I waited until my twilight years to spawn, but sometimes I feel like a total idiot with my babies. “They left me alone with these kids,” I want to ask? “Who’s in charge here? Oh, right – me.” Thus, when I started bringing Penny to part-time day care after Abby was born, I leaned on “Teacher Jan” quite a bit.

“Just one more thing,” I’d say before leaving at pick-up. “Do you think she needs …” “How would you suggest …” “How are you handling …” I thought I was being so slick, pretending to support her efforts by getting on board with her program when really I was just stealing her expertise. Jan is fully responsible for Penelope’s ability to trade instead of snatching, for the “5-4-3-2-1” countdown that precedes “1-2-3,” and for the sitting-down-while-eating rule that only sticks when I remind them it was hers in the first place.

If I’d had the kids in Jan’s hands from day one (or day three-months, I guess, since that’s when most working moms tend to go back to work), I could have also asked her “what signs did she learn today?” and gone happily home, able to maximize my quality baby-time with certain knowledge that clapping means “yay,” but very-similar hand-wiping means “all done.”

As a mom alone with my kids, I only use signs sporadically. Both kids enthusiastically picked up whatever I could give them, and made up several of their own; when Penny began to talk, she’d say the word with the sign, and the signed words were among the first she said. It was seriously cool. I used baby signing videos to learn as much as I could, and my step-kids contributed a ton that they remembered. Having a structured setting with playful professionals trained in sign-language could only amplify that positive effect.

Now I just need dayc are for me!

How have you and your kids benefitted from day care? Have your kids learned sign?

Image via basykes/Flickr

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